22nd Sep2005

The Lost Adventures: The Lion King Audition

by Will


“I’m me again, baby! I’m back!”

So, where have I been? “We’ve been waiting a whole month for Post #450,” you say. Well, I had it all plannned out. If comics have taught me anything, it’s that round numbers, such as 450, equate a special occasion. Sure, you could say that I should’ve reached #450 over a year ago if I’d been posting everyday like other good bloggers, but I digress. In any regard, an event like this usually involves a new headquarters, a new status quo, a back-up story, and a death. I was really gonna WOW ya, but something was missing. Most of the components were in place, save one. It’s funny how life works sometimes…

Originally, I was going to use this post to debut the reason behind my recent lack of funds. That’s right, you were going to see the new West Lair! I got an apartment. Finally, I can get out of this Negroid Golden Girls lifestyle I’ve had to endure for the past 2 years. At last, I would have a place of my own, where I could hide from the discussions of Ben-Gay and Old Testament God vs. New Testament God. I would have my Fortress of Solitude.

Anyway, I signed the lease back on September 1st, and I was gonna move in Labor Day weekend. My Cousin Joe was gonna help me, mainly ’cause he had a pickup truck. Now, few of you have been to a West family function, but those of you who have (Tarek), have surely met my Cousin Joe. He’s basically like a brother to my mom (first person with the Southern incest jokes gets it!), and he’s one of the few father figures I’ve had in my life.

So, Cousin Joe was all set to help me move, but come Saturday morning, I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t packed up a thing, and I had no desire to rush crap into a box. So, I called Joe to tell him not to worry about me; we’d do it next weekend. He wasn’t there, so his wife, Rose, said she’d give him the message.

Fast-forward to about 3 hrs later: we get a call from Rose saying that Joe had been rushed to Washington Hospital Center. The Golden Girls jump into action, and we make our way down to the hospital. Turns out, Cousin Joe was washing his truck and had a massive heart attack. We were in that hospital all night, from 5 PM Saturday to 11 AM Sunday morning. The staff tried to brace us for the worst, but nobody wanted to hear it. Cousin Joe passed away Sunday morning. I still haven’t moved.

Since then, time has been wrapped up with funeral arrangements, as well as life’s other little dramas. The family hasn’t been taking it so well, and I can only think, “So, it begins.” You see, Joe was a year younger than my mother. I always felt that when the dying started, it would be like a domino effect. These people have been together all of their lives. They grew up together, moved north from Alabama together, and they don’t know how yo be apart. I fear it’s like when a husband dies, and his wife dies 6 months later. It’s a cohort effect, and Joe fired the opening salvo. Selfish, I know, but all I find I can be lately is selfish. I guess it’s my defense mechanism. I keep thinking how close I was to witnessing the heart attack. Had I not called, he might have had the heart attack WITH me, while moving MY crap. I don’t know if I could’ve handled that. No hyperbole there, I truly don’t think I could have held it together had that scenario transpired.

But here I am. I’m still alive, and I guess I’ve got that’s what I’ve got to work with. A lot of people think I’m a pessimist, but I feel it just comes with living with the old folks. Many of you don’t realize it, but I have to worry about things that most people dont even think about until their 40’s. And now I’m more worried about the gals than I have been before. But there’s my milestone post. There’s my death. This is no publicity stunt. He’s not coming back.

Anydangways, I also wanted to give y’all a nice back-up story, A hidden tale that few people know. You see, about a year and a half ago, I took a little blogging hiatus. Prompted by a bunch of personal drama that simply hit the fan, there are about 3 months of my life that went undocumented. One such event, I’ve hinted at, but never fully revealed. You see, right before I started working for H&M, I had delusions of actually continuing the whole singing thing, and I auditioned for the National tour of “The Lion King”.

In my unemployed days, I used to troll the classifieds in the Arts section of the Post, looking for auditions. Since I was still in my “I’m Will West” mindset, most of the community theatre productions were beneath me. I mean, I was THE Black voice of Cornell A Cappella! Cornell! A Cappella! “Today Show”! Surely, that meant something. I would have to wait, until a role came along befitting my stature. One day, I saw it: The Lion King. I mean, besides “Porgy and Bess” or “A Raisin in the Sun”, it’s probably the most sure thing in theatre if you’re Black. And if they aren’t doing colorblind casting!

Since I was days from starting H&M, I figured it was God’s way of saving me from the sad, dreary life of the proletariat. He would deliver me to the stage, to the spotlight that was destined to be mine. I was sure of it. All I needed was the right song. Immediately, I called up my old drama teacher, and we started to brainstorm. She wanted me to do something from when I was Pippin, but that wasn’t enough. She suggested a song from when I was in Hello, Dolly, but I was having none of it. I felt I needed a Disney song, but nothing actually from the Lion King. After all, it’s kinda dick/facetious to go into an audition with an air of “You know that song you guys sing? Well, I sing it better!” Anybody out there who’s sat through people auditioning for them knows exactly what I’m talking about. Finally, I settled on “A Whole New World”. It had been our graduation song (*gag*), but “Aladdin” is the next best thing to “The Lion King”, at least musically. I’d be showing them that I can sing “the Disney way”, without slaughtering one of their signature numbers.

I practiced for a week. I had it down. But the night before the audition, I decided to showboat a little. I realized my sheet music wasn’t in the right key for me, so in order to use it as accompaniment, I’d need to transpose it. Now, we’re gonna get musically technical, so try to bear with me. I downloaded a program, and moved the song to a range that I could sing, both comfortably and well. But when I was done, the song had about 8 accidentals. You know those little “flat” symbols? Yeah, I had 8 of them. But whatever, it’s Disney. They should be able to follow that, right?

When Last Call did the Today Show, it was really hard warming up vocally that early in the morning, so I decided not to sleep. After all, I could sleep after the audition. I spent all night practicing and warming up. Auditions were taking place at Howard University, so I was scared there was gonna be a LOT of competition. I mean, casting the Lion King at Howard is like finding Bush supporters at the 700 Club. I expected PANDEMONIUM, with a hip-hop soundtrack. I figured there would be lines around 12 city blocks, as we all vied for a chance to have our 15 minutes of fame. So, got down there at about 5:30 AM. Auditions started at 10:00. What did I find? Nothing. A whole lotta nothing. Plus, it was February and FREEZING. Plus, security doesn’t like random Black guys hanging around buildings. Even at a Black school! Go figure…

Around 11:00, the Hippie Chick shows up. You know the type. If you’ve ever been in a show, you’ve met her. She’s the girl who’s all about “The the-ah-tur”. You never know when she’s acting and when she’s living. It all blends together in a fake, blah soup. So, apparently, she’s all nervous, ’cause all she does it dinner theatre and she doesn’t know what to expect. Plus, she’s scared of her chances, seeing how it’s a Black show. Man, that was priceless. She was scared that she might face discrimination. I’m not gonna get preachy, ’cause it’s not what I do, but that schadenfraude was just what I needed at the time. Guess I should’ve known what was coming to me.

Soon, other people start to trickle in. You’ve got typical “stage dad” going, “My boy can sing. Watch my boy sing. Do that thing you do, boy!” You’ve got “classically trained Black chick”, who should be doing arias rather than hakuna matata’s. And you’ve got “sad R&B wannabe brother” who really just wishes he’d been in Soul for Real (whatever happened to those fugly Dalrymple boys?). You know the kind: all he can do is wail, but rather than music, what he emits sounds more like what I’d cry if I got my penis caught in my zipper.

And they’re all looking at me, like “Why’d you bring the White girl?” But I DIDN’T! Hippie chick came on her own. Just ’cause we were the first ones there didn’t mean she’s MY fault. Story of my life…

So, they start lining people up, and you’d have thought there were ribs up for grabs or something. Somehow, I actually get to go first, seeing as how some people had vouched for the fact that I’d been the first person there. So, finally, it was the moment of truth.

I walk into the room, and hand my music to the guy at the piano. I warn him about the accidentals, but he doesn’t seem worried. But here’s where I started to worry. He had just sat down as I walked into the room. They were running late, and he’d never even warmed up at the piano. Now, an expert should be able to play on any piano, but it’s still a good idea to get a feel for your instrument prior to performance. So, he starts banging out my music like a retarded kid trying to smash ants. I mean, he wasn’t even near my scale. But I’m just singing away, in MY key, him in another. I tried to give him some death glares, hoping he’d straighten up, but this only mademe look worse. When he was done, I knew I was done. Then, began the Q&A part of our morning.

“So…’William’, what have you done…musically?”

“Well, not much lately. I did a cappella and glee club in colege, but not much since I graduated. Mainly just karaoke hereand there. I’ve been in touch with my old music teacher, and we were going to work on some things.”

“Yeah…well, it might be a good idea to hook up with your ‘music teacher’. You know, to add a little more…technical ability to your…’natural gifts’.

That last line was the one that did it. It was a harsh, modernized, personalized “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

“Well, thank you for the opportunity. *fake smile* It was a really great experience.” And I walked out.

I kinda lingered for awhile, trying to understand what had just happened. I was NOT the best thing since sliced bread. I was NOT as great as I had made myself believe. And I WOULD be reporting to H&M on Monday. But hear me out, it was NOT my fault. Yes, my ego was out of whack, and I was in a bigger pond, but that was NOT my fault. I am my own worst critic, and I RARELY give myself credit. Heck, I never even thought of myself as “Will West”; that’s a caricature that other people had forced on me after concerts and whatnot. But I was ready, as ready as I could ever be, and I sounded GREAT! I wanted it, and I could taste it within my grasp. How it slipped away, I don’t know. Well, I DO know. It was the guy at the piano. But I guess what I will always wonder is “why”. Well, I guess everything happens for a reason, and I don’t have many complaints about the past year. In any regard, I saw the show about 3 weeks ago. It was good. A lot different than the cartoon. But it was nothing to write home about. Just something to blog about, apparently…

Here’s that variant cover. If youve been to James’s site, Jeen’s site, or the site of James’s e-mistress (Oh no he di’nt!), this’ll look familiar. Everybody on the avatar wagon!

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One Response to “The Lost Adventures: The Lion King Audition”

  • Wow, what a story. But it was only one audition a long time ago. I think you should try some local theater to warm up the old pipes.

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