After months of preparation, weeks of rehearsals and days of tearing my hair out, show day for Music & Dance on the Lagoon finally arrived. Tables and chairs were decorated, the bar was charged and security was in place. The stage was set.
It should have been smooth sailing, but the drama wasn’t over yet.
On his way to the yacht club, Edet, one of the dancers, had an okada (motorbike taxi) accident and damaged his knee. No understudies, remember? He assured us he could still perform and a quick demonstration indicated that this was true for all but the high impact jive. We tweaked the script so Ice could dance in his place—he’d choreographed the dance, so he knew the steps. Ice’s wrist, meanwhile, was still bandaged from his bike encounter. I should have put a ban on okadas.
The performers assembled backstage. We donned our costumes and applied our makeup. Buddy, our trusted director, gathered the cast and prayed for a perfect performance.
The musicians took their place and the audience buzz died down. Lindy, stunning in a navy blue gown, walked onstage and began. “Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the Copacabana, where music and passion are always the fashion. I am your narrator for the evening to guide you through the story as it unfolds. So sit back, relax and let me take you to the world of the Copacabana and a tale filled with ambition, jealousy, and a Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
I’ve always been afflicted by terrible stage fright. When I performed violin in my school days, my hands trembled so badly that vibrato came easily. Before my dance performances in Lagos, I’d felt sick with apprehension. But while I was hyped for Music & Dance on the Lagoon, I was strangely calm. Partly, I was too busy for nerves. Maybe it helped being surrounded by professional performers, who had their nerves under control. Perhaps we’d jumped so many hurdles already that I’d started to feel either invincible or fatalistic. Whatever the cause, I loved this stage experience.
But the biggest danger was yet to come.
As we performed the first dance—a salsa—some weird effect of humidity created a slick layer of condensation on the stage. It truly felt like dancing on ice—frozen water, not the man. Nothing like this had happened for the dress rehearsal, but as the night wore on, it got worse. I slipped and recovered twice in the tango. How were we going to clean it up before someone sustained a major injury?
Remember Gbenga and the mop? In a demonstration of both presence of mind and stage presence, he found a mop and turned his character into a cleaner. Throughout the show, he mopped the floor, preventing further injuries.
One by one, the numbers were performed. The musicians played with flair. The dancers flourished under the spotlight. Seija turned out to be a trump card— a seasoned performer with an amazing voice. Lindy glued it all together with perfect narration.
As a writer, the most gratifying thing was hearing the audience laugh in the right places. I had to contain myself from jumping up and down, shouting, “They got it! They got my joke!”
And suddenly, it was going too fast. It was nearly over. All that work. Finished.
Before we knew it, the curtain came down—albeit a metaphorical one—and it was over, save the formalities.
LYC announced that the money raised would be used for building projects for local schools. These jobs were to be managed by Ishahayi Beach School Foundation. On top of everything else, Lindy had selected and promoted appropriate missions. This made it all worthwhile.
In a production of this complexity, acknowledgements are fraught with the danger of leaving someone out. We’d covered everyone in the program, but, sure enough, a key player was left out of the speeches. As the champagne was poured, I put out this one last fire.
Afterwards, as I mingled with cast, crew and audience, one of the yacht club members said, “I fell in love with you tonight!”
The man beside him said, “I fell in love with her last night.”
Champagne and compliments were an intoxicating mix. In that moment, I felt the full allure of show business: to perform and reach into another person’s heart. No complications, no reciprocity, except those precious shared moments between artist and audience.
It had been nearly two years since Buddy and I first spoke about putting on a show. And though we came through it rather battered and bruised, we felt high on adrenaline, and were already wondering, what next?