" I did it!
You know how sometimes you just know, the minute you start a performance, that you’re totally on fire and in the moment?
Oh, of course, those of you aren’t theatrically inclined wouldn’t, but let me tell you, that’s how I felt the minute I set foot next to the grand piano and turned to face the man in the director’s chair."
The audition space was right in front of Vern’s audition table, with your back to the wall and a crappy painting of The Last Supper hanging over your shoulder. Vern, balding and bespectacled, and with a sexy salt and pepper goatee, sat there at the table, legs crossed and rifling through all his audition sheets, trying hard not to let his obvious deep affection for me show. Next to him, his musical director, Vilhelm Kenkum III, a preposterous German with a mangy, dirty blond beard that made him resemble a Teutonic Rasputin.
“Mr. D’Agrande,” said Vern, allowing a playful smile to show through. Vilhelm smiled stupidly and closed his eyes, showing off his weird canine fangs.
“Mr. Slater,” I replied.
“What will you be singing as your first selection?”
I clasped my hands together, allowing myself the opportunity to teach the teacher. “An interesting take—at least, I hope—on the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, ‘A Wandering Minstrel, I.’ Here you go...” And with that, I handed Benjie McMinitee, the rehearsal pianist, my sheet music.
“Oh, really?” Vern asked, looking amused.
“Oh, really?” mimicked Vilhelm, raising an eyebrow provocatively.
“Oh, really,” said I.
Benjie took his time spreading out the music and locating his place on the page. His eyes grew wide behind his owl-like glasses, as he located his place, his lazy eye rolling back to one side. He wasn’t the best sight reader in the world, to be honest, but I figured he would recognize a classic. And then, he curled his fingers, set them atop the keyboard, and—
And then, it happened. I opened up my mouth, and the beautiful music just poured out of me, like an endless bubbling stream.
A Wandering Minstrel, as I am positively sure you are aware, is a song featured in the great Gilbert and Sullivan classic, The Mikado. It’s the first song performed by the romantic lead, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young man bestowed with the charming name of Nanky-Poo.
A few days ago, I had hit upon the genius! idea of performing the song as anything but bright eyed and bushy tailed. Instead, I decided to sing it in a menacing manner, as if the Demon Barber of Fleet Street himself, at the height of his bloodthirsty killing spree, had been asked to sing the song.
I squatted down and stared out balefully at the crowd of auditioners before me, flashing a demonic smile. “A wandering minstrel, I, a thing of shreds and patches,” I snarled. “Of ballads, songs, and snatches..” And then, as the song slowed down a little, I slowly reached into my pocket and extracted a pocket knife. To my delight, I heard a gasp in the audience!
“And dreamy lullaby,” I said as wickedly as I could, holding the knife up to my face to admire it.
Well! I tell you, by the time I was done with my rendition, the auditorium was completely silent. Everyone sat there, staring at me in complete shock. In fact, at one point, Benjie McMintee stopped playing, he was so caught up (and perhaps a little bit confused) by what I was doing.
Vern just sat in his chair, his mouth slightly open. You could hear a pin drop in the room, it was so quiet. I tell you, these are the moments that you live for, when you hold the entire audience in the palm of your hand! And better yet, to have that moment in front of a group of your peers! I do believe that even Danita and that son of a bitch RJ were taken back a little. In fact, I distinctly saw RJ’s face turn red, behind his fake, spray-on tan.
I could tell I had completely caught Vern off guard. It was time to seize the moment even more completely and move things along. Before he could utter a word, I folded the pocketknife up, placed it in my back pocket, and faced the audience again.
“Now, I’d like to perform that classic from Jekyll and Hyde, ‘This Is the Moment.’”
I barely gave time for Benjie to look at the music. I just bang! Let it flow. I had been looking to sing a song that showed off my more tender side, but also possessed a touch of the macabre, as well. ‘This Is the Moment’ was perfect for that, and I had spent the past few weeks working on it every night, for at least 15 minutes a night.
And boy, did it flow! Let me tell you, when I hit those high notes, they rang through the auditorium as high and as sweet as a warm summer morning.
I sang most of the song in tableau, but as it built to its big grand finale, I allowed myself the luxury of opening up my arms and reaching out to the audience...a trick Vern employed in all of the shows he directed, at least once a show. “This is the moment...the greatest moment...of. Them. All...” And, as the song built to its conclusion, I lifted my arms to the sky.
Then! It was over! I stared out at the audience mournfully, and there was applause, and Missy was up, on her feet, clapping thunderously. I saw Vilhelm whispering into Vern’s ear, and Vern writing furiously onto the pad in front of him. I stood there, basking in the thrill of the moment and feeling a little overwhelmed and weak, and more than a little shocked that the music of the moment and the muse of theater had so gifted me with such a remarkable audition.
After about a minute, the applause died down and Vern set down his pen and looked over in my direction. “Well, thank you for THAT, Dante,” he said, clearly reeling from the aftershock. “That was...remarkable!”
Remarkable! He said my audition was remarkable. I took that to be a remarkably good sign.
“Thank you,” I said, modestly.
That was it. Mission accomplished. I could leave the auditions with a clear conscience. I had done my job, and frankly, I had no desire to hear anyone else perform.
It was brazenly against protocol, I knew it. I was supposed to sit there dutifully in the audience and smile politely as row upon row of potential cast members went up there and did their best to outshine me.
But how could they? What was the point of sitting there and playing out such a pointless charade? I had nailed the audition, of this I was certain, and besides, call backs would be held on Saturday morning, at which point they would hear me sing songs from Sweeney and match me up against the other promising possibilities.
There was simply no reason to stick around, and not only that, it was more dramatic—not to mention, memorable—for me to lay down the gauntlet and then make my departure from the building, like Elvis throwing down a bloody scarf and leaving the building.
So, that’s just what I did. I walked down that center aisle, blowing a kiss to Missy and Kevin as I left. Then, as brazenly as possible, with the music to “This Is the Moment” playing in my head, I made my way out through the double doors.
As I passed by RJ on the way out, he grabbed my arm, trying with all his might to disrupt the moment. “Your fly was down that whole time,” he whispered.
I didn’t even look down to see if he was right. “It just goes to show who has the bigger balls,” I whispered back, and then exited, as he let out a cry that the whole group could hear. By then, I was gone. I double checked my contact info with Roz and then headed on my merry way.
It was time for a drink. I had earned it. After all, Sweeney would have wanted it that way.