Ah, yes. Catholic school in the 1950s and even before meant strict nuns teaching classes, morals and values included in the lessons, rigid curriculums, and to those attending private schools, it seemed like Catholics had a holy day every other week or a special saint to honor.
That was then, but nowadays one seldom sees a nun in a black habit at a Catholic school or even a Catholic hospital. That represents a time so far away, yet it is something many still remember–especially those who lived through that time.
“Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Reflect Up?” the current play at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center in Olathe, Kansas takes the audience back to a simpler time in Americana, yet a difficult time for many who suffered through awkward times in those impressionable years. The show features two students who suffer at the hands of other children, yet find a way to cope because of the support of the Catholic nuns and priests who nurture and understood them.
Two main characters face the teasing and taunting of their peers as they grow from early elementary through graduation. The classroom features a class clown, an instigator, Miss Perfect, an overweight student, a low-achiever, a normal student. Along with that combination, two nuns and a priest round out the mix. In the opening scenes, the hierarchy develops and the audience knows who will suffer the most, yet become the strongest for the burdens they face.
The show contains many songs that explain what each student thinks as he/she matures. Childhood can be difficult for many. And, other children can be cruel without intending to be. “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Reflect Up?” captures the innocence of youth and the times young men and women encounter and brings smiles to those who remember their youth.
“Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Reflect Up?” is a light-hearted look at childhood and from a Catholic upbringing. No swear words, no dark meanings, no hidden agenda–the show is an easy look back at problems many students face as they mature. Who will I ask to prom? Will I get asked to Prom? Does he/she like me? What do I confess at Confession? What is the first Confession like? What will others think of my new hair cut? Why can’t I be smarter?
“This great musical is a nostalgic and hilarious look at growing up Catholic in the 50s – but you don’t have to be Catholic to be in on the fun,” Brad Zimmerman, producing artistic director, said. “Follow a boy & girl from elementary through high school in a more innocent era, and remember a little of your own childhood along the way. The show is funny & wistful, capturing youthful growing pains and trying moments of adolescence. The music will tickle you and touch you … and stir memories of your school days. (Rated G).
The two leads Callie Rodina and Andrew Schmidt give great performances with great support from the balance of the cast. Even in small parts, the others each perform individual numbers, allowing them to showcase their voices and personalities. All cast members have history at The Chestnut, indicating that Zimmerman knew whom he wanted for each part. His selections always provide great performances in all his shows.
The cast is: Jeannette Bonjour, Vicky DeLaughder, Mindy Moritz, Christian Owen, Callie Rodina, Andrew Schmidt, Kipp Simmons, Victoria Strafuss and Bob Wearing.
Show times are Thursday, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; Select Saturday matinees at 2p.m. and select Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. Adults: $30; Seniors/Students: $27. For more information, check The Chestnut Fine Arts Center website.
Tags: “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Reflect Up?” review, Chestnut Fine Arts Center, Olathe Kansas, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment