“Good morning, um. Damn. Sorry. I know it starts with a J,” said dance captain Darci Rothberg. We were both at the coffeepot that stood 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 enjoyed 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 most of my time, upstage left.
This was my seventh Broadway musical, but it was the first where I’d be in an 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 record the original cast album, and forever be a part of the show’s history.
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 time. Like everyone else, though, by the time we finished, it was a tired smile.
Ty had me excited to be here too. I knew he was cast when I auditioned. He was among 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 since I first saw him three years ago. He did a production of Macbeth as part of Shakespeare in the Park. Seven afternoons were spent in line 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 he directed it at me. Not to mention, during those encounters, he was close enough that I could smell the subtle, woodsy fragrance he wore. Thankfully, my dance belt kept any arousal caused by his proximity hidden from view.
The cast, creative team, and three musicians had made this studio home since last week. For the newcomers, like me, this was the chance to make sure we knew our parts. For those returning, it was their opportunity to work through what the creative team had changed in the five months since Love Crossings closed in Boston.
While there’d been tweaks to the songs and script, the dancing was completely different. Choreographer Ricky Michaels joined the production to liven up the movement. It was a thrill to work with him—another reason I’d wanted this show. He’d won a Tony two years ago and had a reputation for his innovative style.
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. It’s the same song, although expanded to add a dance break, and the tempo’s changed. The choreography is new, and it’s the most complex for the show. Ricky will run rehearsal today to teach it. We want to run it at full speed before 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 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 learn it.” I took my place confidently since there were six weeks until previews started.
“Yeah.” Nate grinned 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. Those classes, with teachers who really pushed my skills, would quickly pay off.
When Allie called for lunch, everyone was a sweaty mess. I’d done pretty well, although not perfect. There’d been no comments to me one way or the other, and I was okay with that. Some others were 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 stuck to his head with sweat. 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 sagged, and I felt a little bad for him. I’d heard the new choreographer concerned him because he hadn’t danced much in his recent shows. He’d also had no formal training to prepare him for moves like Ricky’s.
“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 Ty had my full attention. “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 gathered 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 sounded excited, which added to the pressure to deliver something incredible. “Line up and show me what you’ve got. Right now I’m more interested in what you do in the air than anything else, so improvise.”
Everyone in the room looked expectant too, as they watched intently. We’d become the lunchtime entertainment.
Somehow Nate and Marco ended up behind me, leaving me to go first. I took four long strides 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 a grinning Ricky.
Exhilaration flooded me. I loved going through the air and Ricky’s reaction meant the world.
I quickly moved aside, giving Nate and Marco maximum space.
“That’s exactly what I’m looking for,” Ricky said once we’d each gone. “That’ll add 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 food, 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 freeze and retreat for water. Ty, however, collapsed to the floor. He looked as if he was about 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 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 confirmed 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. 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.
Allie dismissed us 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 clustered together again.
“Hey, man.” Nate stood over me. “A bunch of us are grabbing a bite across the street. Wanna join?”
“Sure,” I said. “Let me finish and I’ll be ready.”
Nothing better than getting invited out to put an end to being the new guy.
Next Friday: Jeremy and Ty have a moment alone in the rehearsal studio as Ty needs help with his choreography.
Fun fact: The character of Nate comes from my story Dancing for Him. In that story, Nate is a competitor on a So You Think You Can Dance-style reality show and he falls in love with one of the show’s tech crew. Since many dancers have gone to Broadway from SYTYCD, I decided Nate would follow that track and be part of this story so readers could get a glimpse of Nate and Todd in the future. It was a fun Easter Egg for readers and a lot of fun for me to write more of Nate.