“GOOD MORNING, um. Damn. Sorry. I know it starts with a J,” said dance captain Darci Rothberg. We were both at the coffee pot that was stuck on a table in the corner of the rehearsal studio.
“Jeremy,” I said with a smile. “And don’t worry about it. I’m still learning names too.”
“Thanks,” she said, fixing her coffee. “I can say you’re doing great. I can’t hang on to your name, but I know you’re learning fast. Keep it up.”
“I’ll do my best.”
I never liked being the new guy. It was always a little awkward coming into a company that had worked together for a while. I was one of three new ensemble cast members to come in to Love Crossings as it transferred from Boston to Broadway.
Once I got my coffee, I settled into what had become my warm-up spot. I went through my stretches in the place where I spent the majority of my time, upstage left.
This was my seventh Broadway musical, but it was the first time I’d be in the original cast. I was giddy at the idea of seeing Jeremy Steele listed inside the opening night Playbill. Plus, and possibly best of all, I’d be immortalized on the cast recording.
As usual, Ty Beaumont walked in while I stretched. So far I’d never seen him without a smile at the start of the day. Truthfully he kept it most of the day. Like everyone else, though, by the time we were done, it was a tired smile.
Ty had me excited to be here too. I knew he was in the show when I auditioned. I admit, besides being in an original cast, he was one of the reasons I gave up my steady gig at Wicked, where I’d played several ensemble parts and understudied Fiyero.
I’ve had a crush on Ty for a while. I first saw him three years ago when he was doing a production of Macbeth as part of Shakespeare in the Park. I ended up in line seven different times for that show because I wanted more of him. He was the most handsome guy ever, with his piercing green eyes, curly dark hair, and a smile with more nuances than I thought possible.
As he moved through the studio, saying good morning to everyone along the way, I watched. We hadn’t talked much, although he always said hello and made small talk when we’d meet briefly over the water fountain, coffee, or lunch. His rich voice made me swoon when it was directed at me. Not to mention, during those encounters, he was close enough that I could smell the subtle, woodsy fragrance he wore. It was a good thing I wore a dance belt, otherwise I could’ve been embarrassed.
The cast, creative team, and a couple of musicians had made this studio home since last week. For the new cast, like me, this was the chance to make sure we knew the show. For those returning, it was their opportunity to work through what the creative team had changed in the five months since the show closed in Boston.
While there’d been tweaks to the songs and script, the dancing was completely different. Choreographer Ricky Michaels was brought in to liven up the movement. It was a thrill to work with him. He’d won a Tony two years ago and was one of the more innovative choreographers in theater.
Like a precision machine, right at nine, Madi Baldwin, our director, called us together to hear the plan for the day.
“We’re tackling the first act finale today,” she said. “It’s the same song, although it’s been expanded to add a dance break, and the tempo’s changed. The choreography is all new, and it’s the most complex for the show. Ricky’ll run rehearsal today to teach it. We want to be able to run it at full speed by the time we’re done today.”
“Oh, here we go,” whispered Nate, an ensemble member who’d been with the show in Boston.
“Worried?” I asked.
“Starting positions for act one finale, please,” Allie, the stage manager, called.
“Not at all. I’m excited. Ricky’s already thrown some challenging moves at us. If this is the complex part, I think it could be a pretty cool day. Although I probably should’ve stretched more.”
“At least we’ve got time to get it down.” I took my place, feeling confident since there were six weeks until previews started.
“Yeah,” Nate said, grinning at me. “That just means there’s plenty of time to change it too.”
I shrugged and smiled as Ricky, Darci, and one of Ricky’s assistants assembled in front of the mirror that stretched across one wall of the rehearsal room. There was nothing we could do now but hang on and do our best to get it quickly.
“Okay,” Ricky said, “we’ll learn the parts that involve the full group first. After we mark that, we’ll break off and take the leads for individual rehearsal while the ensemble works together.”
We watched Ricky and the other two go through the routine at half speed. It was intricate and very physical. I hadn’t done anything like this, outside of classes, in a couple of years. As the cast started to move, those classes with teachers who really pushed my skills started to pay off.
By the time we got to lunch, everyone was a sweaty mess. I felt I’d done pretty well. There’d been no comments to me one way or the other, and I was okay with that. Some others had been called out for corrections.
At the water cooler, as I filled my bottle, the sound of heavy breathing came from behind. My legs almost gave out when I turned and found Ty. His curly hair was matted with sweat, and he looked wiped out. He peeled off his long-sleeve T-shirt, revealing a tight red tank top that showed off his muscular chest. The dusting of fine hairs across his sweaty pecs was an image I wouldn’t soon forget.
Ty’s smile was already sagging, and I felt a little bad for him. I’d heard he was concerned about the new choreographer because he hadn’t done much dancing in the past few years. He’d also never done anything like what Ricky was known for.
“Helluva morning, huh, Jeremy?”
He knew my name? Holy crap. “Yeah. I think it’s gonna look great, though.”
“I think so too.” Ty continued to wipe sweat since it kept beading up on his brow.
“Jeremy.” Darci nearly made me jump out of my skin because I’d been focused so much on Ty. “Can I borrow you for a second?”
“Later, Jeremy.” Ty gulped his water.
“What’s up?” I asked as we crossed the studio and headed toward Ricky, who was eating a salad while flipping through a notebook. Nate and Marco, one of the other new ensemble guys, approached as well.
“Ricky’s got an idea.” She smiled. “Nothing bad at all.”
That was a relief.
“I was watching you guys,” said Ricky, once the three of us were around him. “It gave me an idea. I think you guys can get some height, which could look spectacular across the back of the stage. Let me show you what I’ve got in mind.”
Ricky crossed to the opposite side of the studio and then launched into a spectacular series of leaps. I was so in awe of his in-air tricks that I hadn’t caught what his feet were doing on the ground.
“I’ll probably mess with the footwork in between, but you get the general flair I’m looking for.” We nodded. My stomach was in knots, making me happy I hadn’t eaten yet. “Wanna give it a go?” he asked excitedly, like he was about to witness something incredible. “Line up and show me what you can do. Right now I’m more interested in what you do in the air than anything else, so improvise.”
The rest of the cast looked expectant too, as they watched intently. We’d become the lunchtime entertainment.
Somehow Nate and Marco ended up behind me, so I went first. I took a couple of steps before I jumped into a midair split followed by four beats on the floor before a flying, Bruce Lee–style kick. I ended with a midair spin and landed in front of Ricky, who was grinning.
That felt great. I quickly moved aside giving Nate and Marco maximum space.
“That’s exactly what I’m looking for,” Ricky said once we’d all gone. “That’ll add some great depth. Grab some food and we’ll refine what each of you will do this afternoon. Thanks, guys.”
Did we just land solos? It was way too early to tell, but it seemed a distinct possibility. I was nearly too excited for lunch, but I forced myself to eat the light chicken salad I’d packed.
After an arduous afternoon, the full group came back together with an hour left in the day. It was time to put everything together. We started from the lines that Ty and Leah say right before the song begins. We ran the eight minutes twice.
“Alright, thanks everyone,” Madi said while we were holding our end-of-act poses. “Good work today.”
The cast took that as their cue to come out of the end-of-act freeze and retreat for water. Ty, however, collapsed to the floor. He looked like he was going to make a snow angel, with his arms and legs spread out. The tired look he had before lunch was nothing to the exhaustion that played across his face.
“Tomorrow we’ll start with this before moving on to some new things for act two,” Allie said. “Have a good night.”
I went to my bag, grabbed a towel, and ran it through my hair while guzzling a bottle of water. Ricky and Madi were squatting next to Ty, talking in hushed voices.
“Guys,” Madi suddenly spoke up, “is everyone still here?”
Her head darted around, counting people, and before she finished, Allie said that no one had left yet.
“Sorry, could we run that one more time with Ricky in for Ty?” Madi asked. “Then, I promise, you guys can go.”
So much for stretching. I put the towel and bottle next to my bag. No one complained even though it was unexpected to regather like this. We ran it while Ty recorded it on his phone. He’d struggled earlier from what I’d seen. I guessed he was going to study the recording to help him learn it.
We were dismissed for real this time, and I dropped to the floor in my stretching spot to cool down. I’d pushed my body hard, and I had to ensure I’d still be stretchy tomorrow. Ty, Ricky, and Madi were clustered together again.
“Hey, man.” Nate stood over me. “Some of us are grabbing a bite across the street. Wanna join?”
“Sure,” I said. “Let me finish and I’ll be ready.”
This might be the end of feeling like the new guy.