for as long as i can remember, i have avoided play auditions like the plague. it wasn’t because i loathed the performing arts – in fact, i enjoy watching all sorts of productions on stage – but i guess i knew from an early age that acting wasn’t my forte.
what drove me to audition for the part of mrs lovett for my class assembly production of “sweeney todd” at the age of 8 is beyond me. alright, that’s not entirely true. i knew exactly why i tried out for the part: the cutest boy in class played the lead and, well, he was the cutest boy in class.
the competition was stiff. there was just one other girl auditioning for the part and, as my luck would have it, it was the prettiest girl in class. she had only just joined the class a couple of months before and hailed from new jersey. she was bold, ridiculously confident for an 8-year-old, and looked as if she’d taken the lead in every play since kindy.
needless to say, i was nervous. really nervous.
we gathered in the small art room between mr thomas’ and mrs marshall’s classes. the task was simple enough – since mrs lovett made meat pies out of the bloody remains of sweeney todd’s victims, we were to imagine her as a witch and show that we could act her part by giving our best witch-like cackle.
i felt a lump in my throat as i prepared to roughen my voice and laugh. i had it all sorted out in my mind. the laugh sounded perfect in my head. think wicked witch of the west. think head witch from roald dahl’s novel. think poison apple from snow white. i was ready to gather every ounce of evil in me and put it all into my laugh…
…and all i could manage was, well, all i can say is that it wasn’t a cackle fit for a witch.
janice won the part, and i spent the rest of the year trying not to listen to the rumours about her and alex.
of course, that was a long time ago. i lost touch with my friends in hong kong when i left at the age of 9 and it is only through the magic of facebook that i’ve found some of them again.
however, i never really forgot that class production of “sweeney todd“. i was eventually given a short speech to say, to introduce the various victorian melodramas and music halls that we put together as a performance. but i remember watching jealously while the three lead actors played their parts in front of the rest of the school, while janice aka mrs lovett laughed an evil laugh that sent shivers down our young spines.
i was ecstatic to know that johnny depp and helena bonham carter were cast into the lead roles of tim burton’s “sweeney todd“. the memories of that class assembly so many years ago came flooding back, and i was delighted that burton’s adaptation is as dark and bloody as my class production was comedic and violence-free (although the rubber knife was pretty convincing at the time).
i’m not sure if mrs lovett really does laugh like a witch, but i sure am glad to have the chance to watch the story of the demon barber unfold before me again.
at least this time, i won’t need to worry about the two leads falling in love.