I was in 7th or 8th grade when I started, and it was the perfect outlet for a dorky, Broadway obsessed shy kid. We put on A Chorus Line. We sang Christmas songs for senior citizens. We put on The Sound of Music. We put on Godspell. We started to put on Cats...
...and that's where our relationship fell apart.
Actually, our relationship had been on thin ice for a while previous to that. You see, despite being in musicals, there was one thing I never had going for me.
I couldn't sing.
I realized this, so at least I wasn't one of those show-off kids who tried to belt out like I really had pipes. Nope. I spent most of my time mouthing the words.
Now, unless you've actually been in my position, you need me to tell you: this is painful. For a girl who really LOVES Broadway? The music and the dancing and the shows...to not be able to really sing? To not be able to even dance? (Uh, yeah, I couldn't quite do that, either.) It really hurts.
So one year when everyone signed up for classes, I marched down to the studio and demanded solo singing lessons. I knew I would be a challenge, but I was ready to work for it. I really, really wanted to sing. I had read an article in the paper (I had actually gone as far as to laminate it--I was a weird kid!) that said, "If you can breathe, you can sing!" and I was determined I was going to sing.
They told me no.
More accurately, they told me, "We are tentatively holding the last available spot for Paige. If she doesn't take it, we'll give it to you."
I am pretty sure that was a line of bullshit. (I had been there for three years--long enough to know they played favorites.)
So I reluctantly signed up for another music theatre workshop class instead.
I don't know what was different about this class, exactly. But this year something was off. First, we were putting on Cats, which I hated, but I grit my teeth and powered through it, learning all the words and steps to the Jellicle Cat song. They even gave me a LINE to sing in it... "Have you been an alumnus of heaven or hell?" I'll never forget it.
I remember when they asked me to actually SING a solo line my mouth fell open and everyone laughed.
But that hadn't been what I had in mind. I didn't want a LINE in a song, I wanted actual solo instruction so I could strengthen my voice and learn how to use it. Not speed through a line in baritone (and it really was in baritone, even though I'm an alto!) instead of gaining any instruction.
But anyway. I sang it. Badly.
A few weeks later, with the show date fast approaching (and no actual work being done. We still hadn't even gotten a script!) we were given our parts. I was Bustopher Jones.
The other kids weren't familiar with Cats, so they decided to go around the room reading the "poem" that corresponded with everyone's character. I begged Katie not to read mine, but she did.
Bustopher Jones is not skin and bones
In fact, he's remarkably fat
I saw this as the lowest of all low blows. I was absolutely mortified, horrified, offended...I had begged my parents to pay for these classes. I ate slept and breathed musical theatre, and at a time where I really needed to feel attractive and liked--the teacher basically was like, "Oh, Alison? Make her the fat dude."
I was sixteen. I wanted to be feminine and cute.
I couldn't handle it. I went home crying and withdrew from the class that same day.
Some days I wish I had stuck with it. That maybe I could have convinced them to give me singing lessons...but as far as I know, the entire school fell apart soon after that. I could almost feel it's downward spiral--especially when we were weeks away from the show with no script. Our venues went from the elaborate stage at my high school, to a splintering tiny monstrosity at a catholic middle school.
I bring this all up now because I just had a nightmare related to this school. In a few words: We were having a recital, but I had been very sick, so I never went to rehearsals. The left me in the show, for some reason, but it was opening night and I just couldn't get my hands on a program to see WHEN I would be on stage. I figured that I knew Broadway musicals pretty well, so the chances were I'd know whatever song they had chose for me.
When I finally was able to get a program, I learned not only was I on stage for the next song--I had NEVER heard it before. Great.
(Then I woke up, laughing.)
(image from broadwayspace.com and pedanticalcats.com)