“No, I’m telling you this is the last show. When the curtain comes down tonight that’ll be it. Kaput. Finito. Finished.” Victor was dabbing rouge onto his powdered cheeks. He glanced up, taking in the reflection of the young woman in the doorway.
“But, Victor. That’s not true at all. There will be another show. And another after that. Who knows how long this will run? Perhaps forever.”
“I wish I had your faith Muriel. But with no director, I don’t see how that’s possible. We’ll just play our parts and that will be it. After tonight the company will break up and, well….”
“Victor, we have a director. The Producer is our director. When Josh was directing he told us that he was just following the Producer’s wishes, to the letter. His stage directions are perfect – we all know precisely what we have to do. “
“I see no producer, Muriel. No director anymore, either. We are doing this thing by the seat of our pants. You need to open your eyes, sweetheart. Take a look around. This chaos can’t last for ever and we need to be prepared for the end. That’s why I’m going to make the most of my last performance.” He took a napkin and began to remove some of the excess rouge.
“That’s swell Victor. Tonight, after the show, during the party, we’ll get to meet the Producer. I’m sure he’ll love your performance and will tell you so.”
“The producer again! Muriel, I’ve never seen hide nor hair of this guy. I keep hearing about him, how great he is, such a sport, keeping us going for all these years. Well, the way I see it is that if there ever was such a fellow he hit the road a long time ago. Or else he kicked the bucket. We’ve been keepin’ this gig alive, with our talent, our hard work. There ain’t no producer. Just leave me out of your fantasies, will ya? I don’t want any part of this ‘new’ show of yours. Sorry to disappoint you.” He threw the wadded up napkin onto the floor.
“Oh, Victor. Don’t say that. Please!“
“TEN MINUTES TO CURTAIN!” the best boy sang out.
That night the company put on their finest show ever. A standing ovation. Victor and Muriel took two curtain calls and dozens of floral bouquets littered the stage floor.
Afterward in the dressing room, Paul, one of the grips came up to Victor. “You goin’ to the party Mr. French?” Victor was the last one in the dressing room, lingering as he removed his makeup one final time.
“What party, Paul? That fabled “last show” party all the suckers have been waiting for? Well, I hate to burst your bubble kid, but there ain’t gonna be no party because there ain’t no producer to throw us one.”
“Gosh, no Mr. French. Not a last show party. The New Show party. It’s already started, out on stage. C’mon, everyone’s askin’ for ya.”
Wearily Victor finished wiping the cold cream off his face and, still wearing his robe, followed Paul out into the wings. By golly, was that the sound of a party coming from beyond the curtains? As Paul parted the the heavy drapes, Victor’s expression changed from one of disdain, to curiosity, to confusion and finally to disbelief.
Lit up by the stage lights, the entire cast and crew could be seen gaily partaking in one humdinger of a soirée. Champagne glasses were waving about with abandon, large platters of roast meats and vegetables were on display, bowls of exotic fruits, caviar, canapes, smoked salmon….and isn’t that Joshua standing over by the bar?
“Victor! Finally, you are here!” Muriel threw her arms around him. “Here, take this.” She thrust a glass of champagne into his hand. He looked down at it as if he had never seen one before.
“Come Victor, you must meet the Producer. He is tremendous. Fantastic. He is so much more than I ever imagined. You will just love him. Come along – quickly!” She dragged the dazed actor by his free hand. He stumbled awkwardly behind her, sloshing his champagne, suddenly afraid to meet this Producer that he had so flippantly dismissed for all these years.
They approached a dense knot of people clustered about a well dressed man, everyone intent on getting his attention. Muriel pushed her way through. “Let me in, let me in! I’ve got Victor. The Producer asked to see Victor!” The crowd parted, people pulling back, their attention now on Victor.
He wants to see ME? thought Victor. Why me? What have I gotten myself into? He tried to pull back but Muriel would have none of it; she gave a great tug and Victor stumbled forward, right into the arms of the Producer!
“Whoa!” the man said, laughing. He clutched Victor by his shoulders and held him out at arms length. “I didn’t think you would be that eager to meet me, Victor” His smile was bright and it seemed to be quite genuine.
Suddenly Victor began to feel more at ease and even began to smile a bit himself. “I guess, I tripped…ah…er, sir. Sorry”
“Nothing to be sorry for lad. I am so glad to see you! ” He gave Victor a great bear hug. “I was beginning to think you were never coming out of that dressing room. Whatever kept you?”
“Well” stammered Victor. “You see, I wasn’t aware that there was a…I didn’t think that anyone would be….It was the last show and I thought…..”
“That’s alright” the Producer said, chuckling. “I understand everything. That’s all in the past. The important thing is that you are here with all of us. Now, have you seen the script for the new show yet? “
“A new show? I thought…oh.”
I guess there really is going to be a new show, thought Victor. And I guess I blew it, big time. He remembered telling Muriel that he wanted no part of it. He looked down into his glass of champagne. It was empty, everything had spilled out.
“You’re going to love your part in it”
“What?” Victor looked up.
“I said you are going to love your part in the new show.” The Producer was smiling broadly.
“But, but I didn’t….”
“Believe in me? Yes, I know about that. But you’re not the only cast member who didn’t believe. It’s hard for some people, with me staying behind the scenes. But you all have such hard parts to play, I know the script is not an easy one. I just didn’t want to be too much of a distraction to you all. I don’t want you to be so obsessed with trying to please me that you’ll forget your lines or even worse, try to upstage your cast members.”
“So you’re going to keep me in the new show?” Victor was astonished.
“Absolutely. You did a great job in the last show. Sure there were times that you missed your mark, occasionally stepped on someone else’s lines. I can forgive that. Even those times that you decided to ad lib a little bit, hoping to jazz up the show just a touch. But you realized how badly that went off and you came right back to the script. You’re a real trooper, Victor. You rarely thought of yourself – the play always came first.”
“Thank you. And again, I’m sorry.”
“You’r welcome and forgiven. Now, want to take a look at the new script?”
“Sure! This is great, getting to keep on working with the old cast and crew” said Victor.
“Oh, and a much, much bigger cast and crew. It’s a much bigger show. But not everyone is staying on board. Sadly a few have decided not to stick with the company. Take Maya, for example. She was hoping that she would be able to put on her own one-woman show. You know, one of those performance art things, going on and on about chocolate brassiers while standing on a commode or something like that. I told her that there were no one actor productions in our repertoire, so she’s going to try going it alone. I wish her well but….”
A newspaper shutterbug jumped in front of them. “Hey, Mr. Producer! How about sharin’ those pearly whites with the Good News’ readers?
“Oh, well sure! Anything for you boys.” And with that the great Producer put his arm around Victor and both of them faced the cameras, big grins brightly lit by popping flash bulbs.