Monday, 25 April 2016

Musical chairs

I have to admit that Kiwanis season is not among my favourites -- particularly the Musical Theatre section.

However, younger daughter loves singing in the Kiwanis festival and she has always loved musical theatre. One of my earliest memories of her singing was when she was about eighteen months old. I was searching for something up in the stacks at the Greater Victoria Public Library when I heard her vocalizing tunefully. The tune turned out to be "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" from Godspell.

So, a couple of weeks ago found us on the long bus-ride out to a part of Nepean near where her school used to be. I was tense, dreading the competition, dreading having to sit through yet another production of The Sound of Music the next day -- in short, not tapping into my higher self, because both are things that younger daughter adores, in a world where her autism bars her from quite a few pleasures.

I got a grip on myself and used the long journey to focus on the best outcome. I've been back to creative visualization -- call it magical thinking if you will, but I got a bit more centred by the time we got out for the fifteen-minute walk through the suburbs to the church where this shindig is held every year.

I suppose it was a good thing I felt centred, because things almost immediately began to go sideways after our arrival. Younger daughter vanished into the washroom with ten minutes to go before her section was scheduled to start. She was the first of the competitors.

Time ticked by and when I popped my head in to remind her of this, she hollered at me to get out. I only had time to register that she was applying eye make-up. Her accompanist was enlisted to approach her -- younger daughter rarely hollers at non-family-members -- and our singer emerged with thick eye-lashes drawn in around her eyes. She reminded me of Victor Garber in the aforementioned Godspell.
"This is so I will look like a little girl for the second song," she told the Resident Fan Boy.

This is her fourth time participating in the Musical Theatre section. Up until now, she has been the only competitor to not bother with a costume change -- the other girls often do quite elaborate changes with plenty of props. This year, she and her teacher worked out a very simple change. She would be in stocking feet and wearing a sweater over her dress, presumably to look more like an auditioning chorus line dancer.

I've never been a fan of A Chorus Line, but "Nothing" is one of the better songs. It is also very wordy and quick.

Younger daughter plunged into it with admirable energy -- expressing bewilderment, anger, and the final resignation and shock quite eloquently, I thought. (I am her mother.) At Kiwanis, the adjudicators sit halfway back from the stage and all spectators are expected to sit behind them, so her make-up didn't look garish at all. I wept a bit with pride and started to relax a little.

Too soon.

Younger daughter vanished into the little change-room offstage and reappeared almost immediately, still sweatered and stocking-footed. She caught herself, disappeared, and came back with her flats on. It took her a second or two to realize that she still had to remove the sweater, so she returned to the side-room and we could hear her grunting and struggling, talking to herself. When she entered, she remembered she was supposed to change her hairband.

This all seemed to take forever, as I sweated with embarrassment, but it probably didn't take much longer than two minutes, which is a good thing, as both songs must be delivered within twelve minutes.

Younger daughter's second song was "My Party Dress" from a not-terribly-well-known musical called Henry and Mudge. It's another challenging number, with more than a hint of ADD -- the song, that is, younger daughter, as you may know from previous posts, is on the autism spectrum with a recently-diagnosed anxiety disorder -- which actually makes this a rather good fit.

Once again, she performed it flawlessly and remembered to acknowledge her excellent accompanist.

There were only two other performers in this age category. Both had the same accompanist, who sauntered up to the piano in his own time.

The first girl performed two songs from musicals I've heard of, but haven't attended. She was good, had stage presence and a strong voice.

The second girl did a charming number from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the famous "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls. She did the first well, and the second competently.

Phew, I thought. We'll be home soon.

Except that the star adjudicator, the one with the lengthy CV that included the Stratford Festival, decided, as there were only three competitors, to hold a mini-workshop.

She asked younger daughter who the Chorus Line character is singing to.

Stammering and playing for time, younger daughter did what she always does when put on the spot - she tried to give the right answer. She started telling the adjudicator who Diana Morales is: "Her name's Diana, but the teacher calls her 'Morales'..."

Well, it turns out the adjudicator had an issue with all three singers, in their choice of audience, in their use of props -- very bewildering for three young women who had been coached to use props. For example, she didn't like younger daughter's using a chair because there's no chair on a stage during an audition.

Then she had all three girls sing, asking if younger daughter's accompanist were still there. (Of course she wasn't - accompanists can't hang around; they're rushing off to accompany someone else, usually in a different part of the city.) The accompanist for the other two young women said he could do it, and the adjudicator confused younger daughter further by requesting that she start with the opening monologue. There hadn't been one. The accompanist obligingly struck up in a different key than the one rehearsed, but he was playing from memory. Younger daughter managed -- and this is damned important -- she kept eye contact, as requested, with the adjudicator.

I thought of a day early last September when it took eight tries to get an ID photo because younger daughter was unable to look straight ahead, and I blessed her anxiety medication.

Afterward, we quickly repaired to the washroom to attempt to remove all that eye make-up. She hadn't brought make-up removal sheets, so I dampened toilet paper with water and tiny amounts of hand-soap.

I'm pretty sure that one of the other girls was weeping in the centre cubicle.

When we finally got home, we discovered that the written adjudication was surprisingly constructive. And the dreaded Sound of Music? Quite enjoyable, really.

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