Newcomers: Thankful for the music

Every year, members of the McMinnville Newcomers’ Club strut their way through a fashion show. Sometimes they get gussied up and show off the latest looks for spring and summer. Sometimes they choose the humorous route, dressing to represent groups within the club, for instance, or walking the runway in costumes they’d never wear on the street.

This time they showed off not only their hemlines, but their dance steps and (virtual) vocal chops as they auditioned for a new musical, “Thank You for the Music,” starring Tom Cruise.

Unfortunately, the handsome actor couldn’t attend the auditions, Renee Lorenze told the 50 or so women gathered for the Feb. 13 event at Michelbook Country Club. Many of the guests were longtime club members, since Newcomers is open to anyone who wants to make friends and learn more about the community.

The auditions — and show — would go on even without Cruise, she said. “We expect him to catch up with us on tour.”

Lorenze introduced herself as the show’s “python wrangler.” That’s a real job in the entertainment industry, she said; it refers to the person responsible for sound and audio recording, because he or she must drag around huge, snake-size cables.

“That person can also be called the fixer, the best boy, the gaffer, the second-second or the director of chaos,” she noted, teasing that the latter title would have been very appropriate for a Newcomers’ Club function.

She handed the mic over to the fashionable director (Susan Neuman), who would be casting the show. Wearing sunglasses and feathers, the director looked more like 1970s Elton John than 2015 Isaac Mizrahi.

She said she was looking for a cast of high-end models, upscale gala types, chic Upper Eastsiders, WASP conservatives and experienced athletes. They needed to have the looks, the talent and the chutzpa, plus that little something-something that would make them stand out.

A pair of weather girls, — Pat Vaughn and Diane Bartsch — had the first audition spot. Wearing plastic raincoats over their pink and blue outfits, they gave an energetic performance of “It’s Raining Men.”

Like the other performers, they lip-synced to recorded vocals. The shimmies and shakes were all their own.

The casting studio’s own cleaning women begged to try out next, wheedling until the director threw up her hands in a “why not?” gesture. “Elton said there would be days like this,” she said.

The first cleaner (Jean Lierman) revealed herself to be much more with-it than she’d first appeared. “Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved,” she sang as she stripped off her ragged clothes and changed her hair from snarls to a stylish coif.

Her coworker (Joanne Premer) also did a big reveal, removing her housecoat to show off a shimmering blue cocktail dress. The blonde bombshell sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” hinting that the song had been made famous by her sister, an actress called Marilyn.

“It was a fun role to have,” Premere said later. “I love that kind of music.”

And her role may have been predestined: She discovered the sparkling dress in the back of her closet, where it had been hanging for 20 years. “It was just right,” she said. “You’ve got to have the glitz, you know.”

As the show went on, two tipsy tramps (show coordinators Ann Silverthorne and Monika Matthes)  reeled into the studio. Like everyone else, they were hoping for their chance in the spotlight.

“We’re a couple of swells,” they sang, careening around the stage and nearly knocking over tables.

Swells they were, but the director decided to continue looking for someone with star potential. And when a young woman (Marilyn Coats)  stopped by asking for directions, she found it.

The ingénue was quickly swept onto the stage to present the title song, “Thank You for the Music.”

“I’m nothing special ... but I have a talent, a wonderful thing, ‘cause everyone listens when I start to sing....” she pretended to sing.

The other cast members formed a chorus line behind her, high kicking to the Abba tune.