Its time for an Oz update. We have a diva in our midst, what I call a primadonna. Only its a guy so does that make him a Prima Don? Our diva possesses a spectacular voice so we just gloss over his lesser qualities. He’s a smart ass, he disappears without warning when we need him in a scene, and he won’t sing any chorus parts.
We open Oct. 31 and they just handed out the Act 2 script. Yikes! Luckily, I have almost no stage time in Act 2, only an off stage line or two. This is good because I just received a major duet last week to learn. I don’t have all my lines memorized yet much less have all my vocal numbers learned note for note.
Last night at rehearsal the director discovered he was missing minions for the Wicked Witch of the West. Our women’s chorus consists of one mezzo soprano and even she has a few small character parts to fulfill. Really, we have no women’s chorus. We only have 3 men’s chorus members. The show needs a cast of 20 and we are only 13. Four waves of attack minions are required and that math does not work out. I won’t be sitting around for all of Act 2 now, I will be an attack minion. I believe this is my first minion role which I will fill with gusto.
Will we be ready to open Oct. 31? Its going to be a nail biter.
I walk out to water my tomatoes in their topsy turvy bags and discover my almost ripe big beautiful tomato missing. Then I spot it. Its been plucked by animal and gnawed on! I waited several weeks for that tomato to get ripe. Darn. I pick the other nearly ripe ones hanging close to the ground, so they can ripen in safety in the house. I gaze at the gnaw marks and wonder if its a raccoon or possum. Both these varmits roam the neighborhood.
The next day, I bring my little video camera outside to take pictures of my perfect jalapenos. The tomato is half gnawed at this point. Some animal really likes that not quite ripe tomato. I begin my video of the jalapenos closest to the tree trunk. The jalapenos are in a multi-hole bag with strawberry plants. As I step to the east to get video of my jalapenos hanging over the grass, an object appears in my peripheral vision near my foot. I look down. Its a dead rat! I scream and do the dead rat dance, that horrified mincing step. My tomato is rat gnawed! All the fuss attracts JJ’s attention and he tentatively approaches for a closer look at the corpse. I wave him away so I will not get any dead rat spiked dog kisses.
I gather my wits and sigh. Jack would tell me to dump the body in the yard waste bin. I imagine the stench and opt for burial. Digging the hole takes twice as long as planned due to tree roots. I gingerly pick up the stiff body with a shovel and dump it in the hole along with the half eaten tomato.
Are tomatoes bad for rats? The body and half eaten fruit are only 8 feet apart. Is it a coincidence? Could my tomato really be the killer or just the last dessert of a poisoned rat?
Jack gazed longingly at the little jalapeno plants, 3 of them nestled together. I said, “I don’t think we can grow those, its not hot enough in the summer.” “Why don’t you try?”, he said. You see, Jack’s brother grows really hot chili peppers in his garden. Jack is in a competition with his brother. I’m not, but I have garden duty. My job is therefore to grow the chili peppers. I tried to grow habaneros a couple years ago, but I couldn’t even get them to sprout.
I gave in. We carried the jalapeno and strawberry plants to the cash register. I planted a few strawberry plants in a multi hole topsy turvy grow bag a few weeks earlier and soon realized you need to fill most of the holes with plants for it to work properly. We carefully stuck 3 more strawberry plants and the 3 jalapeno plants into the excess holes.
We watered frequently and the strawberries produced a few puny berries with a slightly chemical taste. Summer arrived and the jalapenos ate up the warmth. I noticed little buds and then tiny jalapenos developing. I ran in to tell Jack we gave birth to chili peppers. Jack asked me to wait till the little peppers darkened but I couldn’t wait to try them. I picked a few medium sized chilies and added one to our stew. Would they be hot? The jalapenos you get in the grocery store can be a real let down in the spicy department. No, the one wasn’t. How about 2 chilis with seeds? Jack and I like spicy so I don’t seed our chilies unless they’re habaneros. Yes, 2 of our jalapenos added to chicken enchiladas produced a slow even heat.
The summer remains warm, upper 70’s and 80’s. My jalapenos are producing a bumper crop. I picked 10 for my co-worker who likes to cook with chili’s. My co-workers marveled at my chilies and pronounced them perfect. I thanked them for their vote of confidence. Who knew I could grow perfect chilies, not me, that’s for sure.
I noticed a recipe for tomato cobbler and I also grow tomatoes. Not as successfully as chilies. Plain old tomato cobbler is a bit too boring and I’ve got all these wonderful jalapenos. I added 4. My cobbler bit back and I liked it. If you want to make a cobbler with a kick, just add jalapenos to your favorite tomato cobbler recipe. Don’t be a wimp and seed your chilies either.
I have good news. We corralled a couple more men for the ensemble and numerous supporting roles in the musical. The bad news is we lost a few women. Well, actually teenagers who showed once or twice and not again.
I sat around last night because “Todd” wanted us all there at 6pm for dance rehearsal. Except I’m not in the cyclone dance because I’m in the scene as Aunt Em running for the cellar. I don’t even know who “Todd” is as the production team never formally introduced themselves. We have too many cooks for the broth.
I worked to memorize my Aunt Em dialogue, looked up the bus schedule for my dentist trip this morning and watched the men pose majestically in the dance. Not my words. Pose majestically came from the tenor with the Real Men Sing t-shirt on. I like that shirt and his attitude.
We finally read the Aunt Em and Dorothy scene after about 1.5 hours. Uncle Henry wasn’t there because he was stuck in a freezer at the film shoot which ran over time. Actors lives are a bit bizarre. The music director provided some interlude music to our scene. One of my lines includes the words, “you little fuzzy black eyed ball of fur”. After I say the line, the music director runs over to me, gets in my face, repeats the sentence and says “say it like you mean it”. I smile and think, ” But I’m being facetious.” The director asks her what’s she doing and she says “I’m helping Kris with her lines.”. The director calmly explains I’m not being mean to Toto in this little scene. The music director says, “Oh” and hurries back to the piano.
The plan is for Toto to be a real dog but I don’t think the dog is well trained. Being facetious with a real dog is likely to get me growled at, licked or jumped on. This is going to be interesting.
I survived the first week of rehearsals. I was almost comatose today but still breathing. Only a few people show up for the rehearsals so getting this show on the road is not a sure thing.
We have one bass, one tenor, one guy who sings in the ensemble when he feels like it, a couple altos, a few mezzo sopranos and me. I’m the one squeaking out the high notes. I’m also the oldest cast member. The tale is your voice gets lower as you age. It ain’t happening…..well, maybe a little. I have fewer high notes I don’t need now than in the past.
I spent some time with “recit” improv again this week. The composer dropped by and liked it. I really enjoy creating music where there are only words. “Glinda” looked worried when they asked for help on “recit”. When everyone left the room she whispered to me, “what’s a recit?”. I did an in depth over view. She caught on real quick, so my explanation was better than I thought. She likened it to the stuff from “Sweeney Todd”. Yeah, that’s the ticket, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ0eMeJbg30, the music starts and they continue talking, on a pitch.
Yesterday, we received copies of a new song. The music director claimed she put luscious G’s in it. Indeed she did, lots and lots of them in a row. Then, my G’s got a little too luscious and deflated but I inflated them again. Its just fun shrieking high notes, one after the other. I like it. And then she added an A. She looked at me and said, “Can you sing an A?”. Of course! I can shriek even higher, no problem!
We need more cast. Anyone sing and want to travel the yellow brick road?
I drive 30 minutes for my callback audition for the composer only to discover he’s not available due to an emergency. The director arrives 15 minutes later but he doesn’t play the piano. So, there is no one to put me through my paces. Instead, the director goes over the dialogue and shows me some of the music. I explain I’m going out of town and won’t be available for a week and we part ways. The director writes me an email a few days later offering me the roles, I say yes and wonder how I’m going to keep my voice over business, my blog and my podcast going during the rehearsal process. I must be suicidal.
The director contacts me in early August to schedule a meeting with the musical director to put me through my paces with the music. When I arrive, I discover the musical director has car trouble and cannot join us. The director and I go over the Aunt Emily dialogue. He hands me the music and says “look it over”. I sit down at the piano and plunk out the notes along with the key chords. We continue to look over the music, some of it hand written with a reggae beat notated. I can’t even read what half the notes are so that’s a bust. Then, he hands me “recit” which is sung dialogue (for those who have never been to an opera). But, its just the words, no music. The director says “just try it, make something up”. Wow! I have not done musical improv in years. Its the double jeopardy of improv, make up whatever notes sound appropriate and stay in the vicinity of the key you’re going to eventually. He likes it and asks me to do it again so he can play it for the arranger. He says maybe I can change it up from show to show. Holy crap, double jeopardy every show!
Rehearsals start this week. Oh boy, the adventure begins in earnest.
I received an email in late July from a local director looking to cast a musical. He liked my smile from my head-shot on Stage 32 a new networking site for those in film, theater and voice over. Would I like to audition for the Wizard of Oz? Intrigued, I said sure. He was looking for Aunt Em and Locusta, the Good Witch of the North. You see, this musical is based on the original books and the 1902 Broadway musical, not the MGM or Wicked version.
I read Aunt Em not like the Aunt Em in the movie. No screeching Dorothy’s name and sounding old and haggard. He liked it. I kind of thought of Glinda while I read for Locusta. But, well, more about that later. He recorded the audition as I sang a couple musical numbers I still managed to remember a few bars to, like Sondheim. I went home and thought how I would have killed for a role like this 10 years ago. And the chance falls into my lap without my doing anything in particular now. I concentrate on voice over and film because theatre is a huge black hole for time. Once you’re sucked in, you only come out the other end after the run is finished.
A week later, the director asks if I can come by and sing for the composer. He loves my voice but wants to put it through its paces. I say sure. This is unusual as most musical theatre directors and producers do not like my voice. Its too operatic, I don’t belt and my low voice is weak to name just a few things. The problem has always been I’m a high soprano, like really high, and I like it. In the world of musical theatre, I’m supposed to look like an ingenue, to be a soprano. Pretty shimmering voice goes with very pretty face. If you’re a character, like me, with a funny face, you have a loud low voice. Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.
I am still wondering how I’m going to fit the musical and everything else in my life for these next couple months. I decided to chronicle my journey to Oz on my blog. Will I survive? We’ll find out.