“We’ve gotta have a great show, with a million laughs… and color… and a lot of lights to make it sparkle! And songs – wonderful songs! And after we get the people in that hall, we’ve gotta start em in laughing right away! Oh, can’t you just see it… ?”
So says Judy Garland to Mickey Rooney in the Busby Berkley movie musical Babes in Arms. Somehow all of that little speech has morphed into a single exclamation erroneously tied to Mickey Rooney, who supposedly says, “Let’s put on a show!”.
Putting on a show is a very gratifying experience for every big time or small time volunteer involved on stage. It’s a kind of bug that once in your system is hard to lose. Ask people like Judy Dorf and Bev Cohen and Harvey Weiner, who are veterans from over a dozen TBA shows.
We’ve been putting on a show for decades at Temple Beth Avodah. And by now, hundreds of us have felt that thrill of the spotlight. We’ve sung along with an orchestra, danced to a choreographer’s instruction, jumped, ran, crawled and tumbled across the stage.
The declaration, “Let’s put on a show!” is a powerful call to action and useful shorthand for the longer Garland quote. It captures the raw excitement of putting on a play. It reflects the rare feelings of joy, terror, and fulfillment that accompany an actor, amateur or professional, who stands before an audience and performs.
As much fun as it is, we don’t do it for the attention. When Amy Tonkonogy called out, “Let’s put on a show!”, a lot of people came running. They didn’t rush because it’s about putting on a fundraiser. We’ve spent a lot on putting on plays over the years, and some made money, and many broke even and a few lost money. To be very crystal clear, the TBA plays have never been about raising money.
When Amy Tonkonogy said, “Let’s put on a show!” like her mother before her, people came running because it’s about building community. Backstage at a TBA performance is all about collaboration and cooperation. The connection people feel after months and months of rehearsals is indescribable. By the time of the first performance it feels like a family reunion every time we gather before a show.
We put on a show because it has become a part of the fabric of TBA. We do it to express a kind of love for our temple. We do it so we can meet and make friends and create lifelong connections with others who are members of our temple. The play is a collective gift of the heart from the micro community of actors and painters and stage hands and seamstresses and dressers and musicians and the clean up crew to you, our fellow TBA members and friends.
You say you don’t like amateur productions. I get it. You say you don’t like musicals. I understand. But… it’s not about Broadway, it’s about Puddingstone Lane. So stop making excuses, and come see Barnum. Buy tickets online. Think about it as supporting your relatives and friends, because they are – even if you don’t know a soul in the cast. They’re doing this for you.