Thursday May 27 2010
Granite Bay students perform songs, honor 87-year-old playwright
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
Songs come from Steve Alexander's musical "Mia Maria"
Steve Alexander calls his experience growing up in Chicago “unforgettable.” The 87-year-old vividly remembers some moments, including how he first came to love the magic of theater. “I remember being 11 or 12 years old and taking the streetcar to go to Chicago Theatre and watch the musicals,” Alexander said. “ I was innately drawn to the music.” He still recalls hearing the songs “Chapel in the Moonlight” and “Blue Orchid” performed live. This was during the time of famous operetta composer Sigmund Romberg and American songwriter Cole Porter — or as Alexander describes him, “the epitome of composition.” Alexander recently shared his passion for music with Granite Bay High School. Two students performed a number from his original musical, “Mia Maria,” for their combined Choir and Musical Theatre final project Wednesday. The local playwright — who lives in Cameron Park — sat front and center with his daughter Danielle to enjoy the show. Alexander wrote the musical a few years ago and drew from his own life experiences. He said “Mia Maria” is 90 percent true, including a character based on a French countess he met in 1955 while working as an investigator for the U.S. State Department. But most of the story relates to another job. “I put the story together from my work as an elevator starter in Chicago, Illinois,” Alexander said. “We had quite a few adventures there.” He worked at the Morrison Hotel in 1946 and 47, a high-rise building downtown that has since been demolished. He moved to California in 1956. The musical, named for his oldest daughter, was inspired by the voices of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. The local playwright sang in the Greek Orthodox Church for years when he heard the beautiful voice of a fellow singer. Alexander said he wrote the musical in dedication to this woman, who has since passed away. He has also written songs inspired by his family, including the song “I Want to be With You,” which he wrote after Danielle was seriously injured in an accident. She stayed in a coma for 90 days and underwent therapy for 10 years. “The song is inspired by her, just like how she inspired us,” Alexander said. The playwright originally contacted Granite Bay’s theater teacher Jim Prichard last fall hoping the school might be able to produce “Mia Maria.” The cast was much smaller than the cast needed for Prichard’s Musical Theatre class, so that plan didn’t work out. But Prichard said he’d be happy to have his students perform one of the songs. Students Brandon Croll and Sonia Lilani performed “The Dream Waltz” as Jade Huang accompanied them on the piano. During the song, students Eric Wilber and Ashley Hilton danced the waltz. “It was really fun,” Croll said post-performance. “I was surprised how good the song was. It sounded really nice.” Choir teacher Kristen Faulkner then performed another song written by Alexander called “The Other Side of Sweet Sixteen” about a young lady upset that her parents won’t let her see a boy. Afterward, all the students gave Anderson a loud round of applause. “It was really neat and (Alexander) was happy to see (the song) performed,” Lilani said. “It was cool to put that together for him.” Sena Christian can be reached at email@example.com.