You gaze out the window as the cast bus rolls on from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia. Your phone alerts you of a new email from Allen Foster. Foster, along with other Bucks County press, have been calling you the past two weeks to do an interview before arriving in your hometown. Foster’s article is titled “Megan Fulmer, Bucks County’s Treasure, appearing in The Bodyguard.” Your heart fills with joy and feels as if a bright yellow light shines through your puffy winter coat. After sitting for a week in Columbus and watching the full show from the audience to rest your ankle, this headline makes any pain go away. Your ankle has reached about 85% health, and good fortune has healed you just in time to dance for friends and family. Your eyes continue to gaze past the window’s barrier and you begin to recognize familiar venues like the Wells Fargo Center, where you performed as a 76ers Jr. Dancer from 2003-2005. Now, 12 years later, you will fulfill your dreams of performing onstage at the Academy of Music. Your cheeks spread to a warm smile as the bus takes you closer to the hotel where your parents anxiously await your arrival.
You feel like a little kid running home from your first day of kindergarten as you peer into the hotel lobby where your parents stand grinning. “Meggy!!! Hi honey!” After the the stress that built towards the end of your time in Chicago, and being out of the show for an entire week, hugs from your parents heal every emotional and physical wound. Your younger brother lives in Philly and meets you and your parents at a restaurant two blocks away from the hotel. As you enter the pub and walk past the bar, you suddenly recognize classmates from high school. Before you know it, you see more old friends that you haven’t stayed connected with since you graduated.You choose not to say anything to them; you’re enjoying time with your family. Once you leave Philly to head to the next city, you won’t see your family for five months, so you want to soak up every second of time you’ll get with them this week. You finish your meal and get up to use the bathroom. In that time, some of your drunken classmates greet you and you take ten minutes to catch up. You gesture to your family, they meet a few of the other Pennsbury alumni, and then you walk back to the hotel to have just a few more minutes of family time before you shut down and rest. You need plenty of sleep to ensure a strong comeback in front of loved ones that plan on seeing you live your dreams.
Tuesday you arrive at the theater an hour early for physical therapy. The nerves flutter through your stomach, but your excitement won’t let it overwhelm you. At the end of your session, the physical therapist wraps your ankle for protection and assures you this will be a successful opening despite the injury. You hurry to the company meeting, and then begin stretching before soundcheck. Your stage manager’s voice rings through the monitors in your dressing room.
“Can I have the ensemble to stage for ‘How Will I Know?’”
With your mic in place, you step onto the stage. That light in your heart beams brighter than the ones that hang above your head. You look out and pan the theater. The last time you were inside the Academy of Music, you sat in the audience with your choir director and voice teacher supporting high school alumnus, and your teacher’s former student, Christy Altomare, who starred as Wendla in Spring Awakening’s first national tour. At that time, you smiled with a mouth full of braces, dreaming of the day you would be on that stage. Nine years later, the time has arrived. A rush of adrenaline guides you through soundcheck into the moment you stand in your opening position.
The confetti cannons pop and the crowd is on their feet, roaring louder than any other audience before them. You expect nothing less from the lovely men and women of Philadelphia. You grew up with enough Eagles and Phillies fans to know when anyone from Philly finds something they thoroughly enjoy, they will continue to support that thing with more passion than you could ever imagine. Your older and younger brothers, your cousin Kiana, and your ex greet you at the stage door. Your ex insisted on being at the opening just like he insists on sending you flowers for every opening in every city since he showed up empty-handed at the Papermill Playhouse opening.You appreciate the gesture, but your family is here and a dream just came true, so you allot your time accordingly.
You bring your crew to the opening night party held at The Ritz-Carlton. Your older brother holds his copy of a Deborah Cox album he bought when he was a kid. You two spent many car rides Jamming out to her albums, and now your brother stands beside you as you introduce him to Deborah. Your heart glows and lights up the dim room where your brother shares his story of searching many music stores to buy a specific album that had one of his favorite Deborah Cox songs. She smiles and thanks him for his support throughout the years. You see the 12-year old version of him try to hide his excitement as she signs his CD. This was the perfect cherry on top of a memorable evening.
The whirlwind of a week has already flown you into Friday morning. You’ve had family and friends come to support you at every performance thus far, including the choir director and voice teacher you sat with when you watched “Spring Awakening.” The support fills you with gratitude, and it looks as though that support will continue until the final performance in Philly. Those thoughts keep you smiling as you and your mom walk to a local nail salon to meet Deborah, Roni, Alejandra, Naomi, and Jasmin for a mani-pedi. Never did your 7 year-old self think you and your mom would be getting mani pedis with Deborah Cox. After a fresh coat of pink and gold polish, you all migrate to a hip restaurant for lunch. You sit at the table and your heart begins to glow as your mom and Deborah chat about music, the latest on “Love and Hiphop,” and what it’s like to raise three kids, and the difference between raising boys and girls. You chuckle after watching your mom behave the exact same way your brother did during their interactions with Miss Cox. With a full heart and belly, you go back to your hotel room and prepare for PT. You’ve done a great job of taking care of your ankle, but you just want to make sure you can maintain strength going into a five-show weekend.
Each audience fills the theater with love stronger than the night before. Radio shows continue to promote the show even though very few tickets are available for these last two performances. You walk into PT on this Sunday morning for your final treatment of the week. Your ankle feels tired and sore, but you want to close the week strong. You proceed to flow through the exercises that have been given to you by your physical therapist, Angelica. You leave to finish your wig prep, but return to have her wrap your ankle right before changing into your opening costume. Knowing you have parents affiliated with your high school’s theater department in the audience pushes you through the matinee before your parents arrive for the closing performance.
Your younger brother joins you and your parents for one more dinner before the last show. The pressure of performing through an injury, and all the time you’ve spent catching up with friends and family after each show, takes a toll on you. You even plan to meet your older brother after the closing show for one last hoorah before leaving Philly. Though your body feels heavy, and an overwhelming sensation is boiling up, the stress calms down as you smile at your parents across the table and release a sigh of relief. Having the people who helped you get to where you are today gives you everything you need rise above it all. You didn’t realize just how much you need them here to end the week strong. Tour is stressful, injuries and people come and go, but you will always have your family when you need them most.