The director had told me to take Reno’s boa, swing my hips and let go.
A senior in high school, I was playing Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in “Anything Goes.” Sir Evelyn is a handsome but stuffy English nobleman who finds himself engaged to the society girl but is really in love with Reno, a nightclub singer – hence the boa!
I didn’t realize then how closely what was going to take place on that stage would track with reality.
I was the shy, overweight and closeted kid who was so nervous that I had to wear thick sweaters to hide my excessive sweating.
I had joined the orchestra in my sophomore year. The band teacher also directed the school musical each year, so he put us all in the orchestra pit. He was the kind of teacher whose personality made us all feel a bit more comfortable. Even in my vested band-geek state, I started to feel the tug of the stage. It took me two years to get up the nerve to audition. Finally, in my senior year, I went out for Lord Evelyn.
By that time, I had surrounded myself with friends in the performing arts program. Mr. G., the band/musical director/music teacher extraordinaire, brought me firmly into his fold. I went from band to choir to musical theater all in one day. I felt more comfortable down the hallway next to the auditorium than in any other place in school. My weekends were spent painting sets or rehearsing scenes.
I was no longer quite as isolated but I was so very far from realizing my true self. My efforts to stay below the radar were, in the eyes of my teenage self, a success.
And then came the boa …
I feared the boa. It was everything I tried to suppress: flashy, attention grabbing, flamboyant.
How the hell was I going to go in front of the entire school with it … and dance … and sing?
As you remember, Mr. G. had instructed me to swing my hips and let go. And in a moment of uncommon confidence and comfort, I did. I sang. I danced. I twirled that boa! And the world didn’t end; in fact, there was applause!
* * *
Some 20 years later, my high school is once again performing “Anything Goes." Mr. G. sent me a message today that said, “The Boa is back.” Honestly, for me the boa never really left. The true Michael came out a bit that day. It took many more years before I felt comfortable enough to stand and address the world as my true self but that day was the beginning.
I love the Michael that stepped out on that stage. And, I am happy to say, I love the man he has become. It’s my hope that someday my children Lydia and Kian will have a moment like that for themselves. Maybe, like it was for their father, that moment will even be on the stage.