The Music Man

When I was a kid, I loved musical theater. Before the evening performances of their annual spring musical, the local high school would visit our elementary school and do a selection of scenes for us. I remember sitting on the floor of our school cafeteria, watching teenagers sing and dance along to songs from "Guys and Dolls," and feeling this tremendous joy.

One day, my best friend called me up and said she and her sister were going down to the town hall to audition for the community play, and would I be interested in joining them? With no hesitation, I agreed, then dressed myself in what sweet, 1990s baby me decided was the perfect outfit for showing off my dynamic and glowing personality (a bit of sarcasm - I was quiet and shy, in the first stages of teenage puberty awkwardness). In a jean skirt with a matching denim hat adorned with a big pink fake flower à la "Blossom," I marched up to the town hall stage, ready to own it.

The show they were planning to do was "The Music Man," which I hadn't heard of but I took the copy of the sheet music they handed me and looked it over. For the audition, they wanted us to sing part of "Seventy-Six Trombones," plus learn a small dance. With every bit of confidence, I sang my heart out, did the steps, and gave them as much razzle-dazzle as my nine-year-old self could muster.

A few days later, the cast list was posted on a community building. One of the parent volunteers in our classroom that day said she'd seen the list earlier that day and that she was excited to see a lot of familiar names. She winked at a few kids when they said me? mine? was I on there? But when I asked if she'd seen mine on there, she paused, said she wasn't sure, and reminded me that I could check with my parents after school.

Later that day, we went to the list. I looked it over, and over, and over. Nothing. I wasn't cast. 

I wasn't trying out for any of the leads - just someone in the ensemble, a background role to dip my toe into my dream. But no, nothing. I was crushed. 

My dad's idea of reassurance was simply saying maybe theater isn't my thing, maybe it just wasn't meant to be something I did. With all my preteen awkwardness and embarrassment, I agreed, and didn't try out for any community shows again.

It's maybe a little silly now, thinking back - one bad experience and I gave up. But at that time, it was entirely crushing - I felt uncomfortable in my own skin to begin with, and this just felt like confirmation that I didn't fit, didn't belong in certain spaces.

In the meantime, I joined the school chorus in fourth grade, and I sang with the school groups until my first or second year of high school. In middle school, I auditioned for a smaller vocal ensemble and was chosen for some special performances at the chorus concerts. But I avoided the town's community plays and the annual high school musicals, out of fear and anxiety.


A few months before my surgery, my husband told me that there would be a revival of "The Music Man" on Broadway with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, and that he would absolutely love to see it. I was able to avoid the conversation since the show was planning to close before we would be on the East Coast for Christmas, but then the run was extended a few weeks, and we were able to make it work.

It was a terrific performance, and we listened to the soundtrack dozens of times in the months leading up to my surgery. I told my husband that one of my non-scale-victory goals would be to try out for a play at our community playhouse - a few decades and thousands of miles away from my first difficult experience, I would try again to pursue my childhood dream.

And wouldn't you know, two months after my surgery when the Playhouse announced their 2023-24 season, it's scheduled to end with ...

"The Music Man."

I've got a few months still before auditions, but my heart is very ready - and even if I don't get this one, I'm not going to quit this time. I am ready to realize this dream. 


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