A few nights ago, Jim and I had the privilege of attending a one-woman cabaret show at the Winter Park Theater here in Florida.
We were excited to see Cami Miller perform. She was one of our Opera House kids when we had the Children's Theater Group at the 1881 Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, PA.
Cami came into our lives 30 years ago. She auditioned for a part in "The Wizard of Oz," and got the second casting of Glinda, the Good Witch. At the time, Cami was around 8 or 9 years old, but she was tall for her age and had a voice that was awe-inspiring.
During the 10 years we produced and directed plays at the Opera House, Cami was a regular cast member. She was the kind of kid we could count on to know her lines, stay on pitch during solos, get along with other cast members, and have fun doing community theater.
Some of her more demanding roles required her to be an old woman (Widow Corney in "Oliver"), a teen-age blockbuster star (Sandy in "Grease") or a major soprano in a chorus of nuns ("The Sound of Music").
Through the years, Cami kept telling me that she wanted to go to college and major in theater. Her goal was to become a professional actress/singer. I knew she had the talent, but I worried that she would be disappointed. After all, the acting profession is risky business.
When I was getting ready to graduate from high school in 1958, I desperately wanted to be a professional actress. My Mom, who had been in vaudeville and knew the basics of that risky life, told me to "Get a real job first." She wanted me to be secure, just in case my theater life didn't come to pass.
So, I majored in English, got a teaching job, and never saw a Broadway stage except for the times I paid admission and sat in the audience.
So, my concern for Cami mirrored my mother's concern for me. But, luckily, Cami had the drive as well as the talent. She majored in theater in college and went on to get her Equity card and find a good life in show business.
Now, Cami is a contracted player with Disney World. She also appears in a dinner theater, entertains on cruise ships, performs in one-woman cabarets, does touring groups, and enjoys her life immensely. I am envious of her life. She is doing what I had always hoped to do. The good part of it is that Jim and I feel partly responsible for it.
When we sat in the Winter Park Theater and waited for Cami's show, we had a wonderful opportunity to talk with her parents, Cathy and Frank Miller - now from Florida, but formerly from Coaldale. They, too, had been part of the Opera House Theater group. When we started the Children's Theater, Frank and Cathy would be the chauffeurs for Cami and her brother Frankie.
After we decided to start an adult theater group too, Frank was one of the first people to sign up. Cathy appeared in many productions, too. And, young Frankie also starred in quite a few shows. Most notable for Frankie was the Artful Dodger in "Oliver." Cathy will be remembered as one of the strippers in "Gypsy" while Frank's role as the "Phantom of the Opera" will go down in history as causing the most screams from an audience.
When Cami took the Winter Park Theater stage, she BECAME Judy Garland. Her version of "Over the Rainbow" was touching and brought tears to my eyes. As she morphed into Liza Minnelli, she BECAME that brassy, bold singer. When she sang "New York, New York," the whole room exploded.
I have seen Cami transform into many different characters during her years with us in the Opera House. But now, with her maturity, confidence, and superior talent, she is at the peak of her abilities.
When Cami gave her initial welcoming speech, she made a point of introducing Jim and me to her audience. She said, "These two people got me started." Those words meant more to me than anything. All of the hard work, aggravation, and sleepless nights were worth it.
I am proud of Cami Miller. She followed her dream, worked hard, and is living the kind of life many actors strive for but seldom reach. And, a message to the hundreds of other Opera House kids who helped us create a wonderful community theater group - It is possible!
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.