The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 14: Showtime Showdown
February 29, 2012
For once, the first part of the day flew by. There was more coffee, more strudel, and more conversation. Amanda had decided that if this show was a flop, she was just going to start standing on street corners and sing and play her ukulele.
"I think you could have a future in that." Rachel told her seriously.
Then it was time to catch a bus to the theater. Leigh paid their fares and told Rachel not to worry about it.
"You’re going to screw everything up with future dimes," Rachel muttered.
"I am not." Leigh muttered back. "I lifted them from that phone booth. We’re in the clear."
Despite the dangers of the past days, the excitement in the theater couldn’t be quelled. There was a rising heady mix of excitement and anticipation spreading through the cast and crew. It was opening night and New York was theirs.
Once they were in costume, Rachel and Leigh mingled with the rest of the cast, on the lookout for the first sign of GBS.
Five minutes before the curtain was scheduled to go up, Rachel finally spotted the ghostly shade drifting casually behind the racing scenery.
She grabbed Leigh, "There, he’s over there!"
"How do you want to work this?"
"You go around the back, and I’ll lure him out with a bar or two of 'Just You Wait, Henry Higgins.'"
Rachel ducked around the curtain and followed the shade, wishing she had her Converse on instead of these ridiculous shoes. Right when she reached the end of the curtain, the ghost disappeared.
"Damnit," Rachel looked around. There were people everywhere. The curtain was due to go up in minutes. The costume mistress was going to strangle her if she got any more dust on the dress. She took a deep breath and started singing under her breath.
Nothing. She tried it again and still no result.
An actress walked by, ready for the opening scene, and caught sight of Rachel pacing back and forth.
"Nervous?" She inquired kindly.
"Well…" Rachel could hardly admit to trying to lure out a ghost. "It is my first time onstage. Well, since I was a tree in my school play. It’s been a while." Also, the tree didn’t have to wear shoes. She missed being a tree.
"There, don’t worry," the woman patted her on the shoulder. "It’ll be quite all right once you’re onstage. You’ll see." She winked and walked away.
"That…" Rachel realized… "Was Mary fricking Poppins."
She took another deep breath and sang a little louder. Still nothing.
"What’s taking so long?" Leigh appeared from behind a piece of scenery.
"It’s not working!" Rachel moaned. Then, a brilliant idea came to her. "Leigh! It has to be you!"
"You hate singing, so sing." Rachel figured it worth a shot at least.
"That doesn’t even make any sense."
"Leigh," Rachel grabbed her friend’s shoulders, "For once in your life, shut up and sing."
"That’s technically impossible." Leigh rolled her eyes, and started singing "On the Street Where You Live,” sullenly.
The air around them grew colder instantly. Rachel dug her fingers into Leigh’s shoulder in excitement. Leigh finished the line about her father and the gin and started to launch into the next part when the air rippled and whoosh! There standing before them, glowering haughtily, was the ghost of George Bernard Shaw.
Rachel gulped. Leigh’s voice died away.
"How DARE you!" George Bernard Shaw hissed. "Of all the insults, of all the indignities,"
"Sir," Rachel stepped in front of Leigh cautiously, just in case he did turn out to be dangerous. "We mean you no harm."
GBS sniffed. "Young lady, why on earth would you ever be considered a possible danger?"
"Hey," Rachel felt insulted. "I own knives. But anyway," she added hastily, "It just seemed like a nice thing to say."
George Bernard Shaw raised a bushy eyebrow and glared.
"Anyhoo..." Rachel shifted slightly. "We would like to speak to you about your play."
"You mean this," he waved his hands with an elegant flourish, "travesty?"
"Yes, exactly, this travesty."
"It betrays the soul of my play." He moaned.
"Does it really though?" Leigh inquired politely from behind Rachel.
"However do you mean?" George Bernard Shaw turned his gaze upon her.
"What she means is, yes, they changed a few things and they added songs...but there's nothing really wrong with adding songs to a story. Musicals," Rachel warmed to her subject enthusiastically, "have heart. They share the story in a whole different way. The songs enhance the story."
"You think my play requires enhancement?" GBS demanded loftily.
"No, I'm just saying that it was enhanced. It doesn't take anything away from the original play. This is going to become a beloved musical for decades to come. People will love it, and sing it, and remember it forever. But none of that would have been possible if you hadn't written Pygmalion to begin with. They added the songs because they loved that story." Rachel stopped there. It was either enough or too much. She crossed her fingers behind her back and waited.
"Young lady, you seem to be quite passionate about this topic." GBS observed.
"I love musicals." Rachel admitted. "Though, I do usually prefer them a little darker."
“She wasn’t joking about the knives.” Leigh put in. “You should hear her rendition of ‘My Friends.’
Rachel pinched her and she subsided.
"Very well." GBS drew himself up proudly. "I will give them this one chance to perform and demonstrate their admiration. But it better be as you have stated, young lady, otherwise this play will never see another performance.” He bowed with a flourish and vanished.
Rachel gave a sigh of relief. “I think we can say that…went…well.”
“You made me sing.”
“Sorry about that.” Rachel grimaced. “What do you think? Too sappy?"
"Just the right amount, I think." Leigh patted her on the shoulder. "You do realize he's only going to reappear and haunt the film set when he realizes Audrey Hepburn doesn't do her own singing."
"Yeah, I know." The fact didn't keep Rachel from smiling anyway. "As it is, at least he’s giving the show a chance, and how can he not love it? I mean, really. And we didn't have to dig up any bones."
"Always a plus."
“What are you two doing back here?” The stage manager descended upon them furiously. “You’re supposed to be in position! Get out there now.” They obeyed quickly, joining the chorus of Londoners nervously waiting for the orchestra to strike up.
"Rachel." Leigh whispered.
"Yeah?" Rachel looked at her.
"Smile. You’re on Broadway."
Rachel laughed and squeezed Leigh’s hand as the curtain went up.
To be continued...