Throwback Thursday -From Dec. 2015 -“The Worst Show I was Ever In”
AH, THE THEATER. A place where magic can happen. A place where the Muses join to bring light, sound, and poetry together.
Unfortunately, it is also a place where disasters can happen. A place where the gremlins join to bring darkness, silence, and confusion together. When that takes place you can send audiences away into the night feeling lost, numb, and regretting the cost of both dinner and tickets.
For the actors, when things go badly, they start considering name changes, relocation to another city, and their parents advice to learn a trade like plumbing. For me it was when my mother suggested I get a job at the Chrysler Plant because they would always be there.
It all started when I went to the open audition for “Sweet Charity” – a musical from the late 1960s.
I had never really done a musical other than one in college – and even then I had the only non-singing part in the show.
For reasons known but to God, the certifiably insane Director cast me in a role that required me to do the biggest, most rousing, production number in the show.
As rehearsals progressed everybody in the cast began to sweat. I stunk. The production number stunk. The whole show stunk like week-old roadkill, in August, in an Albuquerque back street. It showed all the promise of trying to open a Hooter’s in the Vatican.
My two biggest problems were that:
- I can’t sing
- I can’t dance – Don’t ask me.
In the movie version, my part was done by Sammy Davis Jr. I ain’t Sammy Davis Jr. – Not then – Not ever.
The obviously deranged Director wanted my number to be “visually interesting,” so he cast, as my two singing henchmen, a newcomer in his first big show – a former physicist with NASA, and a 10 year old kid. The physicist was about 6’3” tall with a handlebar moustache, and the kid was about 4’10”.
To try to salvage the show the idiot Director kept making changes, adding to the confusion. We all knew that he was only rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The house was full – half with ticket holders and half with bad omens.
The show opened with a song and dance number that laid there like a dead horse. Lighting cues were late, the pit band sounded like they had been recruited from the local Middle School, and the dancers appeared to be having seizures.
Then came my big moment.
A few days earlier I had come down with a nasty head cold. I couldn’t hear a thing. Not a good sign.
Here I was in the biggest musical number of the show, deaf as a post. Standing to my right was the terrified physicist having a lyrical breakdown. On my left was the 10 year old who, we discovered, had a vocal range of three notes – none of which appeared in our song.
The critics were not kind. One slit his wrists in the parking lot at intermission. Another one gouged out his own eyes on TV while giving his review and the third critic ripped us a new one. For some reason, ticket sales fell off.
The show ran for a total of three nights. It got that far only because they couldn’t return some rented costumes until Monday.
That show rattled around on my resume for about five years until I got tired people saying to me, “I’ve heard about that show. You were in that?” After hearing that for the 10th time I just erased it from my resume forever.
Ah, the Theater!
Hilarious!! All the musicals I have been in went pretty well, in school and since in the United States Air Force Mens Chorus in Biloxi, MS, and with the Banks Of The Wabash Chorus right here in Terre Haute. I was in a play once that did not go as planned. But, I was in the 7th Grade at the Lincoln Grade School in Robinson, IL., so long ago, long-a-go forgotten….except by me.
You have a gift for laughing at life’s little tragedies.
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It didn’t seem so little at the time.
Hilarious!! John, your descriptive phrases to capture the essence of what is happening are priceless. Thank you!
It was several years before I dared to venture again onto a musical stage.
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No kidding! 😀