I don’t know just when I learned to love musical theater, but I suspect it was soon after I was born.

On this day, Nov. 4, in 1954, the musical “Fanny” premiered on Broadway.

Sixteen months later, in 1956, I was born, and by that time, my parents were playing the soundtrack on a long-playing record on their Victrola.

Amy Calder, left, Fred Liebfried and Sumner Hayward in the Park Street Players performance of “Oliver” in the early 1990s in Skowhegan.

The record player sat on a cabinet between our living and dining rooms, and we kids took great liberty in coveting those records my folks picked up in New York when they saw the musical.

We plopped the records on the machine often and memorized the lyrics to the songs, including the one about the octopus: “I’m in love with an octopus — a curly, girlie octopus. I’ll be true to her lips of blue and those eight loving arms around me.”

We’d act out the scenes from “Fanny,” though I was really too young to even understand what it was all about and merely took cues from my older sisters.

My parents also saw “South Pacific” in New York after it opened in 1958 and delivered us the soundtrack to that musical as well.

“Be kind to your parents though they don’t deserve it,” we’d croon, as we danced around the living room. “Remember that grown ups is a difficult stage of life.”

My father particularly loved the music of Strauss, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and other classic composers, and we kids would lie on the living room floor and listen to his records.

“Pretend we’re in the forest!” my sister, Laura, would command, as we lay there, soaking in “Tales from the Vienna Woods.”

When I attended Skowhegan Area High School, we had a great drama department led by Elizabeth Merrill, and we performed musicals including “The Music Man” and “Oklahoma.”

As the prompter for “Oklahoma,” I learned all the characters’ lines and all the songs and still sing them today as I drive along country roads. In “The Music Man,” I played Ethel Toffelmier, one of the Pickalittle Ladies, and to this day, find myself singing the lyrics to songs from that musical.

For three summers during my college years in the 1970s, I worked at Lakewood Theatre in Madison, where Broadway casts performed musicals including “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Hair,” “Carnival,” and “Oklahoma.” We employees could watch the shows as many times as we wished, and what a treat. I’d sneak into the back row of the orchestra section after the house went dark and see shows over and over. I never tired of that.

Many years ago I was on the board of directors for Park Street Players, a now-defunct theater group in Skowhegan. We did musicals including “Oliver,” in which I played Mrs. Sowerberry, the funeral director’s wife. What a fun part.

Those of us who love music and musical theater know the thrill of hearing the overture being performed minutes before the curtain rises.

The same is true with the moments musicians are tuning up before a symphony orchestra performance.

It’s a treat  to travel to a large city to patronize theater and music events, but the wonderful part about being in Waterville is that we also can see performances close to home.

The Waterville Opera House offers top-notch shows right downtown. The musical “Newsies,” directed by Debra Susi, opens later this month, with evening performances Nov. 8, 9 and 15, and matinees Nov. 10, 16 and 17.

Do I have tickets? You bet.

As for the Colby Symphony Orchestra, no tickets are needed as performances are open to the public, free of charge.

On Nov. 23 at Lorimer Chapel on campus, the symphony, under the direction of Jinwook Park, will perform works by Jean Sibelius, Max Bruch and Colby professor Eric Thomas. A concert not to be missed, just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Between the Opera House and Colby, those of us who crave quality music and theater are sure to get our fixes.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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