I laughed as I popped the movie into the VCR. I had only had one audition before, but that time I knew what I was getting into. I had never even seen Grease before. Why had I let Sara talk me into this? As I watched the characters on the screen, I was immediately drawn to Betty Rizzo. She dominated every scene. I knew that was the part I wanted.
For the next few days I watched the movie over and over. Stockard Channing became my idol. I studied her voice, and her mannerisms, I wanted to be her. Once I got the idea of playing Rizzo into my head, I couldn’t let it go. For the audition I decided to sing “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” I sang it everywhere I went. The words were permanently embedded in my mind. I even started touching the tip of my tongue to the front of my teeth when I smiled, just because Stockard Channing did it. I still do it sometimes.
As the day of the audition neared, I began to develop a small head cold, which inevitably caused a frog to take up residence in my throat. I thought I was nervous about auditioning before…now I was terrified! All the other girls auditioning for the part of Rizzo had at least some theatre experience; not to mention that they all seemed to be in perfect health. In my eyes, I was the underdog by a long shot.
I waited impatiently outside the auditorium doors 15 minutes before my audition time. My cough drop seemed to be dissolving too slowly. I was playing with the too-long sleeves of my navy blue sweater when the door opened and out popped the head of Mr. Michael Dove, the director. This man had the power to make me a queen or squash me like a bug. I accidentally swallowed what was left of my cough drop.
My heart caught in my throat.
“You’re up!” he grinned.
I slowly made my way to the stage, my heart pounding faster with every step. I stood there, almost trembling, with the stage lights nearly blinding me, and waited.
“Whenever you’re ready” came a voice from the blackness in front of me.
I nodded at the sound girl who immediately pushed play.
By some miracle of God, the frog, who had made his home in my vocal chords, disappeared and my voice was restored. The music seemed to flow from my mouth as if the song was written solely for me to sing. I sang louder and more passionately that I had ever sung before.
In that moment my heart lifted and I finally knew what truly made me happy. I wanted to sing forever. I could barely contain the sound coming from my mouth as the song came to an end. When I was finished, the doors at the back of the auditorium were flung open and I was greeted with exuberant applause from my fellow auditionees. Phase one was over.
Two days later, Mr. Dove posted the call-backs list. I was thrilled when my name was on it. I scanned the list of the other names called back to read for the part of Rizzo just so I would know who my competition was. My heart stopped beating and sheer panic seized my body. There, on the list, only two names below my own, were the two words I was dreading: Vanessa Randazzo.
Vanessa had been in musicals since she was old enough to talk. She had been in every play directed by Mr. Dove, she was best friends with his daughter, and to top it off, she’s ITALIAN! Rizzo is Italian! How could I possibly compete with all that?
Lucky for me, Vanessa was also on the call-back list for Sandy. Sandy was the bigger part of the two (although not nearly as much fun) so I was hopeful that she would concentrate on that.
When the day came for call-backs, all we had to do was read from the script. That narrowed it down to about three girls for the part of Rizzo from the 12 who made it to call-backs. On to Phase three.
For second call-backs, we were to be prepared to sing any solo by our character. I was relieved when the song picked for the Rizzo auditionees was the song I sang for my audition. My second performance went well, though not so much as the first, I thought. I suppose the reason for that was the lack of adrenaline pulsing through my veins.
A week passed before the cast list was posted. I hurried from my Latin class across campus to the chorus room praying for the part I wanted. As I neared the room, I could see the mob of people that had beat me to the door. I quickened my pace, anxious to see what they were seeing. Then, from out of the crowd, like an angel’s voice in the dark, I heard the most glorious words:
“Vanessa Randazzo is Sandy?!?!”
I pushed people out of the way and frantically searched the list.
There, on the left side of the page, across from the words “Betty Rizzo” was my name.
I did it.
I felt the most amazing sense of accomplishment. People I didn’t even know were congratulating me. I was dumbstruck. My eyes welled up with tears. I couldn’t stop grinning no matter how I tried. I was so proud of myself, not only for getting the part, but for finding my niche.
Through one audition, one moment on stage, I discovered what I want to do for the rest of my life.
I want to sing.