A selectman in a large, vibrant town such as Lexington has a lot of responsibilities in an ordinary year, and even more so if it happens to be that town’s tercentennial. Along with the usual budgetary decisions to make and municipal quandaries to ponder, there are parades to march in, honorary events to attend, speeches to deliver.
Not to mention that pesky chorus-line kick-step to master.
Hank Manz and his colleagues on the Board of Selectmen couldn’t have known when they ran for office that they would all be expected to participate in “Breeches, Bloomers, and Bellbottoms, Oh My! A Musical Fashion Revue,” one of many events planned for Lexington’s 300th anniversary. And surely Lexington’s police chief, fire chief, and town manager didn’t picture having to belt out a song or two in full stage makeup when they began their jobs either. But fortunately, as Jessica Steigerwald recently commented, “This is the kind of town where people are willing to get involved, even if it means appearing on stage dressed as Sergeant Pepper.”
No one knows that better than Steigerwald. Not only is she the cochairwoman of Lexington’s yearlong 300th anniversary celebration, she also wrote and is coproducing Saturday’s event, which she describes as “not just a fashion show but entertaining skits reflecting history through a look at 300 years of fashions worn here in town.”
And although it’s all in good fun, Selectman Hank Manz pointed out that there is a deeper meaning to what he and his colleagues are doing. “I have never met a Lexington selectman who didn’t have a sense of history,” Manz said. “For us, this is about so much more than fashion. It is yet another link to all those people who came before us and who gave us the Lexington we enjoy today. And getting to dress as [British Army Lieutenant General] Robert Baden-Powell almost makes up for not getting the part played by Edward Norton in ‘Moonrise Kingdom.’ ”
Steigerwald has always enjoyed musical theater, so it was to be expected that she would opt to create some kind of lively staged event as part of the tercentennial. The process began back in August when she and coproducer Tanya Morrisett put out the word that they were seeking historical clothing from all eras of American history.
It turned out that a lot of locals had old clothes in their attics. The costume offers started pouring in so fast that Steigerwald put the actual script on hold. Eventually, she had an amazing array of contributions — and a burning urge to find a way to display every piece of apparel on stage. So difficult was it to let any piece of vintage clothing go unused that a collection of ties dating back to the 1930s, which Steigerwald could not manage to work into the script, will be worn by the ushers at Saturday’s performance.
“We have Colonial stays, 19th-century ball gowns, Civil War uniforms, Empire outfits, pillbox hats, Monte Carlo dresses, Sergeant Pepper outfits, John Travolta suits . . . and a lot of other things,” she reeled off.
The story, as Steigerwald describes it, is about a fictional Lexington High School history class for whom history comes alive — literally — as characters from the past arrive in their classroom dressed in period clothing. Lexington middle school teacher Kenny Laxague plays the history teacher. Teenagers make up the core of the cast, with lots of participation from other people of all ages. The show includes two original songs, many familiar tunes from America’s songbook, and some historical musical pieces that may be less recognizable.
And even if they may not opt to add it to their resumes, actor-singer-dancer-Town Manager Carl Valente insists the experience has been great fun. “In my more than 20 years as a town manager, I have had relatively few opportunities to participate in a community event that is just plain fun,” Valente commented. “While it is a bit intimidating to go before an audience and perform, wearing 1960s clothes, no less, all of our town department heads have agreed to participate as well. There is strength, or maybe I should say courage, in numbers. If our rehearsals are any indication, we will not be asked to appear on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ any time soon, but we are enjoying participating in this wonderful event no matter what.”
“Breeches, Bloomers, and Bellbottoms, Oh My! A Musical Fashion Revue” will be held Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Donald Gillespie Auditorium at Lexington High School, 251 Waltham St. Tickets range from $10 to $30 and can be purchased at the town clerk’s office, 1625 Massachusetts Ave., weekdays 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., or at the door the night of the performance. Proceeds from ticket sales will help defray the cost of the nine-month 300th anniversary celebration.
BLOODY FUNNY: Littleton’s Cannon Theatre presents the murder mystery spoof “Murdered to Death” by Peter Gordon, with a large cast from Littleton and surrounding towns beginning Friday evening and continuing weekends through mid-November. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors/students, and $10 for children under age 12. 410 Great Road, Littleton. For tickets, performance times and more information, call 978-456-0060 or go to www.thecannontheatre.org.
BIRDS IN ART: The Dana Hall School Art Gallery is showcasing sculptures and paintings of birds by artists Donna Dodson, Suzette Jones, Andy Moerlein, and G.A. Scattergood-Moore. “Birds of a Feather” will run through Nov. 20. The exhibit is free and open to the public. For gallery hours and more information, call 781-235-3010 or go to www.danahall.org.
NATURE AS MUSE: “Reflections of Nature,” paintings by Worcester artist Barbara Brosnihan, is on exhibit at the Westboro Gallery from Sunday through Jan. 20, with an opening reception Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. 8 West Main Street, Westborough.
FOLK TRIO TURNS 20: Chicago folk trio Sons of the Never Wrong celebrate their 20th anniversary and a new CD release with a show Friday night at Amazing Things Arts Center, 160 Hollis Road, Framingham. Special guest is folk-pop trio Laughing Boy. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 508-405- 2787 or go to www.amazingthings.org.