by Anne Ford
A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.
"I started singing in operas when I was nine. It was a regimented thing—very serious training. I'd go to the Lyric and be in whatever operas that there were children in, like La Bohème.
"By the time I was 12, I was picked to sing three solo lines opposite Luciano Pavarotti. He loved to goof around. We'd be backstage, and before the curtain went up he'd say, 'When you go out there, I want you to stick your tongue out.' He used to play basketball with the men's chorus—I remember him being in a purple jumpsuit.
"Then I discovered musical theater, and I said, 'Forget about opera.' I thought it was the most amazing thing, because you got to sing and dance and say lines. I got my Actors' Equity card by the time I was 14. To get your union card is a very big deal. To get it at 14 was a little nutty.
"When I turned 15, I got cast as Perón's mistress in Evita. I was at the theater for about five months, and then they said, 'We're taking the show on the road, and we want you to come.' So my whole sophomore year of high school, I was on the road with my mom.
"How much I was working was crazy. I got married at 24, and at 25 I went to Toronto to do Phantom of the Opera. Right after Phantom was over, I went home and got pregnant. After that, my husband toured in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Donny Osmond. By the time our daughter was one, we were on the road as a little show family. I wasn't performing; I was a stay-at-home mom. But then [Joseph] lost the understudy for the narrator—that's the lead girl role—so they cast me too. Donny, like Luciano, was a big kid. The first time I went onstage, he started jumping and up and down and shouting, 'You're doing so good!' I was like, 'The show is going on! What are you doing?'
"And after that, my husband got in Les Mis on Broadway. Unfortunately my marriage went nutty. The one time I didn't go on the road with him, he fell in love with his leading lady. I left him and grabbed our daughter, and we drove back home to Chicago. I nursed my wounds, and I was able to get back onstage, even though a lot of the theaters reminded me of my husband. I've got a new husband now; he's awesome. When my daughter went to college, I thought, 'I need to find something stable.'
"This nanny job fell into my lap. Performing was exciting—I still perform occasionally on weekends for a company called Redmink Productions—but this is something that's feeding my soul. I had done some nannying before, and I kind of feel like a child whisperer. In a way, I'm still performing; it's just that my audience is really small. I sing constantly to the little girl I nanny. Sometimes she'd turn to me when she first started talking and go, 'Jamie, no sing. No sing.'"