My theatre career: Part 3

A strange thing happens when you get older. Sometimes (okay, all the time), you think about your younger years and how wonderful they were compared to the drudgery of being a grownup. A couple of years ago I had one of those Peggy Lee moments that was probably brought on by too much déjà vu in the morning routine. It is generally not a good idea to think about how many times you will make your bed or brush your teeth in your lifetime because it may turn into one of those ‘be careful what you ask for’ situations.

My tragic flaw is that once I decide to do something I make it happen. Luckily I have never decided to get a tattoo, although some of the things I have decided to do have been equally indelible. What I decided to do on a bleak fall day after emptying the dishwasher for the 5,000th time was to come out of theatre retirement and launch one final comeback. There was just one small problem: I had no idea how and where this was going to happen. But just as I knew the sun was going to come up tomorrow (bet your bottom dollar), I knew that it would. And just to make things interesting – kind of like on the Amazing Race where they throw in a special challenge when the participants thought all they needed to do was find the train station in Ulan Bator and instead they also have to eat live slugs while crossing a shark infested lagoon – I decided that my theatrical swan song should be in musical theatre.

Unfortunately the universe did rise to meet my challenge. It turned out that one of my clients was part of a theatre group that specialized in musicals. I eased myself into the water slowly (kind of like the frog that doesn’t notice the pot is inching towards a full rolling boil) and spent the first year as a stage manager, herding props and divas. But then it was time to make the move from the sidelines to centre stage.

A little know fact is that even if you are Angelina Jolie (okay, maybe not her – but certainly if you are Lindsay Lohan), you need to audition for a part. For a musical theatre part, this means auditioning times three, as you will need to prove your mettle at singing, dancing and delivering lines. I guess I was a little ambivalent about achieving my goal, which manifested itself in a complete lack of preparation prior to open call audition day. I had no song prepared so I sang Happy Birthday pretending JFK was my audience. I had no reading prepared so I borrowed a script from the person behind me in line, who of course had already memorized it. There was really no point in preparing for the dance audition anyway as it was the typical “I will demonstrate once then all of you will follow this sequence of completely random and incomprehensible steps”. My tactic was to position myself front and centre and act enthusiastic.

Alas, my attempt to sabotage my audition totally backfired and I was awarded the coveted part of Mitzi (or secretary #2 if you are really being picky) in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (or in my case, how to get a part in a musical without really trying). It was all uphill from there. We had rehearsals four days a week for four months, then rehearsals 6 days a week for another two months. The minute I perfected a dance routine (with lots of literal blood, sweat and tears), the mercurial director decided to change or scrap it. I struggled to find Mitzi’s true motivational essence (what does she really think about when she is typing? Is her eyelash curler really a symbol of female subjugation? Does she really want a house in New Rochelle?). I wanted to quit.

But I didn’t. We ran for 14 performances. And I ran forever from the theatre. Or at least I think I did…

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