Monday, August 13, 2007

My Sweet Manhattan Home Town

I think it’s safe to say that Saturday’s recital will, as I texted some friends after the show, go down in my memory as one of my most special evenings of music. It was one of those nights where, even though there were small flubs onstage, there was a perfect convergence of spirit and music, of musicians and friends. I consider myself privileged to be surrounded by such a wonderful group of performers (this is true of all my WTOC colleagues; more on this soon). Generous with each other onstage and with the audience, and in possession of beautiful voices and stellar musicianship, they are sweet and true friends I will miss dearly – until our next collaboration!

That was the general atmosphere on Saturday: it was something special, and we all felt it. Several audience members said it was the best concert they’d seen in a long time, with LB even going so far as to say it was the best concert he’d seen “ever ever ever EVER!” Both in the audience and on the stage, there were a lot of laughs and not a few tears. In short, we did our jobs - and created something special in the doing.

But of course, there were a few individual things that will stand out in my memory as unique moments onstage, not the least of which was the moment my dress threatened to give me the reputation of Wolf Trap’s Janet Jackson. Wardrobe malfunction!!

I wore my dark purple Nadia Tarr dress, the famous wrap dress that has been touted here ad nauseum. It was twisted (but not tied) into a sleeveless configuration, with the ties meeting in a loose twisty knot in front. About a third of the way through the first verse of “Another 100 People,” I felt that my very active breathing - a necessity for this very fast and very low quasi-belted song - was beginning to loosen the knot! And sure enough, two deep rib-expanding breaths later… undone!

It was at this moment that I truly understood the brain’s immense capacity for multi-tasking. Not only did my hands manage to catch the ties as they fell, but I was able to retie the knot and give a knowing “oops!” smile to the audience – all without missing a beat, quite literally. Not only that, but it was the best version, the most ensemble-y together, that Steve and I had ever done. I still don’t know how I did it, how I managed not to fall on my face in that, my most difficult of pieces. I can only think of one of the opera maxim’s I’ve picked up along the way: “That’s why we rehearse.”

(My host, who was in the audience, said that it just looked like the sash of the dress had come undone. Not such a big deal, right? But all my girlfriends in attendance knew the mechanics of the dress, and knew that it could have been, shall we say, quite the show had I missed those ties!)

Something else about going into “auto-pilot” while dealing with the dress: I reverted back to my original interpretation of the song, rather than telling the story that Steve (and others who know Company better than I do) had worked to get out of me. “Another 100 People” is sung by a woman who is in love with the hustle and bustle of the millions of people in NYC, who is amazed at how folks manage to find each other there, and who relishes her encounters, even the missed ones. I’m not there yet. I’m still a bit overwhelmed, unsure of my place in the bustle, nervous that it will only be missed connections and “will you pick me up or do I meet you there or shall we let it go?” I’ve only lived there a year…

It all made for a rendition of “Another 100 People” that was much more intense than we had rehearsed, raw, even. As I walked past Steve to leave the stage, he pulled me to him and quietly whispered, “It’s all going to be ok.” My host said that though the audience had no idea what he said to me, it was a very sweet moment. For me, though, it caught me completely by surprise. I had opened myself very wide in singing that song, and that little touch of kindness, of love, cut right to the quick. I was grateful that I had four numbers before my next appearance onstage…

We all retired to the beautiful home of one of WTOC’s generous donors for the afterparty, and as I refueled at the food table the lady of house came to chat a bit. She said, “you’re the only one who didn’t say where you grew up,” referring to the fact that the other four folks onstage, in their blurbs about New York, had referenced their hometowns. (NYC is Steve’s hometown; small town Texas, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi were also represented). She was right, of course, due in large part to the fact that I don’t really have a “hometown.” Growing up in the military, I moved around every few years and have continued to do so as an adult. I went to school in Georgia and Massachusetts, was a married homeowner in Washington, I have family in Georgia and Colorado, and I’ve worked in six states and internationally in the past two years. But I have family in New York, too, and friends, and this is where I’ll spend most of the upcoming season, so the City is home for me now.

It is home; whether it becomes Home is yet to be seen…

3 comments:

M. C- said...

a dear, old friend had a full-on wardrobe malfunction, downstage center in front of about 1000 people, during the first piece on a program. given the angle at which we were standing, those of us on stage with her had no idea what had happened (we just heard some gasps) until we were en route back to the green room. the audience, as you can imagine, was quite distracted for the rest of the concert. there were many detailed reports afterwards, which i will not put in writing here. for years afterwards people would say upon first meeting her, OH! You're... and their eyes would get really wide.

epilogue: her parents were videotaping, but that tape has since disappeared.

Nicole Randall said...

Imagine if you were a string or wind player...at least your hands were free! nice catch!

Maury D'annato said...

For me, there is certainly a mix of exhilaration and despair in "Another Hundred People," and I think that's not just my own NYC baggage (a suitcase full of exhilaration, perhaps, and a little carry-on of despair.)

It may be because of the bits of book that come between the verses, and suddenly I can't think if that's in the show or just how it's arranged on the soundtrack to the recent revival. Or just the tone of the whole show that surrounds it, which is largely about the difficulty of connecting, especially here. Lines like "And they meet at parties through the friends of friends who they never know," and certainly the refrain of "city of strangers!" hold some real ambivalence, and I think the music hints at anxiety mixed in with the mad, gay rush.

I guess the character does say something about how 14th Street is the center of the universe and all, but that kind of enthusiasm is sometimes suspect :) Ok, I need a "step back and remember it's only a musical" moment.

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