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!”)