Thursday was quite possibly one of the best days of my entire life.
In November 2008, I received an email from the artistic director of the company I often work with, telling me about a show he had recently been granted the rights to. He went on to say that the show hadn’t been done since it was done on broadway, and having just read The Other Boleyn Girl and watching The Tudors, I was thrilled to learn that the show was REX, a musical based on the life of Henry VIII. He said that after listening to the score and reading the script, I was the only person that came to mind for the dual role of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth. After reading the email, I started crying at my desk. It sounded like such an amazing opportunity and I felt so blessed to be considered for such a prestigious show and role.
Last week was absolutely insane with tech as we moved into the theatre and the anticipation of opening night was building. 14 months of waiting, pressure and expectations were weighing down on me for the first few days of the week. I don’t know what came over me, but the negative self talk kicked in. Why do I do this to myself?? I think my head started spinning around the time that someone said that Anne/Elizabeth was the role of a lifetime and I realized that the director had sent me 27 notes on my previous nights’ performance.
I knew that I needed to rid myself of the negative BS, so I did a couple of things:
- Talked to some other people about my fears, pressure and expectations who helped me to see that they were not rooted in reality and were really just demons in my own head
- Wrote out my judgements and fears in my journal
- Wrote out a letter to myself, turning around all of the negative thoughts and assuring myself that I would be fantastic
When opening night came around, I was ready to rock that role.
I spent the day mentally preparing, drinking lots of water and enjoyed a singer’s saving grace juice at home Delicious pear-pineapple-ginger with cloves and liquorice extract that was warm and soothing for my throat. Everyone’s energy was running high, especially since we had an extra special guest in attendance: Sheldon Harnick. We knew for a long time that Mr. Harnick was due to be in the audience on opening night, but fearing a Waiting for Guffman moment, I tried to downplay it in my mind.
On Thursday, everything came together seamlessly. I felt so good about my performance during the show. I nailed my 27 notes (and many others that I had received), felt great about my acting choices and moments and was confident in my songs. My intention was there and I could feel the characters running through my veins.
Best of all, Mr. Harnick loved it. He was so gracious and excited to be seeing his show performed after not really being done since it was done on Broadway in the 70’s. I had the pleasure of speaking with him after the show, when he told me that he loved me in both roles, that I had a beautiful voice and that he was incredibly moved by the last scene in the show, where it is projected that Elizabeth with go on to be Queen.
I was speechless. Yes, me, speechless.
I was wandering around high on this incredible performance energy and the knowledge that the man who wrote the show (and many others including Fiddler on the Roof) thought I was fantastic in the role and that I had a beautiful voice. I was left basically speechless and began communicating using squeals and other high pitched sounds in place of words.
I was so lucky to have the chance to chat with Mr. Harnick about the show, past experiences and life in general. We talked about school and future plans and he joked that if I was banished from court, he was coming with me. Like a true musical theatre nerd, I even had him sign my Fiddler on the Roof cast recording. At the end of the night when we were saying goodbye, he held out his arms to me and said “May I?” I could have died, right then and there.
All of the negative self talk and self loathing punishment that I subjected myself to was all for naught. It’s amazing what we can convince ourselves of. I have heard so much positive feedback on this show and my performance and feel really proud of my efforts and all the work that I have put in. Being offered this role was such a gift and being given the chance to perform for Sheldon Harnick has left me feeling so blessed. It is such a joy to portray such strong and influential women, and I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity. I’m still riding high on cloud nine and am looking forward to the next two weeks of this run of this life changing show.