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  • Marshmellows & Musicals

    The imminent closing of "Tuck" aside, this video featuring the boy shows there's nothing he can't do ... even with a bunch of marshmellows stuffed in his mouth.

  • Musical Obsessions and Circle Backs

    Each summer, which is when we see Nicholas for the most sustained period of time, the kids find a new musical to obsess over. Usually this starts with Nicholas and spreads to the rest of the troupe like swine flu, eventually taking over all of our lives and not letting go until the next one comes along.

    A quick rundown of just the last five years:

    • 2005: "Wicked" and "Mamma Mia" (Nick).
    • 2006: "Rent," (the movie, then the show), "A Chorus Line," (revival), "High School Musical."
    • 2007: "Hairspray" and, sadly, "HSM2" (the movie, not the high school play Nicholas was in last year).
    • 2008: "Avenue Q," "Mamma Mia" (the movie dragged the rest of us in), and, yes, "HSM3" (but only Emma, Ben, and Nick this time).
    • 2009: "Spring Awakening" (all except Emma) and "Next to Normal."

    This does not include shows the kids perform in with Metropolitan Fine Arts Center. Think about the entire Disney canon there, plus "Annie" and "The Wizard of Oz," and you can see why I made the "obsession" reference.

    What do I mean by circle backs?

    • "Annie" was the first show Jill and I did together; last year, we watched our kids perform in it.
    • We found out Jill was pregnant with Kate during "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"; two years ago, while our entire family was participating in another production of the show, my father died.
    • "The Wizard of Oz" not only permeates society, it runs through our family like a bad computer virus. I served as an assistant stage manager for one production, while Kate made her stage debut in another at 6 weeks old because Jill was playing Glinda. Nicholas has done the show three times, and the trio performed in an MFAC production in 2008.

    Considering that Jill was pregnant with Ben and Emma when she did "Annie Get Your Gun" — they made their stage debuts in utero — I can't wait to see what happens when that one gets revived. Of course, that show also has a circle back of its' own: It was the first Broadway show Jill and I saw together as a couple.

    It won't be the last.

  • There's a Moment You Know...

    I can think of several moments that fit this line from "Spring Awakening" (2009's summer obsession) as long as you're willing to be liberal in the interpretation.

    • Seeing Jill sing.

    • Peace Day.

    • The red overcoat.

    • The 21-week ultrasound.

    • The nurse saying, "You're having a boy ... and a girl."

    • My baby, blue and gasping for air.

    • Moving to the D.C. area.

    • "Who Let the Frogs Out..."

    That last one, in many ways, is why we're in this position today. It's hard to believe it was just three (very long) years ago. But it was June 2006 when Ben and Emma performed the song as part of their jazz class in Metropolitan's production of "The Little Mermaid."

    Simply put, Ben stole the number and show — a lengthy extravaganza that showcased MFAC's growing student body — not once, but twice over the weekend. It was when we saw he was at home, literally, on the stage.

    A year and a half later, people still mentioned that night to us at random moments, with almost an "I was there..." aura about it. By this time, Ben had auditioned for and signed with an agent.

    Quickly, he learned rejection, how you could get so tantalizingly close to something big and then be turned down because you weren't the right height, weight, or hair color. But by the fall of 2007, he was cast as Tiny Tim in Ford's Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol," and life had changed forever...

  • A Song For You

    Remember how I said that irony is not dead? Let me prove it to you.

    Today, I should sing “Happy Birthday” to my oldest son, except that the best present I could give him is not singing at all.

    “Dad, please… I mean, really, I’m not being rude … but I’d rather hear the cats.”

    Yep, I have a voice that stands out in a crowd — for all the wrong reasons. My solution is to be the Milli Vanilli/Britney Spears/Janet Jackson of the “Happy Birthday” set. (Except that you wouldn’t want to see me dance, either.)

    • Irony No. 1: Rhythm, tone, and pitch — three things I want more than almost anything — are nowhere to be found. And three of my four children, plus Jill, have beautiful voices.
    • Irony No. 2: I love music. 
    • Irony No. 3: Over the past three years, both sons have been in productions of, yes, “A Christmas Carol.”

    In case you haven’t noticed, it’s December (although retailers would have you believe that the month started just before Halloween). It’s a month built for music, from carols to hymns to show tunes to “Happy Birthdays” and everything in between. And over the next 18 days, the height of the singing season, all four of my kids have birthdays.

    Now there is irony, topped only by the fact that for 16 days, from this Friday through Dec. 27, I will have three 12-year-olds.

    So as we kick off birthday month and continue through the holiday season, the best gift I can give to my children it to remain vocally silent. As the DJ says, this one goes out to Nicholas, Emma, Ben, and Katharine — by request.

    “Overture. Purple lights. This is it. The height of heights. And oh what heights we’ll hit… On with the show this is it.”