Dang, I love musicals. Love them.
My grandparents had the videodisc of Annie. (Yes, videodisc. Remember the vinyl album-sized squares that you’d shove into a machine and pull out the empty plastic cartridge? Then halfway through, the movie would stop, and you’d have to get up and push the huge cartridge back in, flip it over, and redeposit the disc into the machine? We’re so, so spoiled now.)
ANYWAY. Annie. I loved that movie. I was a freshman when it was announced that my high school would be doing a production of Annie. I don’t remember a thing about auditions. I probably blacked out with nerves. But I did make the cut! I was cast as July, who, according to Wikipedia, is “the quietest orphan.” I think I was supposed to just fit in.
I didn’t. I was the tallest alto orphan that any school musical director would never want. Honestly, when parents showed up on opening night and heard me rumble through “Hard Knock Life,” I’m pretty sure most of them were wondering who that young man was up on stage, and had he lost a bet? How did he get cast as a young girl in a school production such as this? Maybe he is friends with the director? How far does this small-town casting conspiracy go?!?
But I’d had fun. My wonderful parents even recorded it with their giant VHS camcorder. (Yknow, one of those that required a hand strap for security, and you’d better also have a heck of a strong shoulder and back to support it.) I remember watching it back, and as we were watching “Maybe,” my mom asked me how I looked so sad. I didn’t know how to explain it, but in that moment, I had just thought about not having parents and being stuck with mean ol’ Miss Hannigan. I mean, that was my job. I now know that was method acting, so move over, Daniel Day-Lewis! I’d cracked the code! And Oscars, I’m available to accept my retroactive award at any time, ahthankyou. (Deep bow.)
With my debut and a couple of other shows behind me, all I wanted next was for someone to do Grease. (It is the word, after all.) Later in high school, my wish came true. It was at a community theater over a half-hour away from home, but I just HAD to do it. I got cast as a Pink Lady. But not one of *the* Pink Ladies. A background Pink Lady. In the back. Okay, a liiiittle further back? Okay, there. Like, you are a Pink Lady, but not a Pink-Lady-jacket-wearing Pink Lady… one of those.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been more dedicated to anything in my entire life. I remember feeling sick one evening, but I could NOT miss an everyday rehearsal. What on earth would they do without rando backup person #8, right? My sweet mom drove me that night and sat through what I’m sure was a slow blocking or fumbling choreography night. All I remember was being on stage, then running off stage, out the side door, and getting sick in the snow outside. A backup wanna-be Barbra Streisand with the flu. Great.
I decided vomiting was reason enough to excuse myself from the rest of the rehearsal and go home. I’m certain everyone wanted me to leave the minute I arrived flush and coughing and sneezing, but this was Grease! Come on! It’s serious business.
Doing Grease was sooooo much fun and I made quite a few friends. I just remember being so happy! So although it had been years, and I mean…YEARS since I’d been on a stage… I decided maybe I’d try out for a musical again. I was very interested in one here in Grand Rapids, and come on, I might as well try, right?
Oof. Those poor, poor people. The poor people who had to sit through my vocal audition. I was so nervous that I had my eyes closed for too long, and my brain was saying, “Hit this note, sing these words, and OPEN YOUR EYES, YOU FREAK!!! You look scared or too genuine or just… weird! Stop it! Oooh! Eyes are open! Good. Connect with the eyes of the judges at the table? Nope, that was a mistake, felt too personal. Look at their shoes? Oh, those are cool shoes. Wonder where she got those shoes… Back up to the too-personal eyes? Yeah, FEEL MY DESPERATION.”
Yes, those poor people. But it was worse for anyone in the vicinity of my limbs during the dance portion of the audition. Good heavens, I was a flailing mess. Like, seriously, at times a half-beat behind others, my arms shooting up just as theirs were coming down. I turned in the wrong direction at least three times, once nearly taking out a fellow audition-goer. He kindly accepted my profuse apologies, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t screw up his chances — he made it into the show. In fact, I probably made him look all the better in comparison to my graceless, clueless (although enthusiastic) convulsing. Turns out Grand Rapids theater is a wee bit different from small-town theater. Whoda thunk it?
So, I’ve had my shows, but I think those days are behind me. (Cue the sighs of relief from friends and family who sat through those little shows. And bless their hearts.)
Though I may be retired from the theah-tuuhhh, my poor dog still has to put up with my one-woman shows as I wash dishes. She’s not a bad audience, though. She either just stares at me, annoyed by my volume and perplexed by my spasms, or she sleeps.
Anyway, all of this to say… in my most recent attempt to rejoin the musical ranks, I learned that failure and embarrassment won’t actually kill you. Attempting a complicated dance sequence may, but not failure, or embarrassment, or trying.
I’m so glad I tried.
And now I know to keep my performances in appropriate places, such as the shower or kitchen.
I’ll always love you, musicals. But mostly from the other side. I’ve learned it’s best to leave it up to the pros.