Get your popcorn ready

Jeff Gates - For The Madison Press

Celebrating the Prince of Humbug.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Those are the immortal words of the greatest showman of all time (it must be true because the current movie with that title is about him), Phineas Taylor Barnum. PT Barnum highlighted (some would argue, exploited) unique differences in individuals.

While there was still a faction that took the opportunity to ridicule these people, for the most part, it gave the individuals the chance to hear applause and other positive feedback. Barnum’s methods may have appeared self-serving for things such as personal financial gain, but as pointed out in the great movie (seen recently at London’s State Theatre — a great place to watch any movie on any day) he gave many of his performers a new experience. A sense of family.

The dancing and singing of Hugh Jackman was tremendous as PT Barnum. From the powerful voice of the bearded lady to the stunning glamour of teen sitcom star, Zendaya, to the coming of age of High School Musical’s Zac Efron, the movie was hypnotically enthralling from the opening note to the final curtain. It was a cavalcade of colors, lights and intrigue that truly made it High School Musical for adults.

I have been mesmerized by the life of the (unofficial) patron saint of circuses since junior year in high school, and it involved a trip to Broadway.

As a junior and/or senior at James E. Sperry (now Rush-Henrietta) High School, students had a chance to take part in the Theatre Department’s annual excursion to New York City. The six-hour bus ride culminated in a whirlwind of activity planned by my theatrical mentor Bob Sagan and included the chance to see three on-Broadway shows.

My first trip to the Big Apple included the unforgettable opportunity to experience the then-new musical “Barnum.” Starring Jim Dale as the charismatic showman (in his Tony Award-winning role) and Glenn Close as his wife Charity, it was a two-hour, explosively colorful carnival ride.

There is a sucker born every minute, and I must admit that I’m a sucker for theatre. Not only the pageantry of the show itself, but the complexity of the preparation that is integral in making a quality product.

I’ve had the honor of being involved in more than 50 theatrical productions at various levels, and the excitement never gets old. Currently I have the pleasure of having a small hand in helping with the West Jefferson High School production of “The Music Man.” The musical centers around a very Barnum-esque showman in Harold Hill, and includes several dozen talented young elementary, middle and high school students who have been working tirelessly to bring this timeless story to life. Please mark your calendars for March 8-10 at West Jefferson High School (shameless, but worthwhile, plug).

This past Sunday, my diverse interests of theatre and sports met head on in Minnesota.

In many ways, the Super Bowl is like the ultimate theatrical production — it has its heroes and villains, subplots, cliffhangers, essential supporting actors, surprise twists/turns, intermission, and ‘wow’ moments that are hard to explain.

From the ‘Philly Special’ fourth down pass to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles to the Prince tribute at the half by Justin Timberlake to the spectacular Father Time-deflating performance by Tom Brady even in defeat, Super Bowl LII proved the National Football League can give a stage performance that would make Broadway icon Andrew Lloyd Webber proud.

The new Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement class — announced the evening before the Super Bowl — suggests, the NFL has boasted some flamboyant personalities, even with some of its historically greatest players.

With NFL symbols Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens (a complete travesty that he had to wait until his third year of eligibility to be voted in) becoming enshrined in Canton this coming summer, their three acceptance speeches might become as legendary as their careers were.

As Owens suggested during his career, you better ‘get your popcorn ready’ for this ride.

Jeff Gates

For The Madison Press

Jeff Gates has been a freelance writer for The Madison Press since 1996.

Jeff Gates has been a freelance writer for The Madison Press since 1996.