"To the left!"
"To your right!"
"Straight into the lens!"
Countless calls from photographers could surprisingly be heard over the screaming fans behind them as they fight to get a picture of the star, smiling their megawatt smile. They held that pose while listening to the paparazzi orders (for once) before heading over to an interviewer.
"How does it feel to be at this highly anticipated Broadway revival?" Kristin Dos Santos asked the guest.
"It feels great. And I didn't know Dylan Armstrong was part of the main cast until a few nights ago and he and I go a long way back so I can't wait to see him perform."
24th May 2017. Also known as the opening night of the revival of Memphis. After it closed in late 2011, there were many petitions to get it back on Broadway and, unlike many appeals, it was listened to and began auditions in mid 2014. And that's where Dylan Armstrong comes in to play. After graduating from McKinley High and moving to New York, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts where he graduated as one of the top of his class. He internally thanked his high IQ, his natural talent and his determination levels of getting him through it.
After AADA, he started doing workshops and auditions. And one of the first projects he auditioned for was the Broadway revival of Memphis. He had auditioned for the role of Huey Calhoun, a role Dylan had always been drawn to when it came to searching for jobs with his agent. He had searched through countless jobs for months but it always somehow ended up back to Memphis so he went for it. He had gone through a grueling 3 month audition and deduction process where he sang, danced and acted his heart out and he eventually got the part under one condition: he matured his look a little bit.
Around the time of his final audition, he had the same spiked up blonde hair and clean shaven face. He wasn't surprised considering Memphis goes through a timeline and you need to look mature for the part of Huey.
So he went home that night and cut his hair so it was very short and he started growing facial hair. Pretty soon he had a 5 o'clock shadow and when it came to production, the directors couldn't be more than happy. And the new Huey Calhoun was born.
He had to admit, unlike what most Broadway actors and actresses would say, working on Broadway was easier than he thought. Maybe he thinks that because he completely focuses on the show and everything revolving around the show but then he thinks it just comes naturally to him before laughing at himself a little for thinking that and learning the songs for the show. And he had met some really cool people while going through the process of piecing the show together. Especially his Felicia Farrell co star: Shanica Knowles. Dylan had only seen her on a few TV shows before he found out she was playing Felicia but he knew that she was talented. And the compliment was always returned to Dylan, especially with his singing and his accent. Dylan still doesn't remember how he learned to do a Tennessee accent or how he did it in his auditions and his read-throughs but he still did it and according to the cast and crew, he did it well. And everyone has done everything well leading up to the show premiere.
"Oh, wow. How far back exactly?" Kristin asked.
"We were in the same year in high school and we were in glee club together." The interviewee asked.
"Glee club? Oh wow." Kristin replied, uncertainly.
"Now I know what you're thinking but we won National titles that were very acclaimed prizes with that glee club." The girl replied and Kristin nodded.
"Alright. And you've come very far and maybe it helped with your performance abilities. Kristin reasoned and Rachel nodded.
"So Rachel, you're currently on Broadway yourself as Eva Peron in Evita at the Booth Theatre. How is it playing such a demanding role?" Kristin asked.
"You know, I've always wanted to play that role when I was 4 years old and I'm just honored to be playing it today. It's such a big role to play but I'm glad that the people behind the show trust me with the role." Rachel said and Kristin smiled.
"So, how were you invited to this event?" she then asked.
"I actually received a personal invitation from Shanica Knowles who plays Felicia. I got a letter and it was from her saying that I was so talented, so inspiring to her' and she wanted me to come and see the performance. I was honored and humbled so I couldn't say no."
"And of course, your other high school classmates and glee club members have had success on Broadway too: Jack Harmon being in bare: A Pop Opera and now he's in Catch Me If You Can, where he's nominated for a Tony award for Leading Actor. Of course you have been nominated for Leading Actress. Mitchell Mason plays Tunny in American Idiot where he's nominated for a Featured Actor award at the Tony's. And now Dylan Armstrong being in Memphis. What next? Was Billy Elliot in your glee club too?" Kristin asked laughing and Rachel had to laugh along with the E! interviewer before saying goodbye to Kristin and heading off. Once out of sight, she reached into her bag for her cell phone and proceeded to create a text.
Please try and ignore questions involving glee club and B.E (in the same sentence) from Kristin Dos Santos! And by the way – don't ask!
After saying goodbye to Jonathan Groff and Kurt, who were getting on like a house on fire, Rachel went and sat down in her reserved seat in the second row of the theatre. She watched as many famous faces scattered around her and sat down in their seats before the lights dimmed down and the play started. And soon enough the larger than life Dylan Armstrong appeared into view, speaking with a Tennessee twang that left Rachel wondering if that was really Dylan. But when he started singing 'The Music Of My Soul', Rachel was reassured it was him. It had been 5 years since Rachel had last heard Dylan sing but she would recognise that voice anywhere. It still had that richness, that honey smooth texture to it with a little bit of voluntary rock'n'roll grit whenever he needed it. Rachel thought it might have changed with his appearance. The Broadway starlet had to admit that Dylan looked exceptionally attractive onstage. He had grown some stubble and cut his hair. He did look attractive at school but this was taking things to a whole new level. And when Dylan and Shanica performed 'Ain't Nothin' But A Kiss', Rachel felt this awful feeling bubbling in the pit of her stomach that she couldn't figure out what it was. But all that she knew was that it intensified greatly when they kissed.
Rachel thought Act I was amazing but her highlight had to be in Act II: when Dylan performed 'Memphis Lives In Me'. The raw emotion he put into that performance was breathtaking. It was like his original song at Regionals in their junior year but more experience. And more power and Rachel couldn't help but stand up in applause for the young blonde man. She wasn't alone. Everyone in the theatre stood up with her as Dylan ended the song and Rachel could tell he wanted to just bow and cry but he had to stay in character for the rest of the show.
"The name is Huey Calhoun! Goodnight and HOCKADOO!" Dylan called out as the last chord of 'Steal Your Rock 'n' Roll' rang throughout the theatre and soon enough, everyone in the theatre was on their feet wildly applauding the cast. Everyone soon headed onstage and took their bows, the ensemble first, and then the supporting characters and then Shanica and Dylan took to the front and bowed. Shanica then took a bow before gesturing to Dylan who laughed before bowing as he heard one voice run through his head. The applauding and calling of Rachel Berry. And as all of the cast headed to the front and bowed, he then pointed to Rachel and applauded before heading offstage.
"Miss Rachel Berry! To what do we owe the pleasure?" Robert Longbottom asked as he stopped in the middle of a backstage corridor.
Robert knew Rachel from the Broadway circuit and he was also the director of the Memphis revival. Rachel just smiled at the man as he pushed his rectangular rimmed glasses.
"I just want to see Dylan Armstrong." Rachel replied and Robert smiled.
"I heard your E! interview. You were right next to me on the red carpet. How long has it been since you last saw him?" he asked.
"It was our high school graduation 5 years ago." Rachel replied and Robert nodded.
"I'll take you to his dressing room." He said before leading Rachel down a few corridors before it came to a door with a sign that said 'Dylan Armstrong' on it with musical notes drew around it. Rachel couldn't help but smile at this as Robert motioned at Rachel to wait before he knocked on the door and headed in.
"Hey! Great show tonight." She heard Robert say.
"Oh, thanks Rob. I really felt a rush of adrenaline up there. It was incredible." Dylan replied and Rachel couldn't help but smile. His voice had gotten a little deeper but other than that, it hadn't changed a bit.
"Speaking of incredible, I have a visitor for you." Robert said and Rachel's smile grew.
"Oh, cool. As long as it's not that crazy stalker last week during previews, send them in." Dylan replied and Rachel let out a little giggle before Robert reappeared and smiled before signaling Rachel in. Rachel mouthed a thank you before heading in.
His dressing room was strangely similar to her own. Littered with Broadway playbills and posters but he also had posters of either his role models: James Morrison, Lifehouse and a picture of electric guitars, or people he's infatuated with: Mickie James, Allison Iraheta and Megan Fox. And for some reason, there was a picture of her posing for promotional posters for Evita.
Beneath all of the playbills and posters, lay a desk with many products on the top and a classical mirror with lightbulbs lit up around the perimeter. And opposite that desk and mirror was a chair. And sitting in that chair was a certain Dylan Armstrong. He was sipping on a bottle of what looked to be water but with her 20/20 vision, Rachel could see the frothing above it. Club soda. He really hasn't changed has he?
Dylan looked into the mirror and in the reflection, saw the flawless figure of Rachel Berry. He couldn't help but smile before turning around.
"Well, well, well Gold Star. How long has it been?" Dylan said, standing up. Rachel could only smile and let out a laugh as she walked over and the Broadway stars embraced.
"I expected you to be on Broadway but Memphis never crossed my mind." Rachel said after the hug was broken.
"If I'm honest, neither did I when looking for roles but I always looked back at it and now I'm glad I took it." Dylan said before sitting back down, gesturing Rachel to sit in another chair situated at the side of the room. Rachel smiled before sitting down and facing Dylan.
"So am I. I got to see you perform again. I must admit that I missed you after graduation. I'm glad I get to see you again. And you were amazing onstage." Rachel replied and she swore she saw Dylan's cheeks redden as he laughed and looked down.
"Thanks." He said before reaching for his bottle of club soda and taking a swig.
"And I saw you in Evita in February. You were incredible. Blew me away. Have you seen Kurt, Jack and Mitchell in their shows?" Dylan asked. Rachel nodded.
"I've seen Jack, of course: he literally called me every night since opening to come and see the show, and Mitchell but I haven't had the chance to see Kurt yet." Rachel replied.
"Rach: you have to see him. He's amazing. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried." Dylan said and Rachel smiled.
"Yes, well. I personally am very excited for the Tony awards." Rachel said, changing the subject. Dylan's eyes brightened.
"Yeah! Congratulations on the nomination. I told Mitchell and Jack the same and while Mitchell hugged me and said thanks, which was expected, Jack shook my hand. I swear I thought he was either brainwashed or a long lost twin." Dylan said and Rachel let out a laugh.
"Thanks. And I'm supposed to be performing as well but I can't decide what song I want to perform." Rachel said.
"Rachel Berry can't decide on a song?" Dylan asked, feigning shock and putting a hand over his heart. Rachel rolled her eyes and smiled, which Dylan returned.
"I'm supposed to be singing too and I've been given free reign but again I can't decide. And as soon as I change and head back to my apartment, I shall be going over songs to sing. Why don't you come with me? It would be better to choose a Broadway song with someone who has more Broadway knowledge than me." Dylan said and Rachel grinned.
"I would be honored." Rachel said and Dylan smiled.
After casting sneaky glances at Dylan's finely toned abdomen while he changed shirts, Rachel and Dylan headed out the back door and signed some stuff for fans as well as photos, with Rachel being another big Broadway star, before heading back to his apartment. It was a very simple yet modern apartment with the brick walls, the dark furniture. But the bit that stood out was how small it was. The bedroom was visible above the kitchen area with stairs leading to it.
"Make yourself at home." Dylan said as he removed his shoes and headed up the stairs leading to the bedroom. Rachel sat on the oak brown sofa, propping herself up on the dark red cushions as Dylan headed back downstairs with a Macbook Air in hand.
"Alright. Now, I'm looking for a kind of mid tempo number that shows off my range." Dylan said before sitting next to Rachel and opening his Macbook which Rachel closed and put down.
"…or not." Dylan drew out, slowly turning to Rachel.
"Listen. You've just saw someone, moderately close to you in high school, again for the first time in five years. I believe that when that happens, you should talk to them about what's been happening when you get the chance." Rachel said and Dylan looked shocked before his lips curled into a smile.
"Well it sounds like you haven't changed at all." He said and Rachel smiled.
"I couldn't say the same for you. Why did you change your look? Not that it's negative thing because it's definitely, most definitely a positive thing but-" Rachel said before noticing that Dylan quirked an eyebrow. Rachel could only let out a nervous cross between a laugh and a sigh.
"Yes, you're right. I haven't changed. But back to my point: why did you change it?" Rachel asked.
"Well when I auditioned for Memphis, at my final audition they said that I could work with them if I matured my look a little bit…"
They spent 2 and a half hours alternating between drinking, eating the take out they ordered and talking to each other about what happened since graduation with Rachel explaining on how she got into Evita and other shows she's been in ever since she started as Ivy in bare: A Pop Opera. And with Dylan saying how he has lead workshops in Juilliard and other dance schools and some Off-Broadway productions he did before trying for Broadway shows, where he mentioned he tried for Tunny in American Idiot but, ironically, Mitchell Mason ended up getting the part.
"But to be honest I'm not surprised he got the part: I saw his final audition and he really brought it out of the bag. I thought he would get Johnny but Tunny is still a great role. And he does a good job playing it." Dylan said and Rachel nodded before looking to Dylan. She had noticed some type of energy radiating off of both of them and with Dylan shifting every now and then, Rachel knew he felt it too. And then when Dylan turned to lock his pale blue eyes with Rachel's chocolate brown ones, they suddenly found their faces inches apart.
"Please tell me you're single otherwise this would be very immoral." Rachel whispered and Dylan smiled.
"Apparently I'm one of 'Broadway's Most Wanted Bachelors'." Dylan replied, a hand snaking up to cup Rachel's cheek.
"And I'm one of 'Broadway's Most Wanted Bachelorettes'." Rachel replied, a tanned hand snaking around Dylan's waist.
"I know. I saw. You were the same ranking as me." The man huskily replied before their lips molded together.
They had somehow made it to the double bed upstairs with their bodies still soldered together and with the removal of clothes, the cursing, the breathing of each other's names and the holding of each other in the aftermath, Rachel Berry felt one with Dylan Armstrong and she never wanted to let that feeling go. Just before she drifted off, she heard Dylan say something.
"I think it's fair to say that we're doing a duet at the Tony's." he whispered and Rachel let out a laugh before the fatigue of the previous events took over.
Saturday 10th June 2017.
71st Tony Awards.
Radio City Music Hall.
"Please welcome to the stage: Leading Actor and Supporting Actor Tony winners: Jack Harmon and Mitchell Mason." The MC said and the two men walked out in black suits. They smiled to the audience before Jack spoke into the microphone.
"While winning are awards is a big achievement for the both of us, we want you all to be reminded of how we win the awards." He said before Mitchell began to speak.
"And who better to sing their hearts out than two of our high school friends, now on Broadway as Huey Calhoun in Memphis and Eva Peron in Evita." He said before Jack spoke again.
"Here to sing 'As Long As You're Mine' from Wicked, Rachel Berry and Hap- Dylan Armstrong!" Jack said before the music started and a light shone on the stage to see them stood facing each other. Rachel put her microphone to her lips and began to sing.
Kiss me too fiercely
Hold me too tight
I need help believing
You're with me tonight
My wildest dreamings
Could not foresee
Lying beside you
With you wanting me
And just for this moment
As long as you're mine
I've lost all resistance
And crossed some border line
And if it turns out
It's over too fast
I'll make every last moment last
As long as you're mine
Dylan smiled as Rachel sang before lifting the microphone to sing his part.
Maybe I'm brainless
Maybe I'm wise
But you've got me seeing
Through different eyes
Somehow I've fallen
Under your spell
And somehow I'm feeling
It's up that I fell
Rachel then joined in.
As long as you're mine
I'll wake up my body
And make up for lost time
Dylan sang his solo lines before they joined in for the last chorus.
Say there's no future
For us as a pair
And though I may know
I don't care
Just for this moment
As long as you're mine
Come be how you want to
And see how bright we shine
Borrow the moonlight
Until it is through
And know I'll be here holding you
As long as you're mine
Dylan then looked to Rachel.
"What is it?" he asked and Rachel smiled.
"It's just for the first time, I feel…wicked." She said and Dylan mirrored a smile before they leaned in and their lips gently locked to the applause of the crowd. And that was the first of many times throughout many years that their bodies met, only all the times after that and a few times before, they were made with declarations of love to each other.
Okay, so the mystery lady was Rachel Barbra Berry. Surprised?
Here's a picture of the older Dylan: plixi .com/p/96218465
I'm a little disappointed at the length of this but it was pretty difficult to write. Let me guys know your thoughts by reviewing :)
And the title is from the Howie Day song 'Collide', which is being used in a future chapter of He's Alive. Watch that space.