Thank you for your patience in waiting for this last of 2011’s newsletters. We closed just a week ago, and the days since have been filled with putting the camp to bed for the winter, a staff banquet and farewells, a wonderful memorial gathering for Tom Reed, Sr., the 29th annual Rittner Run, board meetings, and closing up the kitchen. This, too, hard on the heels of Pemi Week, with its tennis, soccer, triathlon, pentathlon, swimming, and archery championships; Games and Woodsdudes’ Days; two performances of The Mikado; the final Art Show; a lavish awards banquet; the final Bean Soup (at which counselors Jeremy Keys and Nick Ridley shared the coveted Joe Campbell Award), and the final Campfire – not to mention packing for travel home. It was a hectic but most satisfying close to a banner season. We wish we could recount all of the specifics here, but time and space militate against that. We’ll content ourselves, instead, with reproducing the approving review of the Gilbert and Sullivan show – recommending that you grill your sons for information on everything else. (Assuming, that is, that they haven’t already cornered you and delivered the goods with the tenacity of the Ancient Mariner.)
Clive Bean Reviews The Mikado
This year’s G &S production, The Mikado, opened triumphantly on Tuesday night last before powering to a tie for the longest run ever by a musical drama in the Pemigewassett Opera House – two. This reviewer honestly can’t recall a production that packed more energy and polish than this one, as the large and well-drilled cast rocked the stage with their dramatic fervor and melodic panache. Stealing the show was first-time leadJeremy Keys as the bloodthirsty femme fatale, Katisha, whose aggressive taste for younger men makes Cougartown look like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. JK’s powerful falsetto and over-the-top antics served notice that if Lady Gaga ever hangs up her act, Jeremy is the right man to slip into her meat mini-dress. Katisha more than met her match, though, in the Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko, played by veteran lead Jamie Andrews. Ko-Ko’s reprehensible ethics, stretching all the way from bribery to lying to marital opportunism, doesn’t speak particularly well for the moral qualities of Jamie’s college, Kenyon – but no-one on the stage threw himself into a role more thoroughly than Andrews, whose ear-splitting screams of anguish and despair must have been practiced on especially tough days on the trip program.
Thompson Bain was smooth and professional as Titipu elder Pish-Tush, proving that his chops aren’t limited to Weezer and Eagles covers, while Sam Day and Zander Buteux took a walk on the wild side by donning lipstick and ladies’ clothes and nailing their roles as two of the Three Little Maids from School, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing. Sam more than evidenced his extensive university background in musical theater, complementing a solid vocal performance with some stunning acting. And Zander’s mom, who caught the second show, confessed that she might actually prefer her number one son as a girl. Larry Davis excelled as Pooh-Bah – a corrupt and arrogant official who allows that he “was born sneering.” Rumor has it that there were opposition-party operatives in the audience who were so impressed with Larry’s dramatic style that they approached him after the show asking if he was interested in a presidential run in 2012. Larry’s response was evidently unprintable. Tom Reed, Jr., was predictably type-cast as the unhinged and malicious Emperor of Japan and managed to scare everyone in the Opera House except his fawning lackey Peter Siegenthaler, whose innate fear of his master was overcome by bribes of candy.
The romantic leads were played splendidly by Dorin Dehls, as the curiously named Yum-Yum, and Zach Barnard, as imperial runaway Nanki-Poo. Dorin brought truly professional vocal skills to the part – as impressive as this reviewer has ever heard in this venue – but added to her triumph with as nuanced and convincing an acting job as could be imagined. Meanwhile Zach – who supplemented his stage work with hours and hours of tireless work behind the scenes – presented Nanki-Poo with the vocal perfectionism we’ve come to expect of him and an understated dramatic flair that was perfect for the part of the only sane man in the whole pack. The two worked the charming kissing duet with unmatched timing and wit, turning what is sometimes one of the awkward and cloying moments of the show into a true highlight.
When all is said and done, though, it was the choruses who set the standard for the performance and sustained the energy throughout. Andre Altherr and Robert Loeser were camper stand-outs in the girls’ chorus (as anyone who’s been to campfires won’t be surprised to hear), while Sylvia Parol burst onto the Pemi dramatic scene with some remarkable singing and acting. Meanwhile, Ted McChesney, cast as the biggest girl, Mutton-Chops, got into his role so thoroughly that days later he’s still mincing around camp giggling. On the Noble side, Dan Fulham filled the stage (literally!) with his dramatic flair and booming baritone, while Dan Bivona annoyed the heck out of everyone with a laugh that sounded like a hamster getting an unexpected root canal.
Final and top kudos, though, must go to Maestro Ian Axness, whose deft and dedicated management of so many aspects of the production made a spectacular show possible. Aided and abetted by Producer/Director Penelope Reed Doob and a host of other dedicated folk, Ian hit the balance between making demands and being supportive in a way that allowed everyone in the cast to reach their full potential. Who more than Ian earned that big smack on the cheek from Sam Day during the final curtain call? Ian, you rock! Mikado, you’re a great show. Pemi, you’re a lucky community. This year’s G&S run was a triumph!
Wish you all could have been there. There IS, however, a DVD of the show available. If you’re interested, please contact us.
We’d like to offer one more insight into the last week or so – the toast Danny offered at the start of the Awards Banquet. It suited the event to a T, and seems like a fitting way to wrap up our newsletters for the year.
May I propose a toast…
Here’s to summer 2011 at Pemi, a summer that began more than nine weeks ago for some, when it still felt as much like winter as summer, a summer that ends with the days growing shorter and the first hints of autumn in the air, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.
Here’s to over 270 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, campers from half way around the world, campers from 20 miles away in Hanover, campers from more than ten different countries, campers in their first year at Pemi and campers in their eighth.
Here’s to the amazing counselor staff at Pemi in 2011, cabin counselors, AC’s, program staff, administrators and program heads; here’s to the hard-working crew that Chris Jacobs leads so vigorously each day, to the folks in the office who never get enough credit, to the kitchen staff that takes on the herculean task of feeding us three times a day and, of course, the Reed Family and the Fauver Family who, in their loving and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from all of us each and every day.
Here’s to the wonderful program at Pemi and the fine teaching that helps to facilitate it, to the arts and the athletics, the trips and the music, the nature program and tennis and all of the great things that happen down on the waterfront.
Here’s to the weather this summer, so many beautiful days, long days with crisp mornings, blazing afternoons and the peaceful golden haze across the pond at day’s closing. Here’s also to the brief heat wave that we endured (which revived a bit of Chillin’ with Lit), here’s to the powerful rain storms that sent us scurrying indoors and the all-clear signal that sent us scurrying back out.
Here’s to athletic contests against our friendly rivals in the Baker Valley, contests hard fought, the victories, the ones that got away, and a Tecumseh Day that ended in a tie but which reinforced what I think we already knew, that it’s OK to win and that anything is possible.
Here’s to the things that are so uniquely Pemi, Polar Bear, caving trips, sound painting and comedy olympics, FRB, all camp capture the flag, counselor baseball, distance swims, graffiti art and 161 miles completed on the Appalachian Trail.
Here’s to all camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we’re loud and we laugh at ourselves, Camp Fire when we’re creative and artistic, and Sunday Service when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as history at Pemi, the importance of written letters, the beauty of music, life in foreign lands and the belief that “nothing is impossible.”
But most importantly, here’s to the understanding that Pemi is the perfect place to try new things, a place where you may very well make the best friends you’ll ever have and a place where we so often become the person we most want to be.
Here’s to Pemi 2011. Good luck, long life and joy!
Well, that’s a wrap. Parents of second-session campers will receive a final report from their boys’ counselors within the couple of weeks, and Danny will be writing to parents of full-season boys very soon as well. For everyone fourteen and younger, applications for the 2012 season will be available in October. As for fifteens, interest in Pemi West 2012 has already begun to mount, building on the remarkable success of this year’s Washington-state session. We’ll be in touch with details on the application process. For now, thank you all so much for your trust in Pemigewassett. It’s been a truly wonderful year!
— Tom and Danny