When I was a child, I dreamed of being in the theater the way other kids dreamed of becoming firemen or ballerinas. There was a brief respite from this fantasy when I wanted to be a jockey, but in the seventh grade, when I started to tower over all the boys, the dream of acting onstage returned.
When I was offered the chance to be in the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls
last year, I ignored my fear of failure—and of winter in New York—and accepted. Rehearsals were amazing. I loved walking through Times Square as I had when I was starting out, loved learning the classic material, and felt inspired by the other singers and dancers, each of whom was talented enough to play a leading role. I went home every day with aching feet and a feeling of fulfillment.
Then came opening night. I had somehow forgotten that, especially during a recession, a show had to be a certified hit to stay alive and thrive. The absence of phone calls the next day told me we had not achieved that status. When the phone finally rang, it was my friend and costar Oliver Platt. "Feel like a brisket dinner?" he said. "Sure," I replied.
Trudging through the snow on the way to his house, I wondered what the appropriate response to a day of mixed reviews might be. Solemn condolences? False bravado? Then he opened the door. We took one look at each other and started to laugh. I mean really laugh, like crazy people. We stood in the doorway in hysterics for what seemed like 15 minutes. The laughter said: "Who cares? What fun we've had! What a relief to have this out of the way!"
The rest of the run had its ups and downs, but from that day on I realized the power of choosing to be positive, and tried to put it into practice. The show had 120 performances, each of which gave me the opportunity to live my childhood dream, and I tried to bring that joy to every one of them. I wasn't perfect, and the experience wasn't what I had dreamed of as a kid, because it was grown-up real life. But I would take that reality over my childhood fantasy any day.
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