"Good News Surprise"

by Perry Pugno, 1966


It was 1965 when an alumnus of Aquinas came for a visit. His name was Michael Dixon, and he was a producer for Wonderland Productions... a Hollywood company best known for its creative Alka Seltzer and Volkswagen TV commercials. He proposed the establishment of a drama club and the production of a musical play in collaboration with St. Bernardine’s.

Aquinas, at that time, had few extracurricular activities of that type, and certainly very few that included the girls from St. B’s. So, when they announced try-outs for the production, I jumped at the opportunity.

The try-outs were held in the evening in the Aquinas gym. Since it was to be a musical production (“Good News”), the auditions centered around singing. Mr. Dixon had a piano set up in the gym and he called each of us up individually to audition. I was one of the first to be called. Mr. Dixon sat at the piano and played a scale of notes. He then asked me to sing those notes. Since the notes went fairly high, I did my best, but struggled to hit the highest notes. He then said, “Thank you very much,” and that was it for me.

I stayed to watch the other auditions. I found that after me, he asked people to sing words to a song rather than just a scale. When I left the gym, I sat in the car for quite a while thinking about what had just happened. Everyone else had left when I saw Mr. Dixon leave the gym and start walking to his car. I’m not certain why I did it, but I got out of my car, walked up to him, and said, “I don’t think you gave me a fair shot at auditioning. Singing words to a song is quite different from singing just La-La- La to a scale of notes.” He looked at me for a minute, and finally said, “You’re right. Let’s go back and try it again.” So, we went back into the gym, and he had me sing the words to one of the songs in the play. Although I again struggled to hit the high notes, I felt much better about what I had done... and thanked him to the opportunity to give it another shot.

It was a couple of weeks later when they posted the results of the auditions. I was literally flabbergasted when I saw my name next to the male lead part for the show. I couldn’t believe it... and I was intimidated by the whole idea, especially since the role included a kissing scene! I was sent to a voice coach to teach me all the solo songs in the show, and it took some work for me to be able to hit the high notes in a couple of them. The rehearsals were great fun, and the cast really seemed to “bond” over the production.

Our dress rehearsal was performed for the school. I think we were more nervous doing the show in front of our friends than we were for the final production. Show night in the gym came soon enough, and all our families and friends were there. The whole production went better than we expected, but I think we were all a bit relieved when it was done. My family teased me about the kissing scene for months afterwards. All in all, it was a wonderful and unique experience for me.

Email: ppugno@gmail.com