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I Sneezed a Sneeze

I didn’t know how much my sneeze would change the theater world when it first happened. In fact, I thought it would ruin everything I had ever worked for in an instant. I soon realized, however, that I was wrong.

I was desperate for the part of Fantine in Les Miserables. Although it was my first Broadway audition, I had gotten a callback. I was ecstatic when I received the e-mail; I leapt up for joy and almost twisted my ankle. I hadn’t even read the e-mail beyond “CONGRATULATIONS!” at first, but when I eventually did, our instructions were simple: ‘Sing all of “I Dreamed a Dream” and make it your own.’ I worked for weeks perfecting everything – my acting, vocals, and costume – and the day of the audition, I really thought I was ready.

I was very nervous on audition day. I was shaking and thought I had developed laryngitis but then I found out it was just my dog barking and me over-thinking.

I didn’t even remember how I arrived at the theater – it was all a big blur up until I got onto the stage. At that point, the director greeted me and told me to begin whenever I was ready by cuing the pianist.

I took a deep breath, cued the pianist, and began singing. Immediately, I noticed there was a problem – I desperately needed to sneeze. I tried to control it and my voice started to wobble. Once I thought the urge had passed, I was ready for my big belt at the end. It was then that the sneeze came.

The pianist abruptly stopped, and I started to stutter, attempting to apologize and feeling a new urge, a stronger urge, come over me – I wanted to cry. The greatest moment of horror was when the director stood up, shouting with intensity “that’s it!”

The tears began streaming down my face and he said, “that is exactly what we’re looking for! A whole new twist on a classic musical! We could make it about the horror of sinus infections! Incredible! I’m so glad I thought of that! Johnny, why aren’t you taking notes? You’re fired! Thank you so much, umm…Anne, is that your name? You’ve got the part!”

I was stunned by this all, but managed to choke out “thank you” while shaking his hand.

From that moment on, my life became a crazy mix of rehearsals, interviews, press releases, and traveling around the country promoting this new musical, “Les Miserables Sinusite.”

On opening night, I got a standing ovation for my heart-wrenching performance of “I Sneezed a Sneeze,” Isabelle blew the roof off with her performance of “Cough Drop on a Cloud,” and Samantha brought the audience to tears when she sang “On My Nose.”

The night we won the Tony Award for Best Musical Production, all of America was impressed by our production of “Master of the Cold.”

In our acceptance speech, I expressed to everyone how thankful I was for the part of Fantine, and how no one should ever hold in their sneezes because they can change your life.



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