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Belt, baby! (Aka:the show must go on)

I’m still a little in shock. Last night was a first for me after 30 years doing theatre: it was the final dress rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (for which I am the vocal director) and the actor playing Marcy Park (the one who sings “I speak 6 languages”) was too ill to perform (she had a terrible flu!). The director called me at 3:30 p.m. saying he needed ME to play Marcy, ON BOOK, thank goodness. I was just about to have lunch and suddenly I couldn’t eat a thing. I was freaking out! I had never done anything remotely like this before- I’m a planner, a practicer, a preparer! Anything remotely improv-like or non-rehearsed scares me to death! Thankfully I have been studying the score for over two months so it’s not like I was sight-reading, but still…and of all the songs in the show, this was the one that I felt least prepared or even capable of singing. I can belt, I even like to belt (which is saying a lot for an intensively classically trained opera singer), but I’ve taught “I speak 6 languages” too many times to not be wary of it from a vocal perspective. It’s hard and it’s a relatively high belt. I had my doubts. But I practiced a little and it seemed mostly do-able. And what choice did I have anyway? The show must go on!

So, I highlighted Marcy’s lines, assembled my music, and headed off to the theatre. The cast, crew and director were wonderfully supportive and positive about the whole thing which made me feel much calmer. And the director made an announcement that I would be doing the part on book which also took the pressure off. I felt ridiculous in the first act holding tightly to the life raft of my black binder while our very talented cast cavorted expertly about the stage. I tried to disappear into the set so as not to distract or cause trouble. Then came the second act where Marcy has her big solo followed by her dialogue with Jesus. (Yes, you read that correctly. You must see the show- it’s a brilliant comic scene and one of my favorite moments in the show.) At that point, adrenaline and my performer’s instincts took over and I have to admit it was actually quite exhilarating and fun. AND I belted the whole song, including the high D’s! Truly a first for this dyed-in-the-wool soprano! And that was that- I happily left the stage feeling like I had done the best I could under the circumstances and on further reflection this morning, overcame a huge phobia. Thankfully the real Marcy Park is feeling better and will be able to perform tonight. I will be the happiest audience member ever as she takes the stage and is as brilliant as I know she will be! She makes it look easy, and I now know from personal experience it is not at all.


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