My Acting Career

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I read somewhere that Fred Astaire wore size 8 shoes. Imagine how good he would have been if he had my size 12 feet. The down side of that is stepping on Ginger’s toes would put her right in the hospital. (Yes, I understand anyone under 70 wouldn’t have a clue who or what I am writing about)

I love Broadway musicals, not that I have ever been to Broadway, but I’ve seen them in Toronto, the Hollywood versions on TV and excerpts from one in Winnipeg of all places, but have you noticed they have changed? There is a seriousness about them now that wasn’t in the pre-nineties shows. I am certainly not complaining, the last few I saw were spectacular, but lately they been tackling some pretty heavy subjects.

At the moment I am thinking about Les Miserables. I thought it was a magnificent production but almost everyone in the cast dies before it’s over. In fact the opening night party where the cast traditionally await the revues was held at a MacDonald’s Drive Thru. The Phantom of the Opera is another a wonderful show but I don’t recall a pretty nurse on a beach washing a man right out of her hair like there was in South Pacific – unless she sang when I was on a pee break.

I have been in three or four musicals but for some strange reason never got the lead in any of them. I suspect the directors were afraid the operatic quality of my voice would overpower the lesser leads and steal all the glory – they were probably right. I felt slighted, but being a trooper I accepted their decisions and carried on in more minor roles.

My favourite part ever has to be Squire Dap, Lancelot’s right-hand man in Camelot. I had no lines, but I was on the stage whenever he was – well except when Lance was fooling around with Arthur’s missus and didn’t feel the need for my squiring. What a wonderful opportunity that role was for a ham like me. In one scene Lance was going into battle and I accidentally strapped my finger into his shin guard and he dragged me across the stage. You didn’t see that in the Broadway production with Robert Goulet. His ego wouldn’t have allowed it.

You probably didn’t realise that I was the Rabbi in Mariposa Art’s Fiddler on the Roof. I was amazing, if I do say so myself. I understand several folks in the audience converted to Judaism as a direct result of my performance. When I danced the Hora in the wedding scene I was approached by several members of the National Ballet. It wasn’t a friendly approach I should add but fortunately the OPP SWAT Team intervened.

I was superb as a doctor in Oliver but it wasn’t exactly a starring role since I never found out why they needed a doctor in the first place. One night I fell off the stage and nobody knew I was gone until the janitorial staff vacuumed me up in the morning.

In Man of La Mancha, another classic, I was a muleteer. Even then my talent wasn’t recognised; in the rape scene I never got to join in on the festivities. Instead I had to stand off to one side and sing ‘Little Bird’. I was single at the time and as you might expect after that solo, completely shunned by the eligible ladies in the cast.

Perhaps this is a good time to tell you how my talents were overlooked by the hierarchy of Mariposa Theatre Arts throughout my musical career. I tried out for the role of Sancho Panza, the serious yet comical squire of Don Quixote. I would have been magnificent, but the director Jackson Spear gave the part to Ray Storey. A year or two later I tried out for the comical pal of Captain Big Jim Warrington in Little Mary Sunshine and Jackson gave the role to Ray Storey. I said at the time, that if they ever made a movie of my life, Jackson would give the lead to Ray Storey and I would get the part of his best friend. (Ray was excellent in both roles and as far as I know is doing exceptionally well in theatre companies out west. Apparently, Jackson knew what he was doing.)

In Carousel I played Jigger Graigin, a no-account whaler and a sleazy crook to boot who talks Billy Bigelow, the star, into committing a robbery, abandons him when the cops show up, and runs off never to be seen again. All this happens in the first act. You will be surprised to learn my disappearance from the rest of the show turned out to be a big plus. I had time to slip down to the Legion for a beer and still make it back for the finale.  

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