If you are completely unfamiliar with this phenomenon, think of it as Rocky Horror meets Buffy. The audience has props to be used at specific moments. A costumed cast acts out the songs on the stage in front of the screen. And everyone, of course, sings along.
Lisa, Rick, and I got to the theatre a little after 10:30, and the line was already forming. Near the beginning were gymble and her husband. To their left were an Indian girl and guy. The girl said, "I know you," and I replied, "Er, no you don't." She introduced herself to Lisa and Rick as Anita and identified the guy as her cousin. I walked to the box office to pick up tickets.
I had never seen this girl in my entire life. I tried to think whether she was some relative I'd met before or maybe some girl I'd met at a wedding or something. I decided that she was some strange girl preying on my Indianness and pretending to know me for fun. Still, she freaked me out.
gymble asked if I had change (I had bought their tickets for them), and I said I actually did have a bunch of ones.
"Why do you have a lot of ones?" asked the crazy Indian girl. I ignored her and tried not to make eye contact.
Then gymble and I had a discussion about the fact that I thought we had agreed to carpool, but she claimed that there was no definite plan, only a suggestion.
"I saw that e-mail exchange!" added the crazy Indian girl, maddeningly, as I now knew she was lying through her teeth for the sheer ridiculousness of it. I tried to play along, saying to her that I had never received a reply to my e-mail.
About that time, beeker121 poked me from behind, so I turned around and gave her a hug. We talked a bit and as I was looking at her, I went through the list in my mind of who had yet to show up. I mentally checked everyone off, until the only person who was left was rowanceleste...
At which point I felt like a fucking idiot.
In my defense, I don't think of her by her real name, I've never seen a picture of her, I thought she was coming alone, and I don't have the ability to check my e-mail WITH MY MIND (she sent an e-mail at 10:30 about her and her cousin being the only Sri Lankans in line). In her defense...I'm a moron.
So, my idiocy behind us, we proceeded to wait in line for the sold-out show. Clinton McClung, the brainchild behind the production, came out and handed out goodie bags and instruction on what to do when and when to use what. The doors opened around 11:30, and we went inside and procured a block of seats a little front of center. Getting the early has its advantages.
I needed water to prepare my throat, so I went out to the concession area. I heard a woman asking if they had a "Talent Discount," for the actors. Sadly, there was not. I asked if we were going to be seeing her on stage. She was playing Tara. "Hence the flowy skirt," I noted.
Back in my seat, we watched the pre-pre-show entertainment, which was the DVD menu for the pre-show. There was a scroll of images. A couple were from the musical (one from the filming). One looked to be Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance (the scary one). There was a random old man that I rightly concluded had to be David Brinkley ("Will I get so worn and wrinkly / That I look like David Brinkley?"). And there was a comic panel that Rebecca helpfully identified as from Season 8. It was funny to listen to the audience trying to figure out the significance of some of the images, especially David Brinkley.
A couple seats away from me was an excessively pierced guy who hilariously asked, "Excuse me? Can someone show me how to use a kazoo?" He had the wrong end in his mouth.
Finally, a little after midnight, it was time to start the pre-show entertainment. First, they showed the little MTV News piece on the production. Then they showed some fanvids, including a great one to "Coin-Operated Boy" that Rebecca, excessively pierced guy, and I were singing along to. The last part was Buffy trivia, complete with clips from the show...and various other work by the actors. I don't want to spoil some of the more hilarious surprises. That was all a lot of fun.
Next up was Buffy-oke. Clinton explained that they were going to play a scene and have two of us say the lines. The scene would be the Buffy/Angelus scene from "Innocence" (where he's a total dick to her post-sex). He asked for a volunteer to be Buffy, and a hand shot up in front of me. The girl went up to the stage. Then he asked for a volunteer to be Angel, and, predictably, all of my companions were telling me to volunteer, but sometimes I am shy about these things.
Except no one in the audience raised his hand. Clinton asked again, saying he needed a volunteer; he wasn't going to just pick someone. He added that he had a special prize that you could only get here, and I'm a sucker for special exclusive things on novelty value alone, so I gave in to my desire to be the center of attention except when I don't want to be the center of attention. I handed Rebecca my camera as I tried to get to the aisle.
Clinton asked the girl her name and what her first episode was ("Graduation Day, Part 2"). Then he asked me my name and, having heard it, he said, "I'm not going to try to say that one." Which, dude, it's two fucking syllables. Soo. Neel. It's not that hard. He asked me if I had a favorite character, and since he didn't want a big long essay or want me to stand there pondering for half an hour about who my favorite character truly was, I just said, "Xander." He said this was an Angel scene, there was no Xander, and I said I liked Angel too. I wished he'd asked me what my first episode was so I could say "Witch" and be all cool for having been watching since the third episode.
Thankfully, he allowed us to watch the scene with the subtitles on first to refresh our memories on the dialogue. I watched and reviewed Angel's dialogue, paying little attention to Buffy's, which my co-star seemed to know fairly well already, anticipating a few lines. I thought about how to play the lines, to be dickish but not boring. I decided throwing in a double thumbs-up on "I thought you were a pro" would be good. I contemplated taking off my shirt for authenticity. When the clip ended, Clinton pointed out Buffy's sad, sad, crushed face.
The two of us took the stage again. Clinton came on and said, "You know, having a girl play Buffy is just so boring. So how about you play Buffy, and you play Angel." And he threw me a blonde wig.
Honestly, I didn't care about the fact that I was playing a girl or whatever, it was more that I hadn't been paying attention to her lines and how to deliver them! It wouldn't be the first time I've played a woman, after all. Once I wore a dress and everything.
I put the wig on, becoming a brown-skinned Buffy with blonde hair. I have no idea how I looked. Unfortunately, the batteries on my camera were running low, and the pictures didn't take. Also, I blanked on the fact that my camera takes video, not that it would have mattered with such low battery and the limited space on my SD card. My bravura performance will only be documented in the memories of the hundreds of people there and the text that I am about to write.
I suggested to my partner that we switch since now our characters were on the other side of the screen.
When we were ready, we were to say, "Roll it," into our microphones. My scene partner gave the word. I also said, "Roll it." Then: "Or, I suppose"—adjusting the pitch of my voice—"roll it."
The clip began, with subtitles helpfully provided.
The first line was mine, in Buffy-voice: "Angel!" And I started to move toward her to mimic the screen, but she stayed put. Through the next couple lines, there were some cries from the audience of "Get closer!" but we didn't manage. It might have been difficult to do it with the microphones, anyway.
Now, those of you know me also know that I rarely ever give myself the credit I may deserve, so take note: I think I kinda rocked as Buffy. That is, I was really good as a male actor impersonating Buffy without going too over-the-top. Because I understand that a guy delivering Buffy's lines is inherently funny. But I think a lesser actor would have just gone completely high-pitched or excessively Valley Girl, which would also be funny. The problem with that is you would be trying to be funny and thus end up cracking yourself up.
Whereas I got totally into it. I only raised my voice an octave or two so that I could still have different pitches to work with yet still sound girly enough to be funny. My first real line was "Oh my God! I was so worried," and text like that makes it easy to find a matching emotion. And, luckily, it wasn't a subtle emotion. It was supposed to be very apparent in my voice. So I pretended to be worried. And when I act, what usually happens is that if I pretend an emotion hard enough, I actually feel that emotion. My body physically reacts because it is stupid and easily tricked, much like my brain.
To be honest, I was so focused on getting my own lines right that I was barely paying attention to "Angel," but I think she did well. I got the meatier part, anyway.
I think I got a laugh out of nearly every line. I was in control of my faculties so that I could deliberately make sad faces to the audience and quickly think about how best to deliver the next line. But I was also emotional enough that I wasn't infected by the laughter.
Understandably, my two best lines were at the end, by which point my lip was basically quivering of its own volition. I remembered my scene partner's delivery of "Don't touch me" when we watched the clip earlier and used it, with the beat between "Don't" and "touch me." It was very dramatic and sad.
And then, finally, at the very end, I delivered the most sincere, genuine, heartfelt "I love you" a man playing Buffy has ever given. I'm pretty sure that got the biggest laugh of all.
I was very sad. So hurt. So broken. And it showed.
"You even did the face!" said Clinton as the scene ended. He gave us each our special prize, which was a big Season 8 poster. I went back to my seat, and the man in the crazy tigerskin pants let me through, telling me I had done a great job. As I sat down, I attemped to regain my composure. It had been somewhat draining. I forgot how fun acting can be sometimes, becoming someone else for a short time, feeling fake emotions.
Of course, I may have trouble watching that scene ever again without cracking up.
Next was Hush-oke, where two people would make up lines for Buffy and Riley in a scene from "Hush." And let's just say that Whose Line Is It Anyway? won't be giving them a call.
The last one was Giles-oke, which required someone who could sing. A hand shot up from a girl I hope to God was drunk or else I fear for everyone who knows her. She was wearing a somewhat see-through top that I think had something underneath, and for no reason at all she talked about Halloween and band camp and that fucking American Pie line, not two minutes after there had been a whole thing about kids being in the audience (there were some calls to pick one of the kids, but none of the kids could sing).
The clip was the Exposition Song from "Restless." Again, we watched the clip (he left in Anya's attempt at stand-up for the humor value), and then the girl got up with her microphone to sing. And...she sucked a lot. "The words are behind you," reminded Clinton. She glanced back and then faced front and continued to screw up the words. "The words are behind you," he reminded again. Thankfully, the best part of the song was supposed to be sung by everyone.
That was the end of the pre-show. Clinton explained all the places where audience participation was encouraged. And then, finally, it was time for the show!
The cast was special for us, since a San Francisco group had attempted to put on a stage production of OMWF but had been shut down by evil lawyers. So they were going to perform instead of the usual Uncool Kids (which, having looked at the website, I think was probably better since it looks like the traveling troupe has some people play multiple parts (and they have a white girl playing Sweet, which just seems wrong)). And they were really good! I was impressed with the costuming; they even managed to match Anya's butterfly shirt! They knew all the dances and everything. The very coolest part was during "I'll Never Tell," because "Anya" and "Xander" were perfectly synchronized with the screen. It was amazing. Then they got off a little, but even more amazingly, they managed to sync back up within seconds. It was so damn cool. In some of the other dances, the gestures were a little early or late, though they were spot-on at times too. Clinton retained his role as Giles, adding in some other bits of hilarity like calling "Buffy! Buffy!" after the appropriate line in "Walk Through the Fire" ("Now through the smoke, she calls to me"). It was a hoot.
The audience stuff was also fun, the best part being the little poppers for the, er, climax of "Under Your Spell." Some people popped theirs at other hilarious points in the show. There were a fuckload of bubbles during Dawn's ballet. I waved my jacket in the air for "They Got the Mustard Out," along with many others who had the same idea (this one wasn't specifically in the instructions, but it seemed natural to do, after all). It was also really neat to look back and see the sea of waving lit cell phones during "Standing."
It was a damn good thing they left the subtitles on because there was so much to be focusing on that remembering the words too would have taxed our fragile little minds. It goes without saying that singing along with a couple hundred other people was superfun.
Grr! Aargh! And it was over. Anita's cousin, who had never seen a single episode of Buffy before, said, "That was hilarious!"
They were selling some nifty buttons that I wanted to look at. Rebecca got the "Bugger Off" button. I contemplated buying something but decided against it. Maybe next time, since the show sold so well here that they definitely wanted to come back.
Outside, we joined the rest of our group. As we were on our way out, "Tara," whom I had met before the show, said, "You were a great Buffy. Very humorous."
"Thanks," I said. "I have acted before."
"I could tell!" she said, mentioning my timing and maybe something else.
I GOT A COMPLIMENT FROM ONE OF THE CAST, YOU GUYS. (ETA: TWO OF THE CAST, YOU GUYS.)
Check the schedule, people. I can almost guarantee you it is the most fun way to experience "Once More with Feeling."