My first post extolling the virtues of the middle school talent show was penned over three years ago. Every year since, I've told myself that I've exhausted the subject and make an internal promise not to write about the show again. But each year I have. And I will continue to do so. Because in my mind there is no better way for an adult to gain insight in to what's important in the lives of sixth, seventh and eighth graders than to watch them take the stage and perform acts of their own (sometimes edited) choosing.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage. And not just hard from a rehearsal perspective, although that's true. They've also worked hard on getting up the nerve to stand in front of a room full of adults, but more importantly their peers, and let their passions, sometimes pitch-perfect, other times slightly off-key, hang out.
This year's show was filled to the brim with a record setting 29 acts (the show is a victim of its own success). String instruments were popular including a fiddling trio, two classical guitarists and a fairly contemporary take on the "Theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean" featuring a remarkably skilled sixth-grade, violin-playing front man backed up an electric base and piano.
From a vocals standpoint, we were treated to the ubiquitous "Let It Go" not just in English (quite surprisingly, only once), but also in Japanese ("Ari No Mama"). And Adele, who was the undisputed queen of the 2012 show, was upstaged in 2014 by the work of Sara Bareilles.
There were multitudes of dance numbers, most by boys. In my day, middle school boys didn't dance, at least not in public. But these dudes clearly got the memo, maybe from their dads, that guys who can dance will be quite sought after come their first college house party. And thanks to those same boys, I can now boast to be one of the few upper Midwest moms who can distinguish the difference between K-pop and J-pop.
And no youth talent show experience is complete, of course, without the middle school band; this year we were treated to two. The first, in a déjà vu moment, played a rousing rendition of AC/DC's "Back in Black." I'm pretty sure that was played at my own middle school talent show more moons ago than I care to remember.
The second, also going old school, covered Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" replete with Ozzy Osborne's Birmingham accent. No bats, I am happy to report, were harmed in the performance.
Scary flying things did make an appearance though in the form of a dramatic recitation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" by a sixth-grade girl dressed like a hipster Elvira.
Calling it a variety show would be understatement; there was truly something for everyone. But in the end, it wasn't just the actual acts, per se, that brought the audience to their feet at the end of the hour and a half extravaganza.
Instead, I think it was also the chance for the standing-room-only crowd of parents, teachers and classmates to see fifty performers, uninhibited by the awkwardness of the tween years, to be, in the words of the oft-quoted Sara Bareilles, "brave."