I auditioned to be a nun in ‘The Sound of Music’
I have always harbored a secret desire to be a Von Trapp kid.
Ever since I watched “The Sound of Music,” the 1965 film adaptation starring Julie Andrews, I wanted to run around with Maria, wear clothes made from curtains, sing about my favorite things and charm party guests with my melodic goodbye.
And when I heard that “The Sound of Music” was coming to Manila and that they were auditioning local kids to play Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl, I thought, “This is my chance!”
Who was I kidding? I am decades too old to play any of the children.
“But wait. We have auditions for nuns and soldiers,” Anna Yulo of Concertus Manila said.
Obviously, I couldn’t be a soldier. The cut-off age was 26 (ouch), I don’t have a soldier-like demeanor (duh) and soldiers don’t sing—and my singing voice is the only thing I can contribute to any musical.
So… a nun? I touched my shaved head and glanced at my tattoo-covered arms. I look like the opposite of a nun. But since everything will be covered by a habit anyway, I said something I never thought I would say in my entire life: “Hey, I could be a nun!”
I e-mailed the auditions team and got a reply: “Thank you for applying for a supporting role for the international touring production of ‘The Sound of Music.’”
The auditions were the next day.
The next day!
Here’s my amateur’s guide to preparing for a professional musical theater audition in one day.
Step one: Buy pants. The audition dress code said, “No slippers, sandos, or shorts.” Since I practically live in shorts and the few pairs of pants I owned were in the laundry (or maybe dragged by my dog under the bed), I headed to Uniqlo and tried on 30 pairs of jeans before choosing one that Mother Superior would approve of.
Step two: Google. I still had milk teeth the last time I auditioned for anything (it was for “Batibot” and it ended in disaster, a story in itself) so I needed to brush up on my audition knowledge. I read multiple guides and they all pretty much said the same thing: Be prepared, don’t be late, be confident, dress well, be professional, warm up, know the show.
Step three: Rehearse. But because I had a late night in the office, I couldn’t. I tried singing when I got home but I didn’t think my neighbors would appreciate hearing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” over and over again at two in the morning. The e-mail said, “There is no need to prepare any song or dance number; the directions will be given by the musical director.” So I just listened to the original cast recording throughout the day.
Step four: Pray you won’t be asked to dance. That would be a tragedy.
I woke up the next day with no voice. In the middle of the night, my dog morphed into the Tasmanian devil. My attempt to stop him from wrecking the house made me hoarse.
Great. Not only did I not have the classical voice they wanted, I was going to croak like a frog at the auditions.
How do you solve a problem like Pamela?
I arrived at Big Shift Studio and was handed a number: 144. Holy sh_t, 143 people had auditioned before me? And holy sh_t, who’s singing? They sounded amazing. Then I remembered that nuns aren’t supposed to curse so I bit my lip.
An older lady arrived, still wearing her doctor’s coat.
“They’re okay with old people, right?” she asked.
“They want to have a variety,” she was told.
Damn it, she looked like she could be a nun, I thought. My competitive streak was kicking in.
I sat on the floor and stared at the music sheet in front of me—“Finale Ultimo: Climb Ev’ry Mountain”—while eavesdropping.
“Six will be chosen,” the girl said to Doctor Nun.
“Just six?!” And even more people were showing up to audition? My odds of being a nun were getting slimmer and slimmer.
At their signal, we filed into the studio hesitantly. I looked at the other aspiring nuns and asked myself, “Who looks least likely to be accepted into a convent?” The answer: me.
Resident director and associate choreographer Jonny Bowles, dance captain and assistant children’s director Karen Sproull and Ticketworld’s Sam Sewell welcomed us.
“I’ll give you time to warm up,” said Jonny.
We jumped to our feet and started to vocalize, following cues from the pianist. While the others didn’t miss a beat, I struggled at first, wondering how they knew exactly what to do. Was I surrounded by pros? The last time I did this was with my grade school chorale. When I’m with my band, the only exercise my throat gets is chugging beer down before our set.
Then we were asked to sing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” “When you’re comfortable, you’ll do it one by one,” Jonny said.
Two rounds later, he asked, ‘Ready?’
My heart started pounding. The first lady got up to sing. She was fantastic—she was confident, her voice had the classical quality they wanted, and she sang even the vein-popping high notes with ease.
Nerves hit the second girl hard. She struggled, going off-key, taking three attempts to finish. I sucked in my breath and silently cheered her on. That’s the funny thing about auditions. You’re competing but you also feel like you’re in it together so you don’t want anyone else to fail. Or is that not how I should have felt?
Each girl sang, some more nervous than others, some more operatic than others. Then, it was my turn. I stood up and started singing. How did I do? I’m not sure. All I know is it was done in a flash.
We said our thank yous and goodbyes and I walked out thinking, “Okay, I definitely wasn’t the best but I don’t think I was the worst.”
Friends were supportive, really really supportive, promising to buy tickets and to bring me flowers at the show if I got the role. I waved them off, laughing. It was impossible. Besides, were they forgetting that I was just doing this for the story?
But for a sweet second, I allowed myself to think, “What if? What if? What if I get to play a nun in The Sound of Music?” I mean, I did buy pants for it. I started to mentally rearrange my schedule and file my leave so I could attend all the rehearsals and performances.
Then came the e-mail. “Thank you for taking part in the auditions for ‘The Sound of Music’ Manila. After careful review of the application and data culled from the auditions, your requirements unfortunately did not meet what was sought after for the supporting role of a nun/soldier. We appreciate the time and effort you took and we wish you all the best.”
When I realized I didn’t get it, that’s when I wanted it more. (And aren’t we like that with most things?) I felt a pang of disappointment but it confirmed what I already knew. I’m really not cut out to be a nun—not even in a musical.
Even in failure, my friends were really, really supportive. One even offered to start a picket outside the audition venue.
I may not have made it but I do not regret auditioning. It took me out of my comfort zone and gave me a behind-the-scenes look at an art form I have come to love.
When “The Sound of Music” opens, I will not be onstage. I will be sitting in the audience, losing myself in the tale of Maria and the Von Trapps. I’ve let go of my nun dreams… for now. But if “Sister Act” comes back to town, I can’t promise I won’t try again.
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