There is a second before the curtain rises when the surge of adrenalin is enough to make you scream, and keeping yourself from doing it intensifies the feeling. The stage manager is counting down to Curtain; five…four….three… and when she says "Three" – right at that moment – you feel powerful enough to create the world all over without needing a day for rest. You know then that the people out there came to see you and you are the only one in control. There is still time to bolt and leave them hanging, but you don’t. The count goes two… one… and there you are, singing over the orchestra and the applause.
The opening night audience was wonderful. They were right there with the actors all the way, laughing, clapping, wanting to dance along. Curly and Laurey teased each other through Scene One, and right away the audience knew how they really felt about each other. Walter’s sinister portrayal of poor Jud Fry caused those sitting close to the front to draw away from him. And Peggy, the liveliest of the Aunt Ellers, played off her audience with asides and knowing glances that stole the scene.
In the darkness backstage, where only the experts could navigate the people and clutter, the heat was stifling, but it didn’t feel so bad to sweat for a crowd that appreciated them. Kate stood by the stage right door throughout the first scene, where she could see Rachel when she stepped up for her solos.
The door was giving way behind her back and when she turned, she saw Holly standing inside the door she had just opened. “Hey, what are you doing?” she asked, meaning it as a greeting, not a reprimand. “How do we look?”
Instead of answering, Holly began to cry. Kate steered her back out into the hallway and handed her a tissue from the wad she had in her back pocket. “It’s hard to watch, isn’t it?” Kate asked.
Holly looked sophisticated all dressed up for the play. She was getting tan already, and had bought a dress that flattered her new figure. But her heart was breaking and back here, among friends who knew her from her Toughskins days when she wore blue Keds and drove a bike with a banana seat, could she let the pieces fall. "I wanted it so bad. I didn’t know how bad until I was out there… watching. I could have done it, couldn’t I, Kate? Could I have done it better?”
Kate had to hold her close, smelling the cologne she herself had given Holly for Christmas. “Of course you could have,” she insisted. “But you did the right thing.”
“I had thought so…”
“It’s still right. It will be right on Sunday. And on Sunday it won’t matter anymore. There will be other shows.” She dried Holly’s eyes and hissed her cheek. “There is always another show.”