Valley Voices

At age 70, it’s now or never, dah-ling

When I was 18, I worked for Mr. Kornbrodt, who owned Warner’s Cinerama. Cinerama was a new wide-screen movie concept and a big deal. Now the building is called Warnor’s Center for the Performing Arts. I worked concessions selling popcorn and sodas for a dollar each.

The first movie shown was “Lawrence of Arabia.” Before intermission, Mr. Kornbrodt would raise the temperature of the theater by five degrees and sodas sold like crazy. Mr. K. was brilliant.

The next movie was “My Fair Lady,” a musical about upper-class Henry Higgins teaching cockney Eliza Doolittle how to speak proper English. It was delicious.

From the lobby, we could hear the music and I learned every song. Before intermission, the ushers would open the doors when Eliza yelled, “Move your bloomin’ arse!”

After I closed the concession, I’d watch the rest of the movie and saw the ending maybe 100 times and never tired of it.

Fast forward 50-plus years. I’ve reached an age (70) where age matters. From the example of my parents, I might have 10 awesome years left and perhaps five more to settle into elderlyhood. You never know, but that’s my hope.

Two years ago, I began doing things I’ve always dreamed of. First was a trip to Italy with friends. Fabulous.

Last year, went zip-lining. I was shaking like crazy at first but by the last run, I was zippin’ like a pro.

This year I wasn’t sure what I was going to do until I attended a production at Second Space, picked up a brochure for Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater and saw auditions coming up for “My Fair Lady.”

I called my professional East Coast theater friend, Morgan Manfredi, and asked if there was a part in MFL for me with no singing, no dancing and just a few lines. In a split second, she blurted, “Mrs. Higgins! You ARE Mrs. Higgins!” She is the mother of Professor Henry Higgins, the male lead in the play.

The last time I acted was at Fresno City College in the mid-1960s.

When I thought about auditioning for the play, I would go from a total fear of the stage to the total fear of missing a chance of a lifetime.

I picked up a script for Mrs. Higgins and learned the lines. I was still waffling, because the rules stated that no matter what role you were auditioning for, you had to have a song prepared and be ready to learn dance steps. WHAT?

Driving to audition I darned near chickened out.

First audition was singing. I had to walk up, like three stairs to the stage. I needed help. I was so nervous walking across the stage to the spotlight I heard someone say, “We may lose her.” No duh.

The next was the audition for Mrs. Higgins. Again I needed help up the stairs, but thought I read OK.

The last was learning dance steps. Oh, please, Mother Mary, I can’t even do the Hokey Pokey, but I hung in there though I was probably 17 moves behind.

I was asked to return for a second tryout. OMG!

When I returned, I brought my buddy from the performance troupe New Wrinkles, Georgie Dayton, who has been an entertainer since childhood.

I read the second time and thought I did fine, but Georgie said I nailed it. Georgie would rather have her tongue cut out than lie to you, but I figured she was being nice.

A few days later, I got a call, “Leslie? This is Good Company Players and we’d like to offer you the part of Mrs. Higgins.”

I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am to be in this musical. The actors, singers, dancers and costumes are amazing. I still know the words to the songs, so I sing along in my head. My stage fright is there, but not as bad. I don’t want to blow it, so I’d better get a grip.

Oh, and Georgie said, “I told you so.”