My Mary Poppins audition. Need I say more?

So this is what happens when my big butt decides that it wants to try out for a musical. First off I have to say I was coerced.  I was told that my size, I’m HUUUGGGE, to quote one of my friends’ art students, would be an advantage, and my big booming, I think LOUD was the exact term used, voice, would be ideal for the stage.  Well with ego adequately ballooned, I went on the website of the Greenville Little Theatre just to see what was what.  Turns out, that in two weeks they were auditioning for the musical “Mary Poppins”.  Now I just love the movie, and even am a fan of “Saving Mr. Banks” which told the history of the Disney® movie, how it was made, and why, P.K. Travers, the author, wrote the “Mary Poppins” books.  But since I had no training in singing, or dancing, I didn’t think it was something worth giving a shot.  But I scrolled down the list of the characters and then I saw it.  Admiral Boom.

The description was for a large man, between the age of 40 and 70, with a loud booming voice.  I instantly did my Meerkat imitation, and sat up and took notice.  I’m a big guy, 6’4”, 310 lbs., right age, and have a booming voice?  If they had asked for bald I just might have picked up the phone and hired The William Morris agency, so big loud Mark could get paid for this gig.  I’ve seen the movie about 100 times and Admiral Boom does absolutely zero singing and dancing.  All this guy does is stand there, be big and loud, and order his lackey to shoot off a cannon.  Right in my wheel house.  I am a world champion at being big and loud and giving orders.  Not so much on having people obey those orders, but what are you gonna do?  Just ask my wife and anyone in my Sunday morning bible study, Wednesday bible study, anyone that has ever known me, and pretty much anyone that has come within 30 feet of me.  I read further in the character description, and it seemed as if Admiral Boom might have a little singing part at the end of the play with the ensemble; still no big deal. Okay, what do I have to do to audition?

Oops.  It said be prepared to sing a song from the play or the same genre, and come dressed to dance a short routine.  Keep the phrase “short routine” in mind because you will need it later on. I’m now getting a little nervous, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.  But I did some further research and Admiral Boom really does not do any of that stuff.  So I try and pick a song.  I settled on “Spanish Ladies”.  Robert Shaw sings it in Jaws.  It’s a good sailing tune, Admiral Boom is a sailor, so what the heck I’ll give it a go. I’ve got two weeks.  I loaded the song in my phone, listened while I worked out, and rehearsed while driving and folding clothes.  Annoyed the dog to no end.  Usually she just plops on the floor while I fold.  Needless to say she spent a lot of those two weeks outside.  After you read about what happened at the audition, you won’t blame her.

Before I get into the disaster that was my audition, let me be clear that the people of the Greenville Little Theater were just plain and simply, great people.  No matter what happened they were very encouraging, helpful, and complimentary.  No matter how bad things are going to seem in these later passages, it was still a lot of fun and it was because of the staff of the Greenville Little Theater.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.  So I arrive at the audition about 15 minutes early, mistake number one.  A very nice young lady, Emily, who is the marketing assistant/associate artist, handed me a form to fill out.  Emily, as it turns out was auditioning too and she did a lot better than I did, she was really good, more about her later.  Anyways back to the form; part interested in playing? “Admiral Boom”.  Parts you will not consider playing?  “Mary Poppins, and Jane, but will consider Mrs. Banks if the price is right.”  Experience?  Please use the back if necessary. I crack up at this one.  It’s been 38 years since I did a high school church play.  So down went, “Zero, nada, zip.  1st timer.  Last play I did was 38 years ago in a high school church play.“ Look, there is no way I’m getting a call back, let alone the part, so I might as well have a little fun while I’m here.

Allen, the Executive Artistic Director, announces, “Auditions will be performed in the order that you arrived.”  Not a good sign.  I was really hoping to be able to observe and see how things are done before I have to get up there and embarrass myself.  He continued, “Additionally, Kimberlee, our choreographer, will be taking you through a short dance routine (remember I said you will need the phrase “short dance routine” later on, well it’s almost, but not quite, later on). We will be taking you in groups of 10.  The first 10 will sing a short verse of song, and then as a group you will go through the short dance routine.  Then we will take the next 10, and so on.”  A little pee came out of me because I was definitely one of the first 10 to show up.

My first move after that terrifying announcement was to stand up and give my chair to a lady who had just come in and had no place to sit.  Being the gentleman that I am, of course it was the right thing to do.  Unfortunately the room had gotten deathly quiet after Allen’s announcement, and when I stood up I dropped my iPad on my big toe.  Not flat on my big toe, but the corner landed perpendicular to my big toe.  In other words it hurt.  Fortunately the bad word that I wanted to say did not come out of my mouth, but I also dropped all my music and nice folders that contained my music when I leaned down to pick up the stupid iPad.  Then I had to lean down and pick up all that mess, and then I dropped my iPad again.  The lady looked at me and almost gave me back the seat.  I however beat a hasty retreat to the back corner of the audition room to await my name being called.

Turns out I was number 6.  The first guy got up there and sang his song acapella, and even did a few lines from the play.  Fortunately it was not Admiral Boom, but he was good.  The next few went and then it’s my turn.  I forgot to tell you that I changed my song to “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” the day before. I had practiced and practiced, and I knew it cold, and I really sounded good…in the car.  Not so much in the audition room.  Anyway, my name is called and I walk up to the piano player who is off in the corner.  I pull out my professional binder, the one that I had previously dropped and that my wife Kim insisted that I take to keep my music in, and I attempted to pull out the sheet music for “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”  I brought two copies, 3 pages per copy, and the papers stuck together.  I could not get the music out of the damn folder.  As I am fumbling with the pages, I failed to notice the wires on the floor and my big feet got all tangled up, and I launched.

Fortunately I caught myself on the piano; unfortunately I landed with a loud thud.  Not that my tone deafness would ever have noticed but I probably knocked the thing out of tune.  I gathered up what was left of my dignity, and proceeded to trip over the speaker to which the previously mentioned wires happened to be connected. This time my lift off was interrupted not by the piano, but by the piano player himself, Tim, the Music and Educational Director.

OK. Now I’m vertical and passed all tripping obstacles. However I still can’t get the damn music out of the folder. Tim was trying to help me, but his fingers couldn’t seem to separate the pages either, so I finally pulled out all the sheets, handed them to him and said, “Just pull out the top 3”.  Which he did.  I must say he was really cool and nice about it, and we were ready to go.  Well, he was ready to go, I’m not sure I was, but off I went anyway.

I walked to the center of the room, nimbly and deftly dodging the evil wires and speaker, very confident, and dignified, just way Admiral Boom would be.  I tucked my thumbs behind the lapel of my blue blazer and announced, in the requested loud and booming voice, “I will be singing Let’s Go Fly a Kite…I hope.”  I got a polite, courtesy giggle from the audience.  By the way you aren’t just auditioning in front of the directors and producers.  You are singing in front of everybody that is auditioning, so no pressure right?  I made my announcement, the piano player started playing, and I started “singing” (notice the quotes), got through the first 6 words, and forgot the rest of the words.  I promise you, what I said, verbatim, was, “Oh Crap, I forgot the words!!”  Seriously.  I forgot what the next word was and said so, in the requested loud and booming voice.  I stopped, Tim stopped playing, and the director said ,as I was walking back to pick up my sheet music, “you are allowed to look over Tim’s shoulder and read the words if you want.”  Thanks for the tip.  As I was going back to the piano player, guess what, I tripped over the same dadgum wires, and caught myself on the piano, again.  As I was walking behind Tim, in order to see my music, guess what again?  I tripped over the same speaker, caught myself, again, landed on Tim, again, but before recovering, tripped on the wires, again.  So far so good.  My dignity has left the room and is pulling out of the parking lot.  I could not have scripted it to be this bad.  The audition, while not technically over, is over for all intents and purposes, but at least I have something to write about, right?

Anyone with a smidge of dignity would have just bailed right then and there, but dignity has never been one of my strong suits and I’m pretty sure it’s not one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), so I kept going.  We started over.  No I am not kidding, I kept going and I got through it.  Was completely off with the piano, and sounded like a screech owl.  I definitely sounded better in the car and should have said so, but I was sweating like Donald Trump being questioned by Meghan Kelly, so I got off stage and went back to my seat.  People actually applauded though, and the ones I passed on the way back to my seat, including Emily, were nice enough to say I did a good job.  That’s what I like about theater people; they are very supportive and nice.  Not very truthful, but truth is not what I wanted at that particular time.  A good stiff, brown liquor drink, maybe, but the truth, I could have done without at that particular point in my theater career.

You would think that would be the end of my nightmare, but oh no.  We have to take this all the way.  As Kimberlee, the choreographer said, “it’s a very dancy play.”  Dance time.  Oh crap…again, but this time not in a loud booming voice.  I thought I might be able to get out of this one.  I thought putting non-dancing Admiral Boom on my character preference would get me out of it, but what the heck, I’ve gone this far, might as well go whole hog.  I take my jacket off, kept my eye out for rogue wires and speakers, and headed out to the dance floor with the other 9, who almost all, by the way, are wearing dance shoes and tights.  I thought about wearing something I could move better in than my khakis, but figured if I needed to move more than my khakis allowed then I was in even bigger trouble.  I did have on my slick dancing shoes, or to put it another way, shoes I could dance in.  All 10 of us go out on the floor, and Kimberlee proceeds to show us the “short dance routine” we are going to do.  For those who haven’t kept up, it’s now later on.

My wife and I both have taken dance lessons before and we were both awful at it.  Don’t get me wrong we “got moves”, but we couldn’t remember the dance steps.  And for me to successfully execute something like I was about to do, I have to practice, and I mean practice a lot.

Before I describe this dance routine, I need to say, for a big, loud guy, I’m in pretty good shape.  I swim a mile 2-3 times a week, lift weights, and cycle the other 2-3 times a week, either on the trainer for an hour, or outside for a couple of hours.  I’m not out of shape.  I am however out of dancing shape as you are about to find out.  I think if I gave all the other stuff up and took up dancing I would be in better shape.  Doing 15 minutes of what I am about to describe instead of all that other junk that takes a lot of expensive equipment, and at least a couple of hours a day, might be the ticket.  Someday I’ll have to write about the time my friend in High School, Lisa Leathers, now Lisa Blanton, talked me into being her partner for her dance class’ recital.  Now that’s a story.

Kimberlee begins by stating something I will never forget, “this is real easy, nothing complicated so just watch me”.  Well she does about 5 dance steps to begin with that I don’t really follow, but figure with a couple tries I could get it down.  One of the steps is the box step.  I learned that one in 6th grade so I get excited.  My excitement didn’t last.  The box step she did, didn’t look like no box step I ever done.

So we try the first 5 steps and as expected I screw it up, including the box step, but it’s just once so I’ll get it the next time or two.  No next time or two.  She adds another 5 dance steps to what we just learned.  Yep, you got it, “Oh Crap!”  This goes on for what seemed to me about a thousand dance steps, but what turned out to be about 20.  But after 5 it might as well have been a thousand, because there was no way I was getting this today.  Give me a couple of days and 8 hours a day of practice and I could have pulled it off, like I said I got grooves, but not in 15 minutes.  So we go twirling around to “It’s a Jolly Holiday with Mary”, that’s the song with the penguins, and all I’m doing is watching the girl in front of me, who just happens to be Emily, the nice person who told me I did a good job singing and handed me my form, and trying to keep up, of which I am doing a lousy job.  There was one step where we twirl twice to the right then twirl twice to the left, and we stick our arms out like we’re playing airplane.  So not only am I trying to keep up, I’m trying not to clock the guy to my right and Emily in front.  However, I could only get in one twirl at a time so the odds of decking someone with an errant spin were reduced by half.

We do the whole thing through once, and I think we’re done?  I hope so because I have worked up a sweat, I’m breathing hard, and I think I have dehydrated.  I’m completely gassed.  All these other young girls in the front line are smiling, not sweating, and looking very refreshed, I just wanted to smack ‘em.  Emily is not seeming as nice as I thought she was.  In Emily’s defense things were getting kind of fuzzy, and if Santa Clause himself had shown up I might have thought him to be not so nice too.  But we’re done.  Yay!! I’m outta here and I got to hide in the back the whole time!!

But guess what happens?  Kimberlee, says, “Ok, back line to the front, front line to the back.”  I have to do this whole routine over again, and not only that, but I don’t have Emily to watch in front of me anymore.  The odds of me hammering someone with the airplane spins are now pretty good, I’m hosed.  The music goes off and I just start making it up.  I’ve blown it, but you know what, who cares?  I ain’t getting paid.  Let’s have some fun.  So I go through the whole routine and actually get all the moves wrong up until the final 5 which I get completely right.  Who knew?

We all stand around telling each other how well we all did and once that was over I beeline for the water fountain, tank down a couple of gallons, grab my jacket, music, iPad, pause to make sure I’m not being followed by the demonic wires and speaker, and Houston we are go for launch.   I’m out the door.

Next time, IFFF, I get a call back, (I didn’t get a call back, what a shock); I’m bringing my cycling shorts, Under Armour® workout shirt, two towels, doo rag, and about a gallon of Gatorade®.  I might also ask if they can come out to my car so I can audition there.

All Admiral Boom does is stand there and be big and loud.  Why couldn’t we have auditioned that?

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