A.N. A bit different from the usual. My crack at romantic-comedy-spoof.
It was three days to opening night, and Tom Banks was thrilled. Everything was just as he’d imagined: the sets, the costumes, the musical scores… not to mention the actors. It was the dream cast, Tom was sure of it. The mere novelty of the plot had managed to attract stars from all of the major acting houses to the auditions, and Tom had gotten his pick of the flock.
Naomi Burns, Brooklyn Leigh, Jackson O’Leary, and Dylan King. Each a star in his own right, but, together, an unstoppable blaze. Tom could picture it now: their photographs plastered on the front page of every major newspaper and social media site. The only uncertainty was which shot they’d pick. The epic curtain call? The double-time romantic ballad? Or maybe the catchy, cast-wide dance number?
But, as good as they were, the cast was young (even in Broadway years), and their minds often drifted towards other things. Like each other. Tom could have written a soap opera based on the whole thing, if he were a soap opera sort of fellow. You see, when a group of attractive young people are placed in close quarters for such long hours, something quite specific is bound to happen. And happen it had. Dylan was head-over-heels for Brooklyn, who had fallen for Jackson, who was smitten with Naomi. And Naomi herself? Tom wasn’t quite sure there. She did have a habit of setting people up, though her targets were quite unpredictable and, often, poorly chosen. Tom had heard rumours that Naomi had played a rather large role in setting up Taylor Swift with seven of her past eight boyfriends. Hardly successful relationships, although they had produced quite lucrative albums.
But as for falling in love herself, Tom wasn’t sure. Naomi did seem to have her head in the clouds. Tom doubted she’d notice a boy unless he landed in her lap.
It was the evening of one of their final rehearsals, Naomi’s latest scheme was well-underway. Three of the four actors were in their respective dressing rooms, facing similar dilemmas.
Brooklyn Leigh eyed the plain, unaddressed envelope on her dressing room table warily before pouncing, ripping the paper open with a swift, fluid motion. The typed note was concise:
I love you. I can’t hide it any longer. If you love me, too, knock on my dressing room door twice, and I’ll meet you on the rooftop after rehearsal.
At the same time, young Dylan King was opening a similar envelope, albeit with much more caution.
My eyes light up only for you. If I can prove my love for you, knock twice on my dressing room door, and I’ll meet you on the rooftop after rehearsal.
Of course, both young dreamers leapt from their chairs and raced to their beloved’s dressing room, knocking twice on the door. There was no answer either time because 1) Brooklyn had left, and 2) Jackson O’Leary was busy trying to make sense of a letter of his own.
After rehearsal, can you put on your skeleton costume with the glow-in-the-dark zombie mask and come to the roof.
Naomi Burns had thrown in her cards. The rehearsal was difficult, and Tom knew something had happened. Dylan was winking at Brooklyn, who was trying to hold hands with a baffled Jackson. Naomi was observed the whole thing with a keen interest, and an unwitting Tom retreated to the rooftop patio after the final failed number to try to gather his thoughts.
Why had Naomi interfered now, of all times? This show was crucial, the turning point in Tom’s career! His actors were already established, but he wasn’t. Broadway was merciless; one flop was all it took to turn an aspiring director out onto the streets.
It wasn’t long before Tom’s pensive solitude was met with company. First Brooklyn appeared, a fresh coat of red lipstick applied and her hair let loose. Moments later, Dylan appeared. “Brooklyn,” he started. “I’m so…”
“Not now, Dylan,” Brooklyn said, fiercely waving her hands. “I’m waiting for Jackson. It’s important.”
“Jackson?!” he said. “But your note said you were waiting for me!”
“Note? What note?”
The door to the roof opened once more. “Okay, gang! Who ordered the skeleton costume with the…”
“ACK!” shrieked Brooklyn, clinging onto Dylan’s shirt as he wrapped an arm around her. “What is THAT?”
“That’s Jackson,” Tom said, with growing irritation. “You’ve been Naomi-fied.”
“Naomi?” said Dylan, as Brooklyn slapped his arm away. “You mean she tried to set us all up again?”
“Set us up?” Jackson said, ripping off the zombie mask. “You lot got letters, too? Those must’ve been from her.”
“So…you didn’t want to meet me up here, Jackson?” said Brooklyn. “I should’ve known it was too good to be true.”
“Naomi is trying to set us up? With each other?” said Dylan. “I thought she was busy with Taylor Swift.”
Tom made a mental note to invite Taylor Swift to opening night. Perhaps Naomi would forget about her co-workers in light of a more exciting romance to set up.
But the trio were more than annoyed, and set their personal feelings aside to plot an appropriate response to their co-star’s failed ruse.
The next morning, Naomi Burns arrived in her dressing room to find a typed note in a plain, white envelope.
I can’t stand it any more. I’m in love with you. Knock on my door three times if you love me, too.
The plan might have been fool-proof if it weren’t for the immediate response. “DYLAN!” Naomi had squealed, throwing her arms around the shocked male who had opened the door after the tenth knock, punctuated by squeals of delight. “I’m sooooo in love with you, too. AAAAAAHHHH! THIS IS PERFECT!!!!! AND TOMORROW’S OPENING NIGHT, TOO!!! THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE!!!!!”
If possible, the rehearsal that day went even worse than the night before. Naomi wouldn’t stop trying to kiss Dylan, who was staring sadly at Brooklyn, who was attempting to hold hands with Jackson, who was trying unsuccessfully to pull Naomi and Dylan away from each other. It was utter chaos, and Tom Banks was sinking further and further into an abyss of despair. Opening night was only one day away, and his four leads were mad with love and rivalry.
Whoever said all was fair in love and war was wrong. This was not fair, no, not at all.
When everyone had left the theatre that night, Tom sat alone on the stage, a single spotlight still shining somewhere above his head. Was this really the end for him? Perhaps he should have picked some less-attractive actors, some more arrogant actresses, a different combination that wouldn’t have fallen foolishly and hopelessly into a hapless love…square? Rectangle?
Maybe it was luck. Maybe Tom wasn’t meant to be a big-whiz Broadway director. Maybe this was just the universe’s way of letting him down gently, letting him know that there was no point in getting his hopes up, letting him now…
“Ah, young love.” An dainty voice rang from the balcony. “So romantic, wouldn’t you say, Tommy?”
“Who’s there?” Tom scowled. “I’m not in the mood for visitors.”
“My name is Titania,” said the voice, coming closer, although Tom could see no one there. “I’m the…”
“Queen of the Fairies,” spat Tom. “Of course. Just what I need. Story time isn’t until tomorrow night, so you can come back then to see the big flop.”
“Don’t be silly,” said Titania. “I’m not a fairy. Fairies don’t exist. Have you seen a doctor lately? I think you’re starting to crack around the edges. Too much pressure. You should learn to relax a little.”
“Uh,huh,” said Tom. “So, could we make this quick? I’m a little tied up at the moment.”
“On the contrary,” said Titania. “You’re at the end of your rope. I think you’d rather benefit from a few knots in your way.”
“What do you want?!” snapped Tom. “And why can’t I see you anywhere?”
“You don’t need to see me. I’m just here to help,” said Titania. “Look to your left. No, no, your other left. Yes. See that, in the vial? It’s a powder. A special, magical powder.”
“I thought you said you weren’t a fairy,” said Tom, picking up the vial with vague disinterest.
“Just because I’m not a fairy doesn’t mean I can’t dabble in the finer arts,” said Titania. “Besides, you need help. You really mustn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Tommy. Just sprinkle the powder on the stage, and your actors will fall in love with the first thing they see. It’s fool-proof. None of this love square-rectangle nonsense.”
Tom considered this. A bit of powder wouldn’t hurt. And, if it did work, it sounded perfect! He would get to play Naomi for once, set these fools up with each other properly, and his play (and his career!) would be saved. “All I have to do is get them to look at each other. When, when, aha! Act Two, Scene One! They all come on together, at the same time. It will be perfect! We’ll do it tomorrow, during our final run-through. Oh, this’ll be perfect!” Tom left the stage cackling, not noticing as the final spotlight gradually faded out.
The one thing that Tom Banks didn’t account for, however, was how slippery fine powder can be on a soft felt slippers while they are walking on a polished stage, never mind running. And Act Two, Scene One began with all four main characters running onto the stage at the same time. And so they did, running, jumping, slipping, and falling onto the stage, all at the same time. Tom cringed at the sudden ‘bang’ that echoed across the theatre, but even more so at the prolonged silence which followed.
All four leads were staring, not at each other, but at the stage.
“Wow,” said Naomi. “I never realised how wonderful it was, to stand on the stage.”
“I love being on stage,” said Dylan. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
“I love the stage, period!” said Brooklyn. “And I love acting!”
“This is the best view in the whole world,” said Jackson. “The best place in the whole world!”
“They’re in love with…the stage?” Tom wondered. “Well…that’s not the worst outcome. In fact, it’s probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me!”
And that, my friends, is the story of how four rising stars realised their love for the stage just in time for a successful opening night in a comedy so bright it can only be described as an Opening Night’s Dream.