Beauty and the Wicked Witch of the West

19 Jul

I'd be far more comfortable playing the Wicked Witch of the West.

Ok, so there are some things in life which sound better than they, in reality, are. Turkish Delight is one of these things. (I was brutally devastated when I first tasted real Turkish Delight, which I found in The Netherlands and bought with exceeding great joy. “WHAT?” I almost exclaimed outloud, trying hard to conceal my near-tears state of mind. “Edmund turned traitor for THIS?”) Lavender Ice Cream (from a cute little shop on Bainbridge Island, WA) is another. (“Ummm…WAY overrated!”) Asking Gretchen O’Donnell to dance and sing in a local theater version of Beauty and the Beast is another. And it’s a big one.

Now, I must admit, it’s possible that the powers that be who allowed me into this production never thought that seeing me dance was a good idea to begin with. I haven’t had the courage to ask them and I probably never will. But to me, the idea of a little dancing, a little singing, a little acting…that wasn’t so bad. I can do that! I was Malificent in our 4th grade production of Sleeping Beauty! How different can this be from that? Sure, I’m 31 years older than I was then…but hey, it’s still me…right?

Oy, vey, am I an optimist.

So, to begin with: the singing. I used to sing. I was in a girls singing group from 5th grade through 9th grade. I sang in high school choir and Women’s Chorus in college. I sang solos in church, and sang in the choir…back when churches actually had choirs. I can sing!

Well, I COULD sing. But it turns out, like any other muscle, the voice needs exercise. And, like the rest of my body, my singing muscles are scrawny and undeveloped. My voice box, lungs, and diaphragm are flabby. Probably pale and unattractive, too.

I knew this about my voice – I mean, I knew that I didn’t have the range I used to…or the breath control. But I thought that a little exercising of the muscles involved, and I’d be good to go. As it turns out, yes, I can still hit a “C” two octaves above middle “C”…but only when I’m not trying. Without thinking, without realizing, I hit it in our first practice. And everyone in the room turned to look. Yes. Everyone. I, being a person who vastly adores attention, was immensely proud as what I had accomplished dawned on me. Like I said, I wasn’t aiming for it…it just happened. I surprised even myself. I basked, for two seconds, in the glory. Then, with every eye in the room still trained on me, (and a few comments from the high schoolers and “oohs” from the little girls, and, I thought, impressed chuckles from the adults) it suddenly hit me: DID I HIT IT? OR DID I FLATTEN IT OUT LIKE A PANCAKE and THAT is why everyone is staring at me? Was I Pitchy, Dawg?! My smile faltered a little. My inner ear strove to regain what it had just heard. “I didn’t know I could do that,” I said, turning red. (A common occurrence for me.) And, it turns out, I could. I did. Though I’m not sure my tone was overly pleasing. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I checked with the music director afterwards just to make sure that I wasn’t off-key!)

The crux of the matter is, I haven’t been able to hit the note since.

“If you’re not ‘in voice’ tonight, please don’t sing the high part,” the director said at the next rehearsal, and I, coughing to prove my point, mumbled that perhaps I wouldn’t attempt such a feat. I sang the middle part. Even though I couldn’t hear it. I wimped out. In other words, I now live in fear that, what I accomplished without even meaning to, I will never accomplish again. Ever. My reignited high school dreams of being an opera star poofed out like a candle. Now I watch Mrs. Potts from afar (with undisguised envy) and am content to be one of the “needful but unnamed” village people. (Yes, every rehearsal begins with YMCA jokes and arm motions.)

To add to my humility, as previously implied, I stink as a dancer. Our choreographer, bless her heart, is being so kind to us. She totally knows what she’s doing. I, on the other hand, do better in the song where I all I have to do is sweep, smile and wave. Type casting, that is. But dancing?! And this isn’t even, like, intricate dancing. This is Step, Step, Lunge, Walk, Walk, Walk. I tripped over my shoes on the lunge. Lucy is quite impressed by my floor burn. She stares surreptitiously at it, while trying to remember what it was she was going to say before being distracted by the larger-than-a-silver-dollar red spot which glows like a neon light on my knee. “Sorry ‘bout your knee, Mom,” she says eventually, admitting that – let’s face it – it can’t be ignored. “Thanks,” I reply, laughing. “It’s not so bad.” She walks away, looking skeptical, and I continue to smile.

Because, really, I accepted long ago that I can’t dance, and I’m accepting now that I cannot sing that well either, but I’m having fun doing this with my husband and our daughter, Katie, and that, in the long run, is worth all my failures on stage. (For the record, my husband is way better at the dancing than I am. AND he is a wonderful sport to be doing this. He deserves a medal.)

So long as I can remember the words and keep from singing Belle’s parts by mistake (which I’ve been singing for years every time I watch the DVD and it’s a hard habit to break) then I’ll be okay. But if you’re yearning to catch a high note from the stoop-sweeping townsperson, don’t strain yourself. She’ll be the one lurching in the shadows, dreaming of the day she can play The Wicked Witch of the West…who doesn’t sing…or dance…but she does get to wear some serious make up. (“I’ll get you my pretty! And your little dog, too!”)

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12 Responses to “Beauty and the Wicked Witch of the West”

  1. Rose July 19, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Fun account!

  2. Marti Smith July 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    1. Edmund could only get stuck on Turkish delight, IMHO, b/c it was enchanted. Did I tell you I had some in Greece, where they insist on calling it “Greek delight”? Some rivalries run deep…
    2. I take a cynical attitude toward the Olympic Peninsula’s newfound fascination with all things lavender, though. Something that belongs in soap and candles and pillows, but I don’t know about ice cream…
    3. In my last choir experience I was demoted to alto. Which, not having a good ear for anything but melody, was something of a disaster. I’m sure if we really worked at it would could get back “in voice” again. Guess it’s not like riding a bike.
    4. Sorry about your dancing injury!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      Oh, Moose! 1) That is a GREAT story about Greek Delight!! 2) And yes, Lavender (I miss-spelled it, didn’t I?) belongs in sachets. 3) I’m glad I’m not the only one who can only hear the melody!!! And no…it’s not like a bike…sadly. 4) Thanks! I’m lots better now – a week later!!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 19, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      Oh, and I like your idea about the enchantment being the undoing of Edmund…yes, that makes sense. Sadly, it’s the candy that gets the bad rap. Well…perhaps it deserves it. Did you like your Greek Delight?!

  3. tinkerbelle86 July 20, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    feel your pain, im a rubbish dancer too!

  4. Gretchen O'Donnell May 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Reblogged this on A fine day for an epiphany… and commented:

    We spent two hours this morning doing something I wasn’t sure I’d ever do again. We auditioned for a local Community Theater production this August here in Worthington, Minnesota.

    I didn’t think I’d do this again for several reasons…many of which I wrote about below last summer and you can read about them as I’m reposting the the first post for you today. Another reason I didn’t think I’d do it again is that it’s a LOT of work…and time…to be in a production like this. HOWEVER…it’s worth it. It’s fun, it’s a great time to make new friends and deepen old friendships, and it’s something we can do all together as a family. Even five year-old Boo might be in on the action this year.
    to top of our reasons for doing this again, it’s The Music Man…a favorite of our entire family. And so we’re diving in again. Stay tuned!!!

  5. whatimeant2say May 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    What a cool family activity! I’m trying to picture the Firepants Family doing this, and it somehow won’t quite gel in my mind…

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

      🙂 It was a great experience and we’re excited to do it again this summer with The Music Man!!!

  6. Neeks May 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    I only sing in my car, or at home by myself and the world should be thankful…lol. I don’t dance because the house tends to shake when I do…, sorry about your floor burn, those are so painful!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      I used to sing so much better than I do now! Oh, well. It’s all fun. And as for the dancing…well…I’ve been promised that I won’t have to do it this summer and I sure hope that’s true!

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