A wise witch one said: “I'm through accepting limits because someone says they're so. Some things I cannot change. But until I try, I'll never know! Too long I've been afraid of losing love I guess I've lost. Well, if that's love, it comes at much too high a cost! It's time to try defying gravity. I think I'll try defying gravity and you won't bring me down.” –Elphaba Thropp in Wicked (Okay, technically, it was lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz, but I’m a showgirl not a technician.)
This post is a story about a showgirl who had the exact same journey as Elphaba. Except she wasn’t green. (It would be hard to get a job as a green showgirl, at least until they make the musical version of Star Trek.) This showgirl was hearing impaired.
As a little girl, she lived in a silent world. Even though she couldn’t hear the music, she loved dancing. It wasn’t until she got her first set of hearing aids that she was romanced by dance and music together.
She became a professional dancer, which was challenging by itself, but being a hearing-impaired dancer, she couldn’t always rely on her hearing aids. She had to internalize the tempo of her music to make sure she could always keep up with the other dancers.
She accomplished a lot in her young dance career, but there was one coveted dance role in one legendary musical that she so badly wanted to play. I can’t mention the name of this musical, but it takes place in an emerald city. (It also happens to be playing at the Smith Center through November 9.)
A dancer in a musical has to be able to sing. This showgirl couldn’t sing very well, but boy could she dance.
Year after year, she would audition for this role. Every time, she would pass the cuts and remain until the very end for the singing portion. Even though she knew she wasn’t a strong singer, she would perform her song excerpt with pride. The casting director would tell her how great she did. She would hope and pray that her agent would call and tell her she got the role. But every time, her agent would tell her that the production loved her, but her singing had to be stronger.
It was the last thing on her bucket list as a dancer. She continued to practice her singing, and she showed up to audition for her fifth year in a row. Yet again, she made it until the very end. Yet again, the casting director told her how much he loved her. Yet again, she hoped her agent would call with the good news. But this time, her agent didn’t call.
She heard several of her fellow showgirls had been cast. Forever an optimist, she told herself she would just have to wait until next year. But she figured she would call her agent just to be sure. Her agent had heard nothing but asked her to come into the office to take care of some routine paperwork.
The next day, she went into the office to fill out the paperwork. At the top read, “Welcome to the land of Oz.” (Okay, that’s not exactly what was printed, but I imagined it went something like that.)
The production was moved by her determination and awed by her talent. They were honored to have her as the newest addition to the cast.
All those years of trying had finally paid off. Even when it looked like it was never going to happen, she never gave up. She kept dancing through life because that’s what it really means to be a showgirl.
Okay, I have a confession to make. This story doesn’t take place in Vegas; it takes place on the West End in London. I’ll also confess this hearing-impaired showgirl, isn’t a girl at all (though he has a fiercer walk in heels than any girl I’ve ever seen). But this story was too good not to share with the world.
Congratulations to my dearest friend and the greatest showgirl I have ever known. May you continue to defy gravity!