Time: March 21, 2003Place: Douglas Morrisson TheatreRole: Will ParkerDirector: Kendall Tieck
Where the wind comes sweeping on the plane
And the waving wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain
Well those are the lyrics to the song. But if you listened carefully, you could hear all sorts of tiny different words coming out. I’m not sure how it happened. Somehow, little words changed in a few places. It was really just a subtle thing, yet enough to make me wonder what if I was even saying the rights words. So, before the last weekend, I even checked in the script to see what the exact lyrics were. Ah, all better. No need to mention it to anybody. Not for just one last weekend.
Oklahoma began near the beginning of the year 2003. Sure, the state has been around much longer than that; and who knows, maybe the musical is even older than the state. Nevertheless, my experience with Oklahoma began near the beginning of the year 2003. Okay perhaps I may have even driven through the state many years ago or had to memorize the capital for history class. It’s Tulsa right? At least I think it is. I don’t really know. For some reason Tulsa comes to mind though. Maybe that’s because Gypsy auditions are next week. Alright, I suppose Oklahoma really began for me eight years ago when I did the show the first time. I can believe it’s been eight years. It doesn’t seem like more than seven years and 6 months. But I guess the calendar says that it’s been 8 years. So let’s just accept that and move on.
Having done Oklahoma before, I was well prepared for the auditions. I sang my standby song, "If I Only Had a Brain," which seemed to work well since I got called back a few days later. The callbacks went well and a few days later, I was offered the role of Will Parker. Yahoo! Here we go again.
The theatre was one I hadn’t performed in before. It’s always fun to be in a new place. I got to explore the area and see what new interesting nuances about the theatre lay before me. What was really fun was a small tunnel leading into the orchestra pit. I didn’t know this until partway through the run, but one could go down there and watch the scenes taking place on stage. The important thing is just to leave in time to get back onstage yourself.
The sets came together nicely and I was very impressed by the quality of the work. The set builder and painter did something that I really admire — they paid attention to the details. This effaced itself when viewed from a distance. Several times, I would have to walk up to a set piece and physically feel if it was a flat painting or a 3D object.
Rehearsing was easy at first. We mainly just sat around and sang. When our songs were done, we got to go home. Not a bad arrangement. But then the dancing started and things got tougher. I brought in my old black cowboy boots from the first round of Oklahoma. They were a little dusty, but they still fit just fine. The dancing wasn’t terribly difficult, but the stress of bouncing around the hard wooden stage in hard heeled boots really did a number on my lower back. I soon found that I had to take it easy during a certain rehearsal. There was some real pain going on. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing too well the next day. I could hardly move at all without a great deal of pain. The next few weeks would be tough for me. Slowly, the pain started going away and I added some shoe cushions to my boots. Eventually, all my back pain was gone.
Then the leg pain started. Well, it was simply muscle pain from my left leg extending farther than it was supposed to. Having had such a long break from karate, my legs just weren’t used to kicking so high. This injury took much longer to heal and was a constant pain throughout the run of the show. I stretched before every show, but the damage was done. They just need a long rest to fully recover. They wouldn’t get that rest until the show closed.
The performances went well. The cast got along with each other nicely and few problems occurred. Once in a while, we’d have a missed cue, which was always fun to watch. Sometimes, improvisation was needed on stage due to a dropped line. And during one show, a gunshot failed to go off. That created quite a comical moment on stage.
Doing the part of Will Parker is fun. He has his moments and then gets long breaks in-between. The lines returned quickly for me, which made early rehearsals easier. I was even able to create a few of my own tap steps this time; though Shawnel created most of the tap section. Coincidentally, she helped me with the dancing the first time I did the show eight years prior. Last time, the trickiest part was the back flip during Kansas City. This time it was the final handspring flip and catching the hat at the very end. That part almost always came off successfully, except for me dropping the hat during one performance. On the final show, the hat was tossed quite a long ways in front of me. I had to make a diving catch, which I did. Happily I grabbed the hat out of the air and felt like a receiver catching the ball for the game-winning touchdown. It was a great feeling — especially since it never happened during my high school football years.
Several friends came out and saw the show, which was nice. Ididn’t have too high of expectations since A) I had done the role before and B)they weren’t cheap tickets. But I was thankful to those who were able to seethe show. I probably won’t do the role again – at least not unless it’s onBroadway or in London. In that case, I’m game.