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Jennifer Crane. That's it. That's my name. Ever heard of me?
I'm guessing not, which, frankly, sums up my entire problem with my life as it currently stands: I'm not famous. And, as far as I can tell, the fame fairy isn't going to be anointing me any time soon.
Sucks, doesn't it?
And what really reeks is that I'm good. I've got a voice on me that rivals Julie Andrew's (and that's before she had throat surgery).
Actually, you know what? I take that back. I'm pretty sure it's a grievous sin to compare yourself to Julie Andrews, who is, in my opinion, a goddess of stage and screen. The woman has some serious pipes. But, honestly, I could give Patti LuPone, Joanna Gleason, or Betty Buckley a run for their money any old day.
Which begs the question of why I was currently earning a living (such that it was) as a singing waitress instead of opening on Broadway.
Obviously, the right part hasn't come along. Or agent. Or director. Or producer.
I don't think it's me. Really I don't.
The thing is, I could be wrong. I try not to think about that, though. Someone once said that success is ninety-eight percent attitude, and I'm definitely staying optimistic. (And never mind that the someone who said that was me. It's perfectly sound wisdom and, frankly, I trust myself more than I trust anyone else.)
All of which is little more than a backdrop to the reason why I ended up singing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" despite the fact that I am not a gay male and hadn't even rehearsed the thing.
It was all Brian's fault.
He's a self-proclaimed screaming tenor, has slept with more producers than I've auditioned for, and is one of my absolute best friends. We worked together at Ellen's Stardust Diner for almost two years, until last week when he was hired to replace an actor who'd tripped down the subway stairs and busted his femur all to hell. No kidding. It was like something out of All About Eve, except that Brian hadn't even been an understudy. Apparently he'd auditioned for the show early on, did reasonably well, and the producer remembered him. The other actor's broken leg was, literally, Brian's big break. And he landed himself a minor, but important, role, the bastard. Not that I'm bitter or anything, but talk about luck.
At any rate, the show is called Puck's Dream, it's a new musical loosely based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Lots of production numbers, lots of effects. Brian's even featured in two scenes, and in one he actually gets to fly across the stage. From what he tells me, it's pretty cool, and I'm trying very hard, albeit somewhat unsuccessfully, not to be jealous.
The production was scheduled to premiere at the Belasco Theater in about a week, and Brian's cousin Felix -- aka Fifi for reasons I'm not even going to bother going into -- had come in from Los Angeles to help Bri celebrate. Naturally, Brian brought Fifi to the diner. And, just as naturally, he was giving me a hard time. (Brian, that is. Not his cousin.)
"Sweetie," Brian said, squeezing in beside the condiments, "you're positively maudlin. You need some serious cheer. After work. Drinks. And I won't take no for an answer."
"Are you concerned about me? Or are you just trying to make sure you're not alone with Fifi?"
"Well, he is a little high maintenance, but you know I love him. And don't change the subject, anyway."
I made a face. "You're not even supposed to be back here anymore."
"I go where I'm needed," he said. "And I'm definitely needed here. Look at you! You're going to bring down the crowd if you go out there like that. What are you planning on singing, anyway? 'Memory'?"
I scowled because he'd totally pegged me. "Maybe," I said. I couldn't help it. I was morose. I'd auditioned that morning for an off-Broadway revival of Carousel, a show I know inside and out, and absolutely love, but I swear I might as well have stood on that stage and farted for all the good my rehearsing did me. I couldn't even see the producer or the director past the stage lights. All I heard was a cough and then a curt, "Thank you. We'll be in touch." And then the stage manager was ushering me off the stage.
Granted, that's often par for the course in the world of open call auditions, but I'd really expected the director to leap to his feet, race to the stage, and sign me on the spot. Or, if not that, then I'd at least expected a good vibe. As it was, I got zilch. No vibe, no job, no nothing.
"Attitude," Brian said, tossing my philosophy back in my face. "Remember?" He pointed toward the main part of the restaurant, where rows of booths were filled with people eating mostly bad-for-you food that really is delicious (I gained ten pounds my first month, then put myself on a strict diet that I've mostly stuck to ever since). Leslie Danziger was strutting her stuff on the railing that ran between two sets of booths. Her microphone was close enough to swallow, her blond wig was slightly askew, and she was belting out "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." She was clearly having a great time. Obviously, she hadn't had a crap audition just a few hours before.
"I'm switching you," Brian said. "Michael's on after Leslie. And you, my dear, are taking his place."
"The hell I am." I turned behind me and found Michael, who I like a lot, but who also happens to be a huge wimp with an equally huge crush on Brian. He just shrugged and blew me a kiss. I knew I was sunk. Done in by two gay men with an agenda.
"Attitude, sweetie. Do you want to be consigned to failure? Do you want to sit and mope? Do you want to let your depression fester inside you and give you ulcers and cold sores? One is not fun and the other is such a bad look for you."
As a matter of fact, I did want to sulk, but I knew better than to argue with Brian. "Fine. Fine. What is Michael -- what am I -- singing?"
"'I Will Survive.'"
"I don't think so."
"Sweetie, trust me. You need an attitude adjustment."
I did need an attitude adjustment, but I wasn't in the habit of utilizing gay male power anthems to make them. Call me crazy, but my best attitude adjustments come when I'm shopping.
Brian, however, was deaf to my protests. He shoved the microphone into my hand, pressed his palm against my back, signaled to Damien (who runs the sound equipment), and pushed.
Suddenly all eyes in the room were on me, and I could either belt out the tune or stand there looking like an idiot. Since I don't do idiot well, I sang.
And you know what? I did feel better. Not at first, mind you. At first, I just felt pissed off. At Brian.
But then the words infiltrated my brain. Like Gloria Gaynor, I was strong. I could get along. And, dammit, I was a survivor. Maybe Carousel didn't want me, but someone would. I'd find an agent. I'd hit the streets. I'd blow away every producer from 41st to 53rd. And by this time next year, my name would splashed across Playbill, and the crowds would be lining up around the block, just like they did for Spamalot. (Hey, a girl can dream.)
In the end, I nailed that tune. I strutted my stuff, flirted with the men, bonded with the women, and threw a final kiss to Fifi. And when the song was over, I turned on my heel, tossed the microphone to Damien, then launched myself at Brian. He spun me around, my poodle skirt flaring in a way that probably lacked a certain level of modesty.
"Totally," I admitted. I crushed my palms against his cheeks and planted a huge kiss right on his mouth. "You're a better mood enhancer than Xanax."
So what if I'd flubbed an audition? There would be others. It wasn't as if I was dead. The sun would come out tomorrow. I was going to put on a happy face. Nothing was gonna get me down. And a bucket full of other sunshiney clichés.
Bottom line? I was coming out of this a winner.
And nothing -- not bad agents or tasteless producers or even rude customers -- was going to change that. Copyright ©2006 by Julie Kenner