Took me a while, didn't it? But still, I figure I should report on the second phase of my insane Week Of Live Performances, which involved a text message, a rapid shifting of priorities, and an entirely delightful outcome.
The text message arrived at about 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, a rather excited announcement that Kelly and I both received from our former advisee, Anna Grey Hogan. As the daughter of one of my WoFo colleagues, Anna Grey is one of Ian & Dixon's near-siblings, given the close-knit environment in which the faculty kids at Woodberry grow up. She is also an immensely talented performer who appeared in dozens of WFS plays (I directed her in Arsenic & Old Lace, The Foreigner, Lend Me a Tenor, and Den of Thieves) and sang with our loose-knit faculty band Poor Judgment. She's currently a junior at VCU, majoring in theater and education, and she's been cast in a number of productions at both the university and several local theaters. We knew she was in the ensemble for VCU's production of Monty Python's Spamalot, and we'd been planning to see the show's Sunday matinee.
But we didn't know she was the understudy for the female lead, the Lady of the Lake. We found that out only when she texted us to let us know she'd be going on as the Lady that night, and could we possibly be in the audience to support her?
Well. That's not the kind of request you can ignore from your Bonus Daughter (as Kelly dubbed her some time ago), so we scrubbed our initial plans to go curling at the ice rink. We grabbed a few slices at Christian's Pizza for dinner, then made it to the Singleton Center on campus just in time to run into Anna Grey's parents and two sisters, who had similarly dropped all their plans to see the show. I wasn't sure what to expect from the show, despite being more than intimately familiar with the source material, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is probably the movie I've seen more often than any other, but I knew one thing from years of directing her and watching her onstage: Anna Grey would do just fine.
To my surprise, on that last point, I was actually wrong.
She was superb.
Yes, I'm biased as hell, but dear lord, she killed it. She's worked hard to develop her fantastic voice, which has helped her play Liza Minnelli not once but twice, and her ability to process material swiftly was legend by the spring of her freshman year at Woodberry. All that said, stepping up to play a lead role in a complex professional-level production is no easy task, and we'd all have been happy if all she'd done was get through the show.
As it was, however, she managed to not only deliver a powerful and often hilarious performance, she pulled off the even greater trick of making it look like she'd been doing it for the entire run of the show. The Lady's character is that of an outright diva, and the vocal parts, choreography, and costuming all work to enhance that; plainly put, if you don't come onstage able to project confidence, you're not going to make the character work. Knowing that AG was nervous enough to want us there, I was even more impressed at her ability to sell her own divaship. It wasn't just a great performance of the character, but a great performance of the role.
As I've told Anna Grey repeatedly, I long ago reached the point where she can no longer surprise me with anything she does onstage; all she can do is delight me. But having accomplished that mission, I was certainly happy to get the chance to witness her triumph, and to grab a snack and a talk with her at the Village Cafe after the show. I don't know what the future holds for her as a performer, but I know this much: I wouldn't bet against her.
Brava! 3:56 PM