In an exclusive column, Broadway performer John Carroll takes Advocate readers into rehearsals for Lincoln Center Theater's hotly anticipated musical production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
This week the cast was invited to the Lincoln Center Theater for the book release party for Patti LuPone's autobiography, Patti LuPone: A Memoir. Now, what gay boy does not love Patti LuPone? This is Evita we're talking about. This is Fantine, Norma Desmond, Reno Sweeney. I could go on ... and I will: the Baker's Wife, Mrs. Lovett and Mama Rose! Here I am, not only working with Patti but invited to her book party. It was like going to church. "A reading from the book of Patti." Amen!
The party was a star-studded event. "Look, there's Stephen Schwartz, who composed Wicked." "There's Broadway legend Marian Seldes." "There's Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, and Jack O'Brien, the dream team behind Hairspray." Where was my dancer ass? Parked happily right in front of the cheese platter, thank you very much. If I had half a brain, I would've taken a page from my 91-year-old nana's book and brought some Ziploc baggies. A girl’s gotta eat, you know!
Flipping through Patti's book, I couldn't help but realize how she and I were meant to be together. Patti LuPone is from Long Island. I am from Long Island. Patti LuPone went to Juilliard. I went to Juilliard. Patti LuPone has brown hair ... you get the picture. Don't you see, people? We were meant to be BFFs. Can't you just picture us at a sleepover party, hovering over a plate of s'mores, braiding each other’s hair, debating who's the dreamiest, Brian Stokes Mitchell or Justin Guarini? No? Whatever.
This whole experience is enough to make my inner gay child explode. In school I was always made fun of for being gay. Maybe it was that the kids knew I took dance lessons. Maybe it was the fact that for my elementary school's talent contest I wore gold lamé MC Hammer pants, a crop top, and sequined headband as I performed my heart out to Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off," or maybe it was that I wrote "S.O.M. Rules" down the leg of my jeans because I was playing Kurt Von Trapp in a community theater production of The Sound of Music. Whatever the case may be, I knew I had to get out of that one-stop town and on to bigger and better things. I just needed to find that springboard to get me there.
I don't remember any particular event happening when I was younger that made me want to dance. There was no bolt of lightning or bloody palms. However, as with the priesthood, I feel deep down it is my calling (or is that just gas?). A nasty case of spinal meningitis when I was younger did a number on my balance (and my hearing), so when I asked my parents if I could take dance lessons, both they and the doctors agreed it would be good for my equilibrium. That was it. I had found my ticket to get the hell out of Dodge. Dance has opened doors and given me opportunities that still blow my mind. WOTV is filled with those moments.
For example, in rehearsal today, we had our first run through of the show. A "run-through" basically means we did the show all the way through from beginning to end. Not too shabby for the first time. It is really an amazing thing to see a show come to life. When you learn scenes in rehearsal, it's so fragmented. At times it's hard to imagine how things all piece together. Then elements that you thought maybe weren't working suddenly click. Like magic.
We go into the Belasco Theatre tomorrow. I'm so excited I could spit. The theater recently went through major renovations and is now one of the most beautiful theaters on Broadway. It will be the happy home Patti and I share for what I hope is a long and successful run. Stop on by for some good old-fashioned hair braiding and s'mores!