Monday, May 12, 2014

Finally Stepping Off the Crazy Train: The Marvelous Wonderettes

It has been about four and a half months since my last blog post. This is my first blog post of 2014, apparently. I didn't realize it until just a day ago when an old friend found me through this blog and I thought, "I wrote in January at least, right?"

Uh, no. And now it's the middle of May. Yikes.

So I think I will be writing down the events in a few blog posts so they don't come off as one long winded, crazy-quilt, splatter mess of words. Which they might anyway, so who cares, right?

This blog post features the main car of the crazy train, the one I spent most of my time traveling in: The Marvelous Wonderettes.

I've been doing theatre since I was about seventeen years old. I remember making my high school choir teacher mad because I had to miss the Christmas concert due to being in "Jeanette Isabella," Theatre El Dorado's Christmas show that year. I'm surprised she didn't flunk me.

I was doing back-to-back shows during those younger years. Sometimes performing, then doing backstage stuff when I was too young for parts in other shows. I was a stage mangler, excuse me, manager, props mistress, stage hand, yadda yadda. I did everything. "Godspell" was probably the toughest show because we were on stage most of the time, but it was a cast of about nine or ten individuals. Sometimes you sang lead, sometimes you sang backup, sometimes you didn't sing at all. Sometimes you got to sit down and rest, there weren't any costume changes or scene changes (well, except for the odd costume pieces we put on while onstage). Not a lot of strange hair or makeup needed doing.

The Marvelous Wonderettes was so much more exhausting!

I hadn't done a show since March of last year, when I was asked to take a few vacated roles in "The Sting." I didn't have much hope in getting into the Wonderettes because there were only four parts, and the first act was the senior prom, which meant the four girls were around eighteen years old.

Everyone else was apparently sure I'd get in. I guess maybe I pass for younger than what I see in the mirror every day. I definitely know I have the energy of a teenager. And I still have the teenage skin problems as well. (Which they said would go away in my twenties. They LIED!)

I was shocked when I got the part of Missy. But it also made sense. She would be the one that seems a little older because she's the "director." She tells everyone what to do, where to go, what song is next, chastises the other girls for not doing things right, and so on.

The rehearsals started in mid-January. And it was like rolling a snowball down a hill: it got bigger and bigger and faster and faster.

I soon realized a few freaky facts.

One, there were only four of us carrying the entire show.

Two, there were no costume changes or scene changes of any kind, except during intermission. So no moments to go backstage and check in with the script or refresh lines. Or get a drink. (Except a quick swig of water from the tiny punch glasses on the prom refreshment table.) Or go to the restroom. (The stage "restrooms" weren't real.) In fact, my character never left the stage once she was on it.

Three, with the exception of one song (which was a solo of mine), all four of us performed in every single number of the show.

Four, it soon dawned on me that in the first act, my bossy character's lines usually led into each part of the scene.

This is the freaky fact that scared me the most. I realized that if I swapped my lines or skipped any of them, we could end up jumping ten pages of script or missing several songs.

Bring on the performance nightmares!

I don't think I got much sleep the month of March. Every time I called for a line during rehearsal was a tiny moment of terror.

And four part harmony is not easy when there is no one else sharing your part. You're trying to listen to each other and remember your own stuff as well. The "Mr. Sandman" we did in Treble Choir in high school was a cakewalk compared to the Wonderettes' "Mr. Sandman."

So all in all, this was a huge amount of work for four girls to take on. We also did a slew of appearances at different rotary club meetings, chambers of commerce, and what have you. Some in costume and some not.

We really didn't get any down time before the show or during intermission either. I personally had two hair pieces, a curly one for the first act (1958) and a big bump for the second act (1968). I had hairpieces because my fine hair would not have handled the teasing needed for the second act in particular. One girl had to have a tattoo drawn on her arm between acts, another had to get into a pregnant belly before changing costumes, we all had to change our makeup to match the time period. When we got to the theatre, it was go-go-go until the show was over.

And even with all that exhaustion, it was still fabulous amounts of fun.

People loved the show. They sang along, swayed back and forth, couples smiled at each other when they heard songs they recognized. We even had a few people come up and tell us they were Class of '58 for real!

Every night we would pick someone out in the audience to refer to as "Ms. McPherson." The audience got to vote for their prom queen every night. The real winner was fixed, but it was fun to see who won the audience over each night. I actually won once, which I never thought would happen because I was the one bossing the audience around and telling them to turn off their phones. Betty Jean got a lot of sympathy votes and won most nights.

We also would pull a man up on stage to be "Mr. Lee." My character had a crush on this teacher in the first act, and then "marries" him on stage during the second act. Luckily all our Mr. Lees were good sports and got a kick out of it. They were usually someone related to or known well by some member of our cast, crew, or band. And our own director was Mr. Lee for the final show and didn't even see it coming. Heeheehee.

One night a lady that we picked to be Ms. McPherson just didn't cooperate at all. I don't know if it was because she didn't want to stand out, didn't really understand what was going on, or maybe she was frozen in fear. I was worried we had ruined the show for her, but she said afterward that she enjoyed it. I hope that was true.

The show ran for four weekends. Several sicknesses made the rounds through all four of us, I had allergies on video night (and I cringe every time I hear my voice crack on that video), and we were all tired to the point of dragging. But the four of us went out karaoke-ing one night and pretended to get in a lot of trouble, taking pictures of us in handcuffs and what not.

We got lots of memorabilia from our director, like mugs and a picture book. Lots of M&Ms, veggies, and fruits were consumed during rehearsals. I made bears with matching lollipops for each of the girls in their individual colors, and gave chocolate moose pops to everyone else in the crew and band. We made a shadow box of memories for the director and made him cry (again.) The four of us got to ride in style to opening night in a limousine in costume, which was definitely a bonding moment when I spilled my big news (more on that in another post.)

It was a big, huge, amazing, marvelous experience that I am so proud to have been a part of. I made some new friends, got closer to those I was already friends with, and got to play a character almost twenty years my junior. I'm quite positive that's the last time I'll be a teenager on stage.

Now if only my teenage skin problems would go away ...