I must admit I’ve spent many years trying to keep my little secret, but I am finally ready to sing it out. I was a musical theatre (spelled “re” not “er,” you uncivilized fools) geek. From ages six to 18, I performed in nearly every musical known to man. I took voice lessons, I owned tap shoes, and I wore so much pancake base and blush that it made me break out regularly. When I was six, I landed my first big role in “Alice in Wonderland,” with my cute yet soporific portrayal of the Door Mouse. Six years later, I was living out my Judy Garland fantasies as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” At age 12, I fell in love for the first time backstage during “West Side Story.” My junior year, I hit the big time when I landed the role of Princess Winifred in “Once Upon a Mattress.” After the show—as I autographed programs for my local fans—I was sure I had sealed the deal as a future Broadway star.
But something changed my senior year of high school. I decided it was no longer cool to sing and dance. I ditched out on the auditions for “Hello Dolly,” even though the word around my high school theatre department was that I was the first choice for the title role. Screw that—I wanted to hang out at coffee shops with my friends and go to punk shows. I quit show choir because “Rock Around the Clock” just wasn’t cool anymore. Actually, more accurately, I was dismissed from show choir for showing up to our Christmas concert with a Bjork hairdo. I had been accepted to the acting program at NYU where I planned to focus my attention on more serious theatre. I was done singing and dancing.
From that point forward, I rebuffed and derided all musical theatre people. “They are so loud and annoying!” I’d say, walking past them in the hall. “Why do they need so much attention?” I kept my singing confined to the shower and my dancing only happened in my bedroom in front of the mirror. And even in my years as a struggling actress who would jump at the chance to play a prostitute in a vampire flick (yes … I did), I told my agent, “I don’t do musical theatre.”
And then “Glee” made its way to primetime television. Between annoying, overachiever Rachel Berry, hot teacher Will Schuester, and even hotter football player turned singer Finn Hudson (no straight guys looked like that in my show choir), I was intrigued. “Let’s see how they can pull this off,” I thought. By their rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin” at the end of the pilot episode, I was hooked. Not only did I get the chills but also was moved to get up off my couch and start belting it along with them.
I felt something I hadn’t in years—I actually missed being a singing, dancing fool. Sure, the “Gleeks” of McKinley High may be a motley crew of loud, annoying, misfits—but they are also driven, talented kids who do a mean mash-up. Yes, they may get slushies in the face from the cool kids, but it’s the Gleeks who will become successful adults because they are forced to understand how to use their strengths to their advantage and not to worry about what people think of them.
Thanks, “Glee,” for giving me back my pride in my musical theatre heritage. It may not earn me cool points, but it did make me who I am today. Excuse me while I go polish my tap shoes.