Posted by Bruce Miller
Last night, Terrie, Hannah, Phil, Donna and I all drove out to Hanover Tavern to catch the curtain call of Sanders Family Christmas. For the Miller half of the Miller/Whiteway clan, that’s about a half-hour trek. But it was well worth it. It was The Best Christmas Curtain Call Ever.
Spoiler Alert: If you’re planning to see Sanders Family Christmas, and you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to stop reading. I’m about to discuss a significant plot point that occurs near the end of the show. It’s nothing too dramatic. No one bombs Mt. Pleasant Baptist, Denise doesn’t announce she’s pregnant with David O. Selznick’s love child … or anything like that.
But it is a significant plot point, and I don’t want to give anything away to some unsuspecting soul who’s looking forward to experiencing the show without already knowing how it ends.
OK, if you’re still reading, consider yourself warned.
Near the end of Sanders Family Christmas, Rev Oglethorpe (Billy Christopher Maupin) proposes onstage to June Sanders (Aly Wepplo). It’s a really nice, funny, sweet scene, and the audience always gets a little teary and feels warm and fuzzy all over. When June accepts the proposal, the audience always bursts into applause.
WELL … last night David Janeski (the actor who plays Dennis Sanders) topped all that. For those of you who don’t know, David Janeski and Aly Wepplo met in Barksdale’s production of Mame, and began dating during Barksdale’s production of Smoke on the Mountain. In the intervening year and a half, it’s been pretty clear to any and everyone that David and Aly had fallen in love. And why not, they’re a perfect couple.
Yesterday, David graduated from grad school at VCU, and so his parents were in town for the graduation ceremony. Last night, his family also turned out for Sanders Family Christmas. If I’m not mistaken, Aly’s family all came down for the show last night as well.
Following David’s careful planning, our stage manager Christina Billew informed the cast that I had asked if they would all return to the stage following curtain call for an encore. With everyone in the know except Aly, they all followed instructions, danced up the aisle as always, and then came running back onto stage for the “encore” I’d requested.
That’s when David took over. He introduced himself to the audience as David the actor, not Dennis the character who is a brother to Aly’s character June. He invited the audience to sit back down, and asked them for a few minutes of their time. “My family is here tonight,” David said sincerely, “and over the years they’ve given me just about everything I have. But the one thing they couldn’t give me…” (it was at this moment he began choking up and Aly got a strange look on her face) “… is standing right over there.”
When he pointed to Aly, the light went off in her head, and she knew what was coming. David professed his abiding love, invited Aly to center stage, and then he recreated the scene we’d just seen where Rev. Oglethorpe dropped to one knee and presented June Sanders with a ring. Only this time it was real. And when Aly tearfully and enthusiastically nodded yes, the audience once again leapt to their feet applauding, providing the second standing ovation of the evening.
After heartfelt hugs and kisses, David announced, “We’re really going now. Thank you.” And the cast once again danced up the aisle and out into the lobby.
It was the perfect ending of a perfect show, and an ideal beginning for a wonderful couple.
I’m crazy about David and Aly both individually and together. It all began with the Sanders Family. The proposal was the Best Christmas Curtain Call Ever. and along with everyone who knows and loves them, I wish the newly engaged couple a Wonderful Life.