It is 7:00pm. I am putting on my make up and staring at myself in the mirror. I am fully realizing what is happening to me. Everything I ever wished or prayed for is about to come true tonight. All the hard work. All the long hours. All the missed family functions. All the theme parks where I danced, sang and sweated in the 100 degree heat are going to pay off tonight. I am getting ready to perform at the Tony Awards for the first time!
The stage manager says “Five minutes until we get on the bus to Radio City Music Hall!”
I am dressed from head to toe in gold crystals and sequins, complete with my gold tap shoes. My palms are sweaty, but there is this looming sense of calm because I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I am thinking, “Can it get any more Broadway than this?!”
I don’t really understand how I got here or how I got this opportunity. Why me? I am a curvy Black girl from a small town in North Carolina where half the people have never even seen a Broadway show. But I’m here.
“Alright guys it’s time to load the bus!” I hear over the monitor. I run down the stairs to get to the bus and we are on our way to Radio City. As we approach, we can see the crowds buzzing. Press, camera flashing paparazzi and best of all, good ol’ fans of Broadway. Everyone is standing there waiting for the buses filled with their favorite performers to arrive. I step off the bus to a massive cheer from fans. They shout “We love you guys!” and “Good luck!”
We are quickly hurried into the theater. A stage manager from Radio City is waiting there. I am first. She yells out “Are you ready?” and I reply, “Let’s do this!”
When I go backstage it is like something out of a movie. All the casts from the different shows are gathered. First I spot Fantasia and Patti LaBelle huddled with their cast from After Midnight having prayer. Jessie Mueller from Beautiful the Musical sitting at the piano, working out her bit for the opening. The cast of Les Miserables were doing vocal warm ups and they stop to wish us luck. Alan Cumming from Cabaret leans over to tell me that our cast is so fabulous and he can’t wait to see our show. These are the moments I dreamt about as a little girl. We are all walking so fast to our destination that it all feels like a whirlwind. As I continued walking to our holding area, Gladys Knight rushes past me. I could smell her perfume dancing in my nostrils.
We finally get to our holding area. I am oozing with exhilaration and nerves. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Just as I am wrapping my brain around things, Hugh Jackman comes running down the stair case.
In his Australian accent he says “Hey guys, good luck out there – you’re awesome!” In that moment I knew everything was going to be all right. But just as I start to gain some composure, someone else comes whizzing around the corner. Oh. My. God. It’s Sting. I say to him, “Sting I love you, you are everything!” And he proceeds to blow kisses at me and whispers “Darling! Darling!” in his wonderful accent.
After many more celebrity sightings, it is finally time to take the stage. My Aladdin cast and I are huddled together and waiting backstage in the wings. Emotions are swirling. The cast of Les Miserables is singing a stirring rendition of “One Day More.” The orchestra is right next to us playing along. Clint Eastwood is in the corner behind us waiting for his cue.
And at that moment everything hits me and I begin to cry. This is what it is all about. This moment is why artists all around the world sacrifice their time, money, energy, family and life for this moment. To take the stage on the biggest night of theater and show the world dreams really do come true and they are valid.
“Alright Aladdin you’re up!” The stage manager urges us to get ready. I walk out on to the stage. I take a deep breath and take it all in, knowing this is all going to be over in a flash. The curtain rises and the audience is buzzing, the music starts. This is it. 5…6…7…8…
Check Out A Few Of My Awesome Selfies From The Show: