Friday, January 23, 2009

My Best Birthday

This one is going to be about My Best Birthday.

I always enjoyed being on stage... being the shy person that I was back in my early years, being on stage was an outlet. I can easily perform in front of an audience of a thousand people, but don't ask me to perform for 5 people... I would be too uncomfortable.

I belonged to a group of community singers who put on full length musicals and we had done them all. Usually the musical we might do would require the leading cast member to have a beautiful soprano voice, I'm more like the "belt them out type", so I never really ever tried out for one of those parts. Why bother, I wouldn't have gotten it anyway.

Eventually, having gone through all the shows that required those beautiful voices, including Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, etc., we decided to attempt my least favorite musical, Hello, Dolly! Now I say least favorite, however, that was at that time, because later it became my favorite show of all. I finally decided to try out for the part of Dolly, after all, if Carol Channing could do it, then I knew my voice was at least as good as hers, IMHO of course. So, I tried out and I so desperately wanted this part.

I didn't get it! I was devastated. I'm not a cryer, but I sobbed aloud when I was alone. This was the only time, I thought, where a part would come along that fit my singing voice.

When I tried out for the part, I got a large round of applause from the other actors who were there for tryouts as well...many parts in the show needed to be filled, so I knew I had done well in my audition. I learned from the Director later, that his decision not to cast me in the part was partly as a result of that applause... he wasn't going to let someone else tell him who to select.

I decided that I wouldn't let people know how hurt I was that I didn't get the part, so I stayed with the show and became a part of the chorus. You have 10 weeks to complete a show before the actual performance. Eight weeks into the show the Director came to the Board of Directors and stated that the person he had chosen for the part of Dolly hadn't got past rehearsing for the first musical number. He was upset in that he knew she wouldn't be ready for the performance in the next two weeks. I was a member of the Board. Most of the people immediately said I could take over since I had done so well in auditions. Others felt they should not change, but give the other person another chance. I excused myself from the meeting and allowed them to make a decision. When it was over, I was the new Dolly and aside from the fact that I had to learn the part in two weeks instead of 10, another ugly monster reared his head... those that felt the part should never have been replaced.

One of those people was also a lead in the play. He continued with the show, but he began threatening the cast. One of the females he had a dance number with, and it was on a ramp built around the orchestra. He would dance her around that from one side of the stage to the other and he would continually promise her the next time they did that number he would "accidentally" let her fall into the pit. She was expected to smile and play her part and sing, through all this trauma, never knowing whether he would actually do it.

I took 2 weeks vacation in order to learn the part... hey, I'm good, but I needed more than a couple weeks of nights to be prepared! And I had people who would read lines with me. We might be in a store and they'd read and I'd respond. Riding in the car, eating in a restaurant, anywhere needed, I rehearsed!

And we did it! On my 40th birthday, I played the part of Dolly in "Hello, Dolly" and it was great! Even the critics wrote: " Carol Channing would have been the first out of her seat for a standing ovation".

So, My Best Birthday was my 40th.

How can I say it was my best, when all this was going on? Because, when I was taking my final bow, down on that wretched ramp, I looked toward the main aisle and there was my daughter with roses, bringing them to me, and the applause that was thundering in the theatre, and we could all say, regardless of the stress, we had given the best performance ever!


Donna in AL said...

Absolutely great story!!
Could or would you post some pictures of you in some of the plays you have done? I am sure everyone would enjoy seeing them as well.

meb said...

I have lots of pictures, but those were way back then... nothing on the computer, just in a drawer somewhere. My daughter has a scanner, maybe that would work. I'll see.

sizzie said...

I loved this story about you, meb! Thank you for writing it. Do you have t shirts for every show you were in?

sizzie said...

I can say again how happy I am you wrote about yourself, but I also wanted to comment a second time when I saw my wv "cares"

That fits!

meb said...

Thanks Sizzie... cares is good! And no, no longer have T-shirts. I actually wore them until they were no longer wearable. I truly did have them tho.

bindu said...

How lovely. I do admire your ability to sing, and also to be able to perform on a stage. That does sound like the best birthday ever. :)

Cher said...

I can't relate to the singing part since even with a bucket, I can't carry tunes but I do relate to the daughter part. That was lovely, a show in itself! Talented AND loved! Lucky woman!

The Texas Woman

Sydney said...

HI Meb -

Great story! It's amazing you did the part so fast, but clearly it was in your heart. I really like the posts that you write about yourself, and am looking forward to more.

I vote for your daughter to scan a WHOLE LOT of pictures, Or you could take them to a kinkos or something and have them put on a disc for you (which can be a nice back up to have anyway). I would love to see them.

My 40th was my favorite too, so we have that in common. :-) But I did nothing as big as this.

Becky said...

What a delightful story. I am rather green about the voice though. This is a person who can't "carry a tune in a bucket". One time out minister complimented the congregation of our singing -- "with one or two exceptions". I swear I was one of those two.

I am looking forward to reading more about you.