I have always been pretty quiet. I was never noticed in classes in school. My freshman english teacher actually said to the kid ahead of me “Wake up the red head behind you and ask her for a pencil”. That was in June after I had been in her class all year. I had this really savvy therapist once who told me that I dye my hair red so that I can be noticed without saying anything. And here I thought it was because I liked red hair. I stayed under the radar, never causing trouble. Except in dance class. Then I stood out. But if I had to speak or sing, forget it.
I was doing a show, Sugar, a musical based on Some Like It Hot. I was a dancer, duh. But I also had to “sing” which for me means “lip synch with style”. There was one scene where we had duets. I was paired up with a singer. We had to stick our head through a curtain and sing real loud “Chicago’s 11 below…and the forecast is snow…in chi ca go…” That’s all fine and good because like I said I was paired with a singer who sang. So, I just stuck my head out and mouthed the words. Works for me. I have one of those voices that no one needs to hear singing alone. I can carry a tune, I do ok in choral parts, but a solo? Not a chance.
This is a fact I was well aware of because my best friends were singers and they sang all the time. One of my best friends was the lead in this particular show. So, if I ever had any doubts as to the adequacy of my voice, she put it to rest. I’m a realistic person so I was ok with the idea that I should never, ever, under any circumstances sing out loud alone except in my shower and even then, only if no one else was in the house. We all have our strengths and singing was not mine.
One night, I crawl up into the berth (because we were in a train, headed for Chicago, in the show, not in real life) and I wait for my partner, the singer, to get up there to. It was dress rehearsal so we had half a house (audience) of parents and friends. It was almost time for our duet and my partner wasn’t there. I started to sweat. And there’s the music que, our line was the first line in the song. And there goes the music cue. The director yells “What happened?” I stick my head out of the curtain and say “My partner’s not here” and he looks at me like I’m seriously mentally impaired and says “And…?” I say “And I don’t sing?” Impossible. “Sing the line.” “But I….” “SING THE LINE!!!”
In the smallest, quietest voice I have I sing “chicagos11belowandtheforecastissnowinchicago” Sweat is dripping, my heart is pounding, I duck back behind the curtain and try to get my hyperventilating under control. “DO IT AGAIN!!!” the director yells. WHAT???!!! He’s kidding right? I look across to the other girls and say “He doesn’t mean me does he?” They just shake their heads yes and point to stick my head thru the curtain. “AGAIN!!!!”
“chicagos11belowandtheforecastissnowinchicago” “AGAIN LOUDER!!!” “chicagos11belowandtheforecastissnowinchicago” “LOUDER!!!” “chicagos11belowandtheforecastissnowinchicago” AGAIN LOUDER…DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT LOUDER MEANS??????” eh hem…”Chicago’s 11 Below andtheforecastissnowinchicago” “AGAIN!!” This went on for 8 hours….ok more like 5 minutes. The entire audience was enthralled….like they were watching a slow motion car accident. They couldn’t look away. The louder I sang the worse I got. The more off key, the more red in the face, the sweat was making a pool on the floor in front of me. I finally sang it loud enough or the director’s hemorrhoids stopped flaring because he said “Let’s go on”.
I put it behind me and got through the rest of the show. The cast went out after rehearsal and we all rehashed my spectacular solo performance, again and again and again. By the end of the evening everyone was singing, off key, in their loudest voices “chicagos11belowandtheforecastissnowinchicago” Ha ha ha ha ha. But I could dance rings around them all and my costume fit the best and my wig was the cutest, like I said, we all have our strengths. Honestly, it didn’t bother me too much. It was confirmation of what I already knew. I was not a singer. And it was funny.
I went to the show the next night and reamed out my partner for not being there the night before. She had already heard the story and was apologizing while wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. We were getting ready and one of the moms who was in the audience the night before knocks on the dressing room door. We let her in and she has the biggest bouquet of flowers I had ever seen. She walked right over and handed them to me, with a hug and said “This is for what you went through yesterday. You were very….um…..brave” She chucked me under the chin and left at which point everyone else in the dressing room fell to the floor laughing.
I never forgot that kindness, or the line “chicagos11belowandtheforecastissnowinchiacgo”. I never forgot that I can’t sing. I still have one of the flowers from the bouquet pressed into my theater days scrap book. We all have our strengths but our weakness do not have to make us weak. How’s that for deep? Now where’s my bouquet?