Unexpected Understudy: Nancy Clancy, Star of Stage and Screen by Jane O'Connor
NANCY KEPT LICKING HER LIPS. THE INSIDE OF HER MOUTH FELT AS DRY AS DUST. HER TUMMY WAS DOING FLIP FLOPS, AND SHE WAS PERSPIRING LIKE CRAZY.
PERSPIRING SOUNDED MORE GROWN-UP--AND LESS GROSS--THAN SWEATING.
"WHAT ARE YOU SO WORKED UP ABOUT?" GRACE ASKED NANCY. "YOU WON'T BE ONE OF THE STARS."
It's time for the annual grade-level program. Nancy has been practicing her guitar playing, and she's determined that this year she won't be lost in the chorus, despite show-off Grace's rude remarks.
Her audition goes well, and when the call-back comes that night, Nancy is in seventh heaven. Her tap-dancing best friend Bree also passes the audition, and the two friends throw themselves eagerly into practicing for their musical program about the states, "The Nifty Fifty." The script has Bree tapping to "East Side, West Side" in the salute to New York, and Nancy is accompanying and singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas," with Robert, "the boy from Paris," to salute his home state. Her little sister JoJo, whose favorite TV show is Cowgirl Sal, is thrilled, and to Nancy's disgust, she is soon belting out the lyrics every time Nancy tries to rehearse her part.
But keeping the whole family from getting into the act when she practices is not Nancy's only problem. Grace, who is (naturally) the lead singer on "Oklahoma," continues her put downs at school, and Bree and Nancy quarrel when Nancy complains that Bree is no fun because she's always practicing her routine. But rehearsals after school with Robert and his lasso seem to be going well, and Nancy is sure that they will go over big when "The Nifty Fifty" premiers for their parents.
IT WAS ALMOST SHOWTIME! THE SCENERY--A GIANT MAP OF THE US IN RED, SILVER, AND BLUE GLITTER--WAS STAPLED ACROSS THE BACK OF THE STAGE. EVERYONE WAS IN COSTUME.
Bree's relentless practice pays off. Her performance is perfect and she comes offstage happy. Time seems to fly by as each state's players do their numbers to applause. Suddenly, it seems, Master of Ceremonies Lionel is in front of the curtain, telling his Texas jokes, and it's almost time for Robert and Nancy to go on. Nancy tilts her cowboy hat at a rakish angle and sits down by the fake campfire with her guitar. The curtains open as cowpoke Robert strolls onstage and starts twirling his lariat. It's time for Nancy to begin "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
SACRE BLEU! THE PLACE WAS PACKED. EVERYBODY WAS LOOKING AT HER. NANCY OPENED HER MOUTH.
HER MIND WENT BLANK. WHAT WERE THE WORDS TO THE SONG? WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE SONG?
NANCY OPENED HER MOUTH AGAIN. THIS TIME SHE HEARD SOMETHING--THE OPENING LINE OF THE SONG.
"THE STARS AT NIGHT ARE BIG AND BRIGHT--"
IT WAS JOJO!
When the star chokes, the understudy must go on, and from the front row Jojo, conveniently costumed as Cowgirl Sal, joins Robert and Nancy onstage, belting it out with brio. Suddenly Nancy's fingers move to form the chords, and her voice returns, and the impromptu trio's "Deep in the Heart of Texas" brings down the house.
Finally the curtain comes down and "The Nifty Fifty" is at last history, or so Nancy hopes. But, of course, there are a lot of parents in the audience filming the show, and the next day Nancy gets a phone call from none other than Grace, telling her that her episode of flop-sweat stage fright has gone viral on YouTube. Sacre bleu, indeed!
"YOU MEAN ALL OVER AMERICA PEOPLE ARE WATCHING ME MAKE A FOOL OF MYSELF? THIS IS THE WORST NEWS EVER!"
THERE SHE WAS... WITH HER MOUTH OPENING AND CLOSING LIKE A GOLDFISH, HER EYES STARING INTO SPACE.
Will Nancy Clancy ever live down her deer-in-the headlights moment? In Jane O'Connor's latest beginning chapter Nancy book, Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Star of Stage and Screen (Harper, 2015), Nancy bucks up long enough to make an appearance with her little sister on the local television news, and when Jojo is the one with stage fright before the TV cameras, it is Nancy's turn to do the talking for both of them. Media-savvy young readers will go for the story of Nancy's gone-viral lapse that could absolutely happen to them these days, too. This timely book makes a great read aloud for stage shy kids at this time of year when lots of willing and not-so-willing thespians are taking the boards in school-end productions.
Somehow mega-star author O'Connor and artist Robin Preiss Glaser hit all their marks again in another smash hit for young readers.