The first time I did Show Boat was in the spring of 2004 with Denton Community Theatre. I was originally cast as Kim Ravenal and the understudy for Ellie May Chipley. Because of this, I was required at every rehearsal so that I could learn Ellie's role, but the directors didn't want me in ANY scenes until the very last one as Kim. Needless to say, this was a frustrating rehearsal process. My time was used very inefficiently, and it was one of the longest rehearsal processes known to community theatre (about 8 weeks).
Due to and in spite of a series of unfortunate events too melodramatic to go into here (ah, how young and self-righteous I was back then), I learned that I was to play Ellie...with about three weeks left until we opened the show. It was my first ever truly featured/supporting role in a show, and I was terrified. I had to make sure I had done my job well as an understudy and step in as off-book as possible, go to endless fittings at the costume shop to see which of the costumes pulled/built for the other actress would work for me, and cram my brain with lines and choreography.
It ended up being a pretty great experience...and definitely a memorable one if nothing else. It was one of my first shows with my husband (then boyfriend of course), who was playing Gaylord Ravenal. Yeah...originally I was cast as his daughter. Say it with me: Ew. It was my first time to meet and be in a show with some lovely and talented people who are still some of my favorite people in the entire world, as well.
Until recently, I had never done a show more than one time. My husband has had a couple of repeats (same role AND same show): Cabaret and Once Upon a Mattress. If you'd asked me which show would be the first I would repeat, I don't think my first guess would have been Show Boat.
If you'll recall, when I auditioned for the concert version at Lyric Stage, I wasn't too hopeful that I would get cast. Well, that's not the right word. Of course I was hopeful. I wasn't too confident. But, I suppose that Jay and Ann saw something or heard something they liked, and I was invited to be a part of this magical production.
In case you're wondering, I do realize how naive and goober-ish I sound when I gush about how glad I am to have gotten a toe into the door at Lyric Stage and work with some of DFW's finest singers and actors. Whatever; judge me if you want to. But I don't take things like this for granted. As much as it wore me (and my carpool buddies) out to go back and forth between Denton and Irving seven days a week for three weeks...I wouldn't trade it for anything. I had ab blast riding to and from the rehearsals and performances with Tyler and Heidi (there were some very interesting and very silly conversations on those drives...what do you expect after a 14-hour day of work and rehearsal?) and I met some wonderful people.
It was a beautiful production (photos below taken by Steven Jones...one is slightly edited by me...see if you can see what I did!):
One night, during a particularly grueling musical cue-to-cue rehearsal, and while we were still allowed objects onstage to entertain us (iPhones, books, etc.), I wrote the following:
Sitting in Carpenter Hall at a musical cue-to-cue for Show Boat - still so amazed that I'm even here. Will anybody who doesn't already know me remember me when they leave? Maybe not. But will I remember this production? For the rest of my life, surely!
I know it sounds corny as hell, but it's true. This is my first time to ever pe a paid musical theatre performer. I announced this in the dressing room to two friends tonight , and they were very sweet in their surprise at this news. But, it's true. And I don't care if my check for such an occasion is $10 or $1,000 (ha!), I know I'll always remember it as being special because it was the first.
Surrounding me right now on this stage are some of the most talented actors in the DFW theatre community, and sometimes I feel like there was some mistake made and I don't deserve to be here. Thankfully, everyone I've met has been very gracious and kind and fun to be around. I know this isn't always the case, so I'm not taking it for granted. At. All. The talent level in this 68-member ensemble is truly tremendous. During the last week of rehearsals I was, quite unfortunately, recovering from an upper respiratory infection and completely unable to sing. Even so, there was a special silver lining during these rehearsals because all I could do was listen to the singing around me -- and that was just the ensemble. I'm fairly certain that everyone here has played lead or supporting roles before, and it shows in the dedication, quick learning and retention, and professionalism.
The leading principal characters are being sung by some of the biggest and purest voices I've had the pleasure of hearing -- and I married into an operatic community! It's like taking a voice lesson every night. Once I snapped out of the daze of just listening to the voices of people like Cecily [Ellis-Bills], Marty [Fox] and Laurie [Bulaoro], I started watching them. I watch their breath support and how their bodies handle such demanding roles night. after. night. It's also like an acting lesson. Andy [Baldwin] and Megan [Woodall] are so hysterical as Frank and Ellie, and you never know what they're going to do next. David [Coffee] and Lois [Sonnier Hart] as Cap'n Andy and Parthy -- I don't even know what to say about them except that they're amazing. I'm never all that confident in my abilities as an actress, so to watch such pros is a blessing to me.
....and that's when I got cut off. Rehearsal ended or I was needed to sing.
I'm so glad that I don't have to count on these experiences to make my living. As much as it exhausts me to have a full-time day job on top of my volunteer (or not!) theatre experiences, I think I enjoy these theatrical experiences so much more because I don't have to stress if I don't get into one in time to make rent or pay bills. I still enjoy going to the theatre to see productions I'm not in; it's not an extension of my work or my job like it probably gets to be for some.
Anyway...all that just to say that:
- I had a great time and a wonderful learning experience,
- I got a great opportunity to network and make some new friends, and
- it was a great show for my first repeat, especially because it was so very different.