This week I picked up a long-abandoned old habit that I honestly haven't attempted in years.
No, no, no, I'm not talking about my hookah addiction. I'm talking about public singing.
"Back in the day, you used to sing like birds," as they say in Blazing Saddles. But those days have been long gone. Really, the last musical I appeared in took place about eight years ago, the year before I started directing for the Eldredge Players.
That last show, by the way, was "The Fantasticks," which may partially explain why I fled from the stage so willingly. After having to perform in THAT night after night for six weeks straight, it's a wonder I ever had any desire to participate in live theater again. To this day, just hearing someone hum "Try to Remember" makes me break out in hives.
However, the Eldredge Players are doing a musical review to celebrate the group's 65th anniversary, and my dear friend Judee is directing. She asked whether I'd consider singing a duet with my friend Janet, who is, in my opinion, far and away one of the best singers in the group. She also asked me to sing "You're the Top," and use as a backdrop a slide show that I put together for when I directed the show, a few years ago.
It's hard to say no to something like that. So I didn't.
I'd like to say that singing again is as easy as riding a bike. Maybe it is, but I have to admit, last Tuesday night, as I drove the Stang to the church that we rehearse in, I was feeling a little nervous about things.
I've sung "You're the Top" twice before. Once in high school, my senior year. The second time, for another musical review when I was in my twenties. Even so, in preparing for this rehearsal, which primarily consisted of singing loudly in the shower, I hadn't been entirely impressed with how my voice sounded. Rusty was a polite term for what I heard coming out of my throat, especially at the start of the song.
That night, all sorts of disastrous thoughts played through my mind, like something out of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. How about if I stayed at shower level? How about if I couldn't hit any of the notes? Even worse, how about if I had to back out because I was so bad, and the last show that I was ever involved in onstage was The God-damn Fantasticks? No, no, fate could never be that cruel.
Hesistantly, I entered the Methodist church where rehearsal was being held and trudged past the Cub Scouts on the first floor, up the long stairs to the second floor. I gripped the knob and pushed the door open.
Oh, thank God. At least it was a small group. My singing partner Janet was there, along with Judee, the rehearsal pianist, and his wife, the lovely Paige Turner. And, Judee's daughter Courtney, who had arrived home from New York a few days before that.
This was a group I could trust to watch me flop.
After about twenty minutes of small talk and other rehearsal numbers rehearsed, Judee handed me the sheet music. Or at least, the words to the song...she hadn't been able to find the sheet music.
"You're up," she said.
Gulp. Hesistantly, I gripped the sheets of paper in my hand and moved toward the piano. The rehearsal pianist started in on the introduction, I opened my mouth, and--
"At words poetic, I'm so pathetic," belted out Janet.
I closed my mouth. Oh, right. This was a different version than the one I sang last time. In thi one, Reno sings before Billy. I forgot about that. Well, that bought me about fourty-five seconds.
Actually, things turned out to be okay. I messed up in a few spots, but I discovered that singing was kinda sort of like riding a bike. Janet sounded lovely and I was able to at least keep my distance with her, and the two times we went over the song went by way too fast. I would have been happy if we had tried it a few more times, but of course, they had other folks to rehearse that night. Not just me. Can you believe it?
"You did great," said Janet, squeezing my hand.
"You were surprisingly strong," said Judee, after rehearsal. It sounded nice at the time, although I just did a dtouble-take, typing that down.
I have to admit, it actually felt exhilarating, getting up there and letting the music come out. Focusing on just the notes, not worrying about anything else. At the end of the night, I just sat there in the pews, listening to everyone else rehearse and enjoying the feeling of truly being part of the group. Singing for my supper. I think we all felt the same way, because after rehearsal we just sat there and talked for about half an hour more.
I guess in some things, you can go home again, which is a pretty nice thing to know. Still, it was just a rehearsal, not an actual performance. Who knows what will happen there?
Oh Lord, here come those hives again...