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SINGING : A Star Is Born? : Tryouts for 'The Sound of Music' are here. You've had your voice lessons. Now all that's left is the yodeling. In public.

February 21, 1991

So you're the type who is most confident singing in the privacy of your own shower, gripping your Soap-on-a-Rope microphone with both hands as you belt out "I Did It My Way."

You sing at the top of your lungs to rock songs on your car radio, becoming the object of concern for other drivers who drop back and allow you to pass.

In the privacy of your living room, with curtains tightly drawn, you play air guitar and lip-sync to your only Milli Vanilli album--much as they did.

You are, in short, a closet performer. The mere mention of singing in public causes your heart to accelerate fast enough to evade radar detection. Even the thought of radical leg waxing seems better than singing before an audience.

But what happens when you learn of the Cabrillo Music Theater's auditions for "The Sound of Music"--the movie version of which you watched each year throughout childhood, living vicariously through Julie Andrews? You come out of the shower, that's what. But auditioning for the play means singing. In public.

You retreat to your favorite sanctuary--a doughnut shop--wolf down doughnut holes and consider the pros and cons of trying out for the part of Maria:

* Pro: It means a shot at local stardom.

* Con: It means singing in public.

* Pro: It means the possibility of basking in the adoration of a standing ovation at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium after you and your stage family have climbed the Alps to freedom.

* Con: It still means singing in public.

The pros outweigh the cons by about a paragraph, so you gather your wits and what courage you have and prepare for glory. With the audition several months away, you check in with singing coach Linda Ottsen. You figure that you need all the help you can get and are willing to pay for it.

Your lessons with Linda cover what you need: breath-control, diction and voice-developing exercises. You are certain she is just being kind when she compliments you on your singing.

But when she says you might have a chance for callbacks-- theater's version of the semifinals--you begin to feel great. It seems that "The Lonely Goatherd," a yodeling song, is your strongest suit.

So you yodel. And yodel. And yodel. You yodel every week until you are yodeling in your sleep.

"Good! That's good!" Linda says. "I don't think anyone else will sing that song at auditions."

You hope not. It has become, after all, your ticket to stardom. A week before auditions, you go through your closet, looking for something similar to what Maria might wear. No luck. You consider making clothes from your drapes, like Maria does in the movie.

Four hours before the audition, you fast, hoping to lose the doughnut holes that have glued themselves to your insides. It doesn't work.

Finally, it's time, and you find yourself sitting in the Oxnard Civic Auditorium trying to radiate confidence as you covertly check out the other Maria wanna-bes.

So intent are you in trying to psyche out the opposing team that you fail to hear the director, Sean Moran, call your name. He calls it again and you leap to your feet, the sheet music falling to the floor. You haven't had a chance to freshen up, fix your lipstick or even hike up your slip so it doesn't show. Up to the stage you trudge and give your music to Linda, who has agreed to accompany you on the piano. Then you step to center stage.

The music begins and you turn to face the audience. Suddenly, you are singing. The words are flowing out of nowhere, which gives you the chance to notice how hot the lights are. Your throat constricts so tightly that you're amazed that anything is coming out. At one point, you remember to pull in your stomach, but can't help but wonder if your bra strap is showing. Your voice quavers in places, and you have to strain to reach the high notes of the yodels. It is nothing at all like the polished performances you've been giving in Linda's living room.

Finally, it is over, and the audience is applauding. You collect your music from Linda, who gives you a one-word evaluation of your performance. "Nerves," she says. The understatement of the year, you think to yourself.

You return to your seat, next to fellow auditioner Jennifer Quinlan of Ventura. "So quick and yet so painful," she says sympathetically. Another understatement.

But you did it, and you are rather proud of that. You wait with great anticipation for the director to phone you the next day to ask you to attend callbacks. He doesn't.

Crushed, you return to your haven, gathering solace from doughnut holes. Not all, it turns out, was lost in the audition effort. The play's producer wants you to be one of the nuns, which gives you hope. And you have those $500 worth of singing lessons that will give you a decided edge over future competitors. You are, after all, the best damn yodeler in Ventura County.

* THE PREMISE

There are plenty of things you have never tried. Fun things, dangerous things, character-building things. The Reluctant Novice tries them for you and reports the results. After all, the Novice gets paid to do them--and has no choice in the matter. If you want to tell the Novice where to go, please call us at 658-5547. If we use your idea, we'll send you a present.

This week's Reluctant Novice is free-lance writer Karen McKean.

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