We have reached the mid-way point of our run in La Mancha, and a nice sense of confidence has overcome us all. It's leading to stronger performances, which in turn is leading to strong audience response to the piece. I confess, though, that I still get a little surge of unease as we approach the sequence in the kitchen of the inn. It was during that sequence, during our first preview performance, that I rewrote a song.
Everyone who has spent an amount of time on stage has at least a couple of stories to tell of unmitigated disaster. Usually, it involves the humiliation of the actor telling the story. I have more than my share, including the one I wrote about quite a while ago. That one involved youth, inexperience, and a bourbon gone awry. I had no such excuses the other week at Man of La Mancha.
Let's be frank; brain pharts are coming more frequently these days. Probably too many martinis over the years, but I'm not going there. I promised a little while ago to write about this tale, and so I sally forth.
I sing three songs solo in the show. The first is a very quick acappella dittie. The second number I sing, "I Really Like Him," is the one which caused me some grief at our first preview.
In my own defense (okay, there is no defense, but there are reasons I went so far astray), the song's two verses are virtually interchangeable. They do not follow a logical progression, which is the reason I had trouble learning them in the first place. At the first preview, I launched confidently into the song, singing the second verse first. I recognized my error immediately, but of course did not stop singing. Instead, my brain started to concoct a plan to sing the first verse second. As I tried to figure this out, my mouth took over and began inventing lyrics.
These lyrics didn't have much to do with the show, but they fit the rhythm of the song perfectly. They even rhymed. I don't have a clear memory of the rewrite, but it had something to do with turning myself into glue. My costar in the scene, the lovely and talented Nancy O'Bryan, maintained her composure, though the twinkle in her eye screamed, "What the fuck words are coming out of your mouth?"
I did not do much better when it came time for the second verse, which was a mishmash of scrambled words. In a nutshell, I rewrote the whole song. On the spot. In the correct rhythm and rhyme.
I received kudos from my fellow cast mates, who all claimed they had never enjoyed an onstage screw-up so thoroughly.
It's really a shame that no one was taping that first preview performance. The lyrics I invented, whatever they were, could have been sent to the authors of Man of La Mancha, and offered to subsequent productions as a third verse...