“Cats” By Day, “Oscar” By Night

Sunday night, I know many of you were huddled around the TV set or at someone’s place for a party to watch the Oscars. There is something about this annual display of Hollywood excess and back slapping that gets us all excited. Maybe its the reaction to winning. Maybe its the speeches in which the winner thanks every little person since fourth grade who made them what they are today.

Perhaps its even the red carpet review of the dresses though I don’t get it. Then again, I’m a guy and as long as I can find my tux, its hard for me to make a mistake.

All that being said, I had a unique Oscar Sunday. While I did go to the big Oscar bash the Pittsburgh Film Office puts on every year, I spent the afternoon being reminded where all these Oscar nominees come from. I went to see a high school musical.

North Allegheny put on the musical “Cats” for the fifth and final time on Sunday. Please don’t ask me about the plot because even I struggled to figure out exactly what was happening but “Cats” is not about the story, it’s about the songs and the performances. On this day, the performances were so extraordinary it was easy to forget the overwhelming majority of the performers were “under” the age of 18.

Some of the “Cats” that made up the North Allegheny musical production. You never know. They may be a future Oscar nominee in this bunch.

For more than 90 minutes they sang, they danced and they followed the script to the letter. They not only played roles, they lived them. The costumes were fantastic as were the sets and I later learned they did their own make-up … and it was flawless.

However, the most important lesson I learned as I lost myself in the experience was that none of these actors were getting a big paycheck. None of them was performing hoping to earn a Tony, an Oscar or an Emmy. What they all were doing was something they loved and they enjoyed. Few will go onto be performers in college but for these special group of kids, they can celebrate a flawless week of performances during that most formative period — high school.

There was one other thought that stuck with me as I exited the auditorium and worked my way through the crowd of proud parents and family. I may have seen a future Oscar nominee. Think it’s far-fetched? Well, where do you think Sandra Bullock began her path to Oscar glory … or Jeff Bridges. Do you think George Clooney just came out of college and was handed his role in “E.R.”? Meryl Steep was just a senior girl with a funny last name before becoming one of the actresses of our age.

Remember that as you attend you next high school musical … or watch your next Oscar night. All these great performers weren’t always great. They came from humble beginnings. Perhaps from your local high school.

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