Weddings. Messiah barn burnings. Feminine hygiene product pitching. New Orleans Jazz. Embassies. My own Mormon church. And then at last, a biblical musical. It seemed an appropriately epic way to end our Norway years.
Josef Og Det Utrolige Farvet Drømkåpet needed a lead narrator. Barbara, my multitalented musician girlfriend was already directing the musical’s children’s chorus and doing orchestrations from a massive keyboard, working her big circle of local music talent to build the band. She was overbooked.
Since I’d already done the English version, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in New Jersey, the producers thought I might be able to do it here. So I said yes to play the narrator in Norwegian.
Then I became the show’s artistic director.
The closing night of Josef, I walked out into the parking lot, costumes in a suit bag, humming one of the show’s tunes. When I stood next to my car overlooking Oslo fjord, I stopped abruptly in my tracks. I looked straight ahead. Had I not noticed before? Across the road and down one block was a small barrack painted barn red. Next to it, a chain link fence. There was a gravel parking lot and four swings, a simple metal slide, a teeter-totter. I’d known it all first under a meter of snow. And where I was standing that night, still in my stage makeup, congratulatory roses in my arms, was only a few meters from where I’d once hidden behind the steering wheel of my parked car, thermos of peppermint tea in my hand, scouting out this intimidating but undeniably enticing new world, weighing the dangers of a thing called barnepark, considering the foreignness of this cold, impenetrable land.
Somewhere in the middle of the post show cast party we held at our home, I felt the same vice grip I’d had in that dressing room at the television studios. The whole Bradford clan, Melissa, Randall and their three children, and a dozen of the main players in the cast were gathered around our long Norwegian table, then watched taped footage of our closing performance of Josef. Claire bopped up and down in the lap of Anita-Marie. Parker was with Tormod and Per Trygve who’d played Jacob’s oldest sons, Reuben and Simeon, doing phrase-by-phrase translation from the Norwegian text to its English original he had learned when I’d done the show in New Jersey and this nine-year-old son, then three, had memorized the whole script. Dalton, now toddling sturdily, raided every last refreshment platter. Randall did crowd control and video machine duty while dispensing casual Norwegian one-liners to all our guests.
Here were the faces. Faces of real people whose language I spoke and whose humor I caught, whose regional accents I could identify, whose families I’d eaten with and worked with and sung with. These folks, they brought me a Thank You gift. A Thank You gift! . . .?. . .They said they wanted to thank me for helping with their show, for serving them. I tried to tell them nei, det er ikke lov! And that they forstår ikke. I tried, but know I never managed to tell them or Johanne or Britt from barnepark, or Bente or Pia or my whole loving church family, or Barbara or Sigrid from Nesøya Skole, or Ellen my jordmor, or Gunnil from barselgruppe, or the nameless conductor on the sinking Yamaha keyboard, or little Karolina or Louisa who’d checked my grammar as well as my sanity, or strawberry-blonde Jesper who’d just needed toilet paper, or my neighbor who’d hiked over my head and shoveled off my roof, or the many nameless but not faceless others who filled our Norway years – I know I never managed to tell them thank you and that nei, nei, nei, I had not done a thing for them. It was they and their country that had done endless much for my young family and for me.
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.