Sitting in our loge seats at Wicked last night, totally absorbed in the performance, I’ll admit there were a few times when a wave of regret and envy came over me. I had to psychologically shoo it away, like a nagging housefly, so I could truly enjoy the show.
The nagging inner voices wanted to know, “Why didn’t I take all necessary steps in my youth to one day be up on stage like those performers?”
I was in one musical in my life; it was L’il Abner, in my 9th grade year in the spring of 1975. I played one of the wives; not a huge part, but it was notable just the same, and it managed to get the attention of the high school music teacher. My junior high school was from grade 7th -9th, with high school following. I’m assuming that the high school music teacher, Mrs. Nimmo, had come to not only enjoy our performance, but also to perhaps scout out new talent for the following school year.
In the fall of my sophomore year I was in Mrs. Nimmo’s choir class, and she, remembering me from L’il Abner, tried diligently to get me to try our for one of the high school musicals. I had had such an enjoyable time during the numerous L’il Abner performances that I truly entertained the thought of taking her advice.
One caveat: you had to sing a solo in front of the drama club. This, in itself, was what kept me from ever trying out for a musical in high school.
I was a performer, regardless, as I was in the choir and the marching band. I would also entertain my friends with Popeye and Woody Woodpecker impersonations; but the idea of having to get up and sing a solo in front of my peers absolutely petrified me. It just wasn’t going to happen for me, this whole musical thing; not if having to sing a solo in front people was a prerequisite.
So, throughout high school — like I did last night — I sat in the audience and enjoyed the show with the rest of the non-performers, albeit with those thoughts of regret and envy whirling around me like tiny flying monkeys.
I did pursue an acting career in my late 20’s and early 30’s, and since there was no singing involved, I never had a problem getting up and auditioning for the casting directors. Just trying out did cure a bit of the acting bug; I never actually landed any gig outside of a local TV commercial, however.
In all reality, had I had the gumption to sing a solo back in high school, and then been involved in some of the musicals, it would have been fun, but it is doubtful it would have eventually landed me up on stage with the cast of Wicked. For one thing, those people’s voices are phenomenal, with ranges that are result of both gift and training.
Great dancing is another skill to have in a musical; to combine that with singing is truly what puts the true talents above the rest. The only real dance experience I have is a few agile moves in various aerobics classes I have taken over the years.
And let’s not forget being able to remember lines. Now, that’s the one area I may have done well at, as my own memory is pretty sharp, earning me the nickname “Kelephant.”
Having actually gotten up and sang in front a handful of people (karaoke, mostly) in my 40’s, doesn’t qualify for “musical” material (or even music, at times, for that matter), but like acting, it also satisfies a certain performing bug.
Belting out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” alone in my house does at times plague me with a little regret for not ever having the courage to audition for Gypsy in my Junior year in high school. “Why couldn’t I be the person I am now, back then?” Again, regrets — and silly ones, at that.
I believe there is a performer in all of us; after all, why do people sing in the shower, in the car, or at any other time the mood strikes them? It doesn’t necessarily mean they aspire to be a star; it’s simply something that brings them joy, otherwise, why else would they do it?
As a child, after seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time, I would happily sing “Over the Rainbow,” at home, and sometimes even in front of friends, upon request. The last time I sang it was not so long ago; I was holding my mother’s hand when she lay hospitalized after her stroke, with only a few more weeks to live. Even then, I sang it softly, as I was too shy to have the rest of the hospital staff hear me.
But she heard it, and that’s all that matters. Sometimes in life, it’s not always about being up on stage.