Earlier this week I posted a video of Lael Van Keuren and Florrie Bagel singing I Will Never Leave You from the musical Sideshow between Lael’s final two shows as Sister Mary Robert in Sister Act and it inspired me to write a short story for my collection entitled The Final Show, so, ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you my very first shared short story! I really hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
Evelyn O’Darrell was seated in her dressing room for the final time after eighteen months of touring the UK in the role she had dreamed of playing ever since she discovered theatre as a child. Evelyn had always loved the theatre and knew that the only place for her was the big, bright stage and there was no feeling quite like the rush of adrenaline you get when the first note of the orchestra strikes up, or when you take your bow and the audience are applauding you, and only you. As she got ready to leave for the final time, Evelyn thought back over the past year and a half she had spent with the show.
As she unbuttoned her heavy, velvet black dress, she thought back to her audition for the role. The process was a long one, she recalled, eight auditions in total over the course of nearly two months. Evelyn had worked harder than she had ever, ever worked before for this role. It was her big chance, her chance to shine, she had only ever been given ensemble roles before which, of course, she loved but this was different, it just felt so right, although arriving at the audition quickly scuppered her hopes when she saw how many people, and who for that matter, she was up against. There were some very well known faces amongst the candidates, they were bound to choose one of them over someone like me, she thought to herself downheartedly. Even so, she sung her heart out and put in all the emotion she could possibly summon into her chosen song. No sooner had she walked in the door of her house, her phone began to ring. It was her agent. This call could make or break me, she thought to herself. She picked it up and was overjoyed to be told that she had made it through to the next round. The process repeated itself the second, third, fourth and fifth time but by the sixth audition, her confidence had grown and she felt for the first time that she was really in with a fighting chance. Stage number eight of the audition came and went and after all being quiet for the following two days, Evelyn decided that it was apparently not to be this time, but she had had such a great experience that she would not be hasty in trying again for another role. Getting her first solo role was always going to be the most difficult and besides, she was only twenty-five, there would surely be plenty more opportunities. That same evening, her phone rang whilst her and her family were in the middle of dinner. She took the call out in the garden, where it was peaceful and private, apart from the cat and the odd bird that came to rest on the fence until said cat caught sight of it. After ten minutes, Evelyn went back inside with a huge grin on her face.
“I got the part!” She told her family excitedly. Immediately, they all jumped up out of their seats and gave her a big hug, they were proud of her beyond words. It was a wonderful moment for them all.
Snapping back out of her daydream, Evelyn was interrupted by her two fellow cast members entering their shared dressing room in a rather ungainly manner, both laughing uncontrollably. Evelyn herself could not help but crack a fond smile at her two best friends’ antics, as she was by now very used to them and they were one of the things she would surely miss most about the show.
Her mind wandered affectionately back to the first time the cast met. It was a warm, breezy day in late June and Evelyn had taken the train-journey into London that she would be making for the next six weeks for rehearsals before they would be taking off all over the UK. The prospect was so exciting and for Evelyn, meeting the people she would be spending the adventure with was half the fun. Luckily for those commuting by train, the rehearsal studio was literally over the road from the station, which made it much easier to find than some studios. As she crossed the busy road, the light breeze tickled through her strawberry blonde hair and she took a moment to acknowledge the bustling surroundings – this is where I belong, she thought to herself with a contented smile. Entering the main studio, a feeling of fear overcame her. Compared to some of the actors here, she was merely a rookie. Barely out of stage school, she hadn’t got the years of experience behind her that they had. The others had had notable roles in the big shows – Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, WICKED and she had only done ensemble work before in new shows, which of course were just as important and Evelyn knew that deep down, but in her current state, that was not how it felt but nevertheless, she was grateful for those opportunities and enjoyed them just as much as she would enjoy this new show. Taking a deep breath, she pushed down the door handle to reveal a room full of excited actors and actresses, directors, choreographers, she glanced round and walked in, holding back and remaining at the edge of the room. The next thing she knew, two young women, probably no younger than Evelyn herself but no older than thirty, approached her with beaming smiles all over their faces.
“Hi!” They said in unison.
“Hello.” Evelyn greeted nervously.
“I’m Heather and this is Kerry.” The taller of the two introduced.
“Nice to meet you.” Kerry said warmly.
“And you. I’m Evelyn.” She introduced in return.
“We’ve both been very excited to meet you.” Heather told her.
“Um…you have?” Evelyn was surprised at this.
“Of course! You’re our third sister!”
“Oh right!” Evelyn felt slightly awkward at not realising this in the first instance. “Sorry I…well this is my first big job and it’s all a little…well…overwhelming I suppose.” She laughed timidly.
“Don’t worry about it. We all feel like that at first.” Heather reassured her. “My first job was in Les Mis understudying Eponine. I felt this big when I walked in on the first day of rehearsals!” She told, holding up her hand with her thumb and first finger almost touching. “I was worrying about nothing though, everyone was very welcoming.”
From that moment on, Evelyn, Heather and Kerry became the best of friends and did almost everything together – both in rehearsals and outside of. Evelyn had very fond memories of the antics the three of them had got up to – including being told off by, in total, eight stage managers in different venues for being the noisiest dressing room.
Evelyn soon came to the realisation that she was nearly ready to sign out of the theatre for the final ever time in her dream show. With much sadness, she removed the hairgrips from her locks and shook her head to release every strand of hair and brushed it so it was once again immaculate.
Doing this, she thought back to the opening night of the show in Oxford. The entire cast and crew had been given two days to get into the theatre, construct the sets, ensure everything was in good order and rehearse on a proper stage before their big opening night. The sheer thrill of seeing the set fully constructed on the stage was an incredible feeling for everyone involved, it was all beginning to feel so real. The day of the show came and the cast had not rehearsed that day, instead been advised to take things as easy as possible during the day and to be ready for a showstopper in the evening. Evelyn did just that, she ensured that she had plenty of rest, drank plenty of water and had three good meals to maximise her energy levels. In the girls’ dressing room that evening, it was much quieter than it had been the past two days and than it would be for the next year and a half as the reality had quickly dawned on them all from the moment they got through that stage door that day.
“You’re insane. Absolutely insane.” Heather told Evelyn, laughing.
“If I don’t run through my lines now I’ll never remember them all.” Evelyn sung in reply to the tune of her big number in the show. She had come up with the idea of racing through all her lines at full-speed whilst getting into her costume and doing her make-up, a ritual which seemed to stick for the remainder of her run in the show. Both her friends simply smiled and shook their heads at her, seeming to be perfectly calm.
The time came for the show to begin and Evelyn was by this point, a bundle of nerves.
“You’ll be amazing.” Kerry reassured her.
“What if I forget a line? What if I come on at the wrong time? What if I forget to come on? What if…” Heather put a hand on her friend’s arm.
“Evelyn. Chill out. You will be perfect. Nothing is going to go wrong, trust me.” Suddenly, the orchestra struck up with the first breathtaking note of the enchanting score. Evelyn drew in a sharp breath of horror.
“I can’t do this!” She said anxiously.
“Yes you can.” Kerry and Heather told her in unison, almost pushing her out on to the stage.
“Off you go, break a leg! Kerry finished, and so it began. From the moment Evelyn stepped out on that stage, the nerves completely disappeared and she was no longer Evelyn, but one hundred percent the character she was playing. The opening night was incredible beyond anything Evelyn had ever experienced before. Every single cast member was word-perfect, never missed a cue, every step was just completely on point and it was wonderful. The applause received at the end was phenomenal. Every member of the audience was up out of their seats, whooping and cheering at the tops of their voices, it had been a truly successful night and Evelyn had never known anything quite like it. It was surely a moment she would never forget in her entire career.
After rummaging in her vanity case for no more than a few seconds, Evelyn pulled out a packet of tea tree face wipes and quickly took off her make-up.
“That was by far the best show we’ve ever done.” Kerry declared.
“Better than opening night!” Heather agreed.
“I felt like that was the best performance I’ve done.” Evelyn chipped in. “Although I still hate you for all that ad-libbing in my birthday morning scene!” She added, her lips curling into a devious smile. “And I will get you back one day!” She promised.
“The audience were in hysterics!” Laughed Kerry.
“Yes, and so was I! I couldn’t get my lines out!” Evelyn complained lightly. “I have to admit, you did come out with some very witty stuff. It was brilliant.” She grinned.
“Your fan club were in tonight by the sounds of it.” Heather stated. Since beginning this particular show, Evelyn had gained a stream of followers on social media, many of whom had declared themselves to be her biggest fans and some had seen the show at least five times. “They were up on their feet cheering for you at every chance they got.”
“Oh and there’s a hoard of them waiting for you at the stage door.” Kerry informed her friend.
“Well,” Evelyn began, packing up all her belongings in wicker baskets, colourful bags and patterned boxes before scanning the room one last time for anything she may have left behind, “I think that’s everything.”
“Then let’s go.” Heather suggested.
“Oh,” Evelyn said sadly, “goodbye dressing room.” She waved quirkily. The three of them then ended up touring the entire theatre for Evelyn to say her farewells to the stage, the auditorium, the foyer, the sound and lighting booths and whatever else she thought necessary.
“I’m sure you’ve said goodbye to everything now, Evelyn, you’d better not leave your fans waiting any longer.” Kerry told her.
“No, I suppose not.” Evelyn sighed heavily. With that, they all signed out on the door and stepped outside into the nippy February wind only for Evelyn to be greeted by around twenty fans all who had been waiting with much anticipation for photos and autographs. Evelyn greeted every one of them with her warm, pleasant nature and took the time to chat to each person for how ever long they needed. Almost one hour later, after many tearful hugs and goodbyes from fans as well as Evelyn, the three friends found themselves once again alone.
“So, off to pastures new it is then.” Heather commented.
“Yes.” Evelyn replied.
“When’s your first show in Oliver?” Kerry questioned.
“8th of April.” She responded. “It’s strange, you know when you move up to secondary school and you’re suddenly the youngest all over again? That’s what it’s going to feel like stepping into rehearsal on Monday morning. It’s crazy.”
“Yeah.” Heather continued sarcastically. “Who would bother?”
“Well you know what they say.” Evelyn began with a grin. “There’s no business like show business!” With that, the three girls collapsed into laughter, linked arms and continued on down the street.
The Final Show by Rebecca Jayne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://beckyinabubble.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/the-final-show/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://beckyinabubble.wordpress.com/short-stories/.