Wednesday , June 18, 2014 - 4:38 PM
PERRY — It is common to tell actors to “break a leg” instead of wishing “good luck” because of a stage superstition that wishing them good luck has the opposite effect.
But when Heritage Community Theatre’s leading lady really did break her leg, just one week before the show’s scheduled June 6th debut, opening night was moved to Friday the 13th, a night with a full moon, no less.
There was no time left for superstitions.
Karlie Clark, of Brigham City, was looking forward to her seventh show with the theater and said playing Millie was a dream role for her. But, after six weeks of hard work, she broke her foot at rehearsal. Her doctor told her she couldn’t bear weight on it for eight weeks.
Husband and wife, Dee and Nedra Pace of Willard, co-directed the show. One week after Clark broke her foot, as they were scrambling to remedy the situation, Nedra fell and broke her foot also.
“When they say ‘break a leg,’ we are trying not to take it too literally,” she joked.
Luckily, the Pace’s have six daughters who have all been heavily involved in theater. Two daughters were already helping with the show. They asked a third daughter, Hayley Pace Shaner, of North Ogden, to step in and take Clark’s place.
“I think the best word to use is stunned,” Shaner said of how she felt after receiving the phone call on a Sunday night asking if she thought she could learn the part in less than two weeks.
“I tried to think of whether or not it was something I could do,” Shaner recalled. “I work full-time and I have a 1-year-old son. I had to think of whether or not I could commit that kind of time.”
The clock was ticking for her to make a decision. In less than 24 hours, she was at the theater, meeting the cast and beginning to rehearse.
“After I talked it over with my husband, I decided it was something that I wanted to do,” she said.
The Pace’s first considered moving one of the brides into the lead role of Millie, but decided against it since it would create another hole to be filled.
The show is beautifully and carefully choreographed by their daughter, Katie Pace of Tooele. Nearly every scene with the brides includes lots of dancing in a tight space.
“We talked about who to pull out of the cast, and that just made things worse,” Nedra Pace said. “We decided with all of the dancing it was crucial to the safety of the show (not to replace Millie with a bride).”
When Shaner showed up to rehearsals, there was a collective sigh of relief.
“Everybody was really welcoming,” Shaner said. “They had wondered what was going to happen. They had worked so hard. It would be a shame to have to cancel it. Luckily, Millie had some dancing, but, not as much as the brides and brothers.”
Shaner was familiar with the show since she had performed in it twice as a “bride.” Once was back in junior high and the other was 15 years ago at the Heritage Theatre.
But it has been a number of years since she has been on stage at all. She stopped performing after she got busy working full-time and moved out of state, first to Idaho and then to Colorado. She moved back to Utah recently.
“It has been 8 years since I performed in anything,” Shaner said. “I questioned if I could still get up there and make it happen.”
After 10 evenings and more than 40 hours of rehearsing, and at least another hour each day running lines with her husband and other family members, Shaner pulled together a performance so convincing that most opening night audience members weren’t aware of the last minute change.
Shaner said she ran lines with her husband while getting ready for work in the morning, and practiced her songs in the shower or while completing household chores.
Shaner’s effort paid off, according to audience members. Sherry Phipps of Brigham City is a season ticket holder and regular patron at the theater. She was surprised to learn at intermission that Shaner was a replacement.
“She is amazing, you would think she has been doing this for months,” Phipps said.
Chris Macfarlane, also of Brigham City, agreed.
“I think she is doing a great job. I think they are all doing a great job.”
This particular show is one of Macfarlane’s favorites.
“I have seen this play many, many times, on TV and in St. Louis,” she said. “I love the music. I have never been disappointed at this theater. Their talent is remarkable.”
Clark sent her well wishes, via text, on opening night.
“Karlie was such a delight to work with and she was darling in the role,” said Dee Pace, of his injured lead. “Karlie was excellent, but Hayley was a quick study.”
Shaner said she felt really good about opening night and thinks the performances will only improve.
“It went really, really well, and we will continue to get better as we start to get into a rhythm,” she said.
It is too soon to tell if this re-introduction to theater will be lasting for Shaner.
“I definitely miss doing it and I love helping out,” she said. “It is a huge time commitment, but it is very rewarding. Who knows what the future holds?”
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