Opus Book Review

I am flattered to have been recently recognized on Opus Book Review’s Facebook page.

We are such a fan of author L.M. Nelson and her book series titled “Scrubs”. Thought we might share the outstanding cover art of her 4th book in the series, Center Stage, because it is outstanding, right? We are also very excited to hear about a new project she is working on and look forward to sharing it with you!

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As a matter of fact, why not share ALL of the fantastic new cover art for all of the books in author L.M. Nelson’s Scrubs series? We love her and think you will, too. Take a little time to get to know a little bit more about her and her work by checking out her website, https://lmnelsonscorner.wordpress.com/. The second book in the Scrubs series, Sand & Sutures and the one that I have had the great opportunity to read and review, was recently voted 2017 Texas Authors Best Medical Fiction book of the year and well deserved! If you have a few minutes, take a look at our review of Sand & Sutures on our website, https://opusbookreview.wixsite.com/opus. We are looking forward to reading and reviewing all the books in L.M. Nelson’s book series, Scrubs! Opus has also added a new Featured Indie Author series and L.M. Nelson has so graciously agreed to be our first Indie Author feature, so please keep a look out for that as well. I hope everyone is having a GREAT Saturday!

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Cover Reveal – Center Stage

Here it is. The long awaited cover reveal for Center Stage, the fourth and final book in the Scrubs series.

Center Stage 3 full RGB for web display

Here’s an overview:

New York City—a thriving metropolis full of dreams. The bright lights of Times Square, the billboard posters promoting the latest musicals, and the theatre marquees up and down Broadway attract millions of theatre lovers every year. Lauren Hanson was no exception.

Prior to moving to New York, Lauren made every effort to make her dream of performing on Broadway a reality. She enrolled in dance classes, took voice lessons, and participated in various acting workshops. Now in her first year at the Juilliard School, she seeks to improve her craft and work her way into the professional world of musical theatre. A Broadway performer named Roger Zellers steers her in the right direction. His assistance becomes tainted, however, when a blast from his past tries to sabotage Lauren’s career. Harassment, lies, and openly violent threats make Lauren question Roger’s intentions.

While Lauren pursues the glamor of the Great White Way, Lauren’s twin sister tries to establish herself as a reputable choreographer. Having connections with Roger comes in handy when he asks her for a special favor. Through Roger, she meets other professionals, gains a new following, and finds potential love. But will her fairytale come true, or will her plans crumble to pieces in the hustle and bustle of New York City?

Author Confessions Round 31

Here it is, the final author’s confession post. Rather than pitching Center Stage, I’ll give a brief synopsis, which I DETEST writing, by the way.

Anyway, here it is.  Center Stagebook 4 in the Scrubs series.

New York City—a thriving metropolis full of dreams. The bright lights of Times Square, the billboard posters promoting the latest musicals, and the theatre marquees up and down Broadway attract millions of theatre lovers every year. Lauren Hanson was no exception.

Prior to moving to New York, Lauren made every effort to make her dream of performing on Broadway a reality. She enrolled in dance classes, took voice lessons, and participated in various acting workshops. Now in her first year at the Juilliard School, she seeks to improve her craft and work her way into the professional world of musical theatre. A Broadway performer named Roger Zellers steers her in the right direction. His assistance becomes tainted, however, when a blast from his past tries to sabotage Lauren’s career. Harassment, lies, and openly violent threats make Lauren question Roger’s intentions.

While Lauren pursues the glamor of the Great White Way, Lauren’s twin sister tries to establish herself as a reputable choreographer. Having connections with Roger comes in handy when he asks her for a special favor. Through Roger, she meets other professionals, gains a new following, and finds potential love. But will her fairytale come true, or will her plans crumble to pieces in the hustle and bustle of New York City?

Meet the Characters – Part 14

We continue to meet the characters of Center Stage.  Today I introduce you to Max.

Full name:  Max Savon Chamberlain

Age: 25

Physical Description: 5’10”, muscular, athletic. Has a 9/11 memorial tattoo on his left shoulder

Hometown:  Chicago, IL. Currently lives in Brooklyn, NY

Family:  Father is the Chicago fire chief.

Education:  New York City Fire Academy

Occupation: New York City firefighter

Hobbies: dancing, swimming, weight lifting, riding his Harley on the open highway

Favorite things:  his 1966 pinhead softail Harley Davidson motorcycle, a good beer, the New York Yankees, Rottweilers, fire engines

Favorite Places: dancehalls, the gym, Harley showrooms, single’s bars

Music Preference: Rock

Relationship Status:  Single

Weaknesses:  Has difficulty maintaining relationships. Struggles to express his emotions.

Character traits:  Caring individual with a protective nature. Goes out of his way to help those in need. Stands up for his beliefs. Humble. Dedicated to his job. Loyal friend. Pie junkie.

For other character bios, see links below.

Lauren    Lacy    Roger    Gabby    Nathan

Meet the Characters – Part 13

With the upcoming release of book 4 in my series, Center Stage, I would like to introduce you to two characters you will meet in this book. The first is Roger Zellers.

Full name:  Roger Alan Zellers

Age: 28

Physical Description: athletic build, muscular physique (body of a dancer), brown hair, hazel eyes

Hometown:  Owego, NY. Currently lives in New York City.

Family:  Father’s name is Gary. Mother is Sharon. Older brother, Peter Zellers.

Education: Took piano lessons as a child, starting at age five. Many years of dance training, voice lessons, and acting classes. Proficient in Standard British, Cockney, Irish, Australian, Brooklyn, and American Southern dialect. Dance styles include ballet, jazz, latin, contemporary, modern, swing, and various ballroom dances. Expert tap dancer. Has had formal stage combat training.

Occupation: Professional theatrical performer. Broadway credits include Newsies, Cats, Radio City Music Hall Tap Extravaganza, Sophisticated Ladies, Memphis, A Broadway Christmas Carol, Les Miserables, Chicago.

Hobbies: playing the piano, dancing, cooking, reading

Favorite things: performing on stage, tap dancing, poetry, classic literature, film noir movies, a good glass of wine, Mexican cuisine, Phantom of the Opera, classic theatre, modern art, sports cars, and fishing. Dedicated NY Knicks, Yankees, and Syracuse fan.

Inspired by: Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Hines, Bill Robinson, George and Ira Gershwin, Elton John

Favorite Places: the theatre, the beach, Central Park, piano showrooms, art museums

Music Preference: blues, jazz, classic rock, show tunes. Favorite song: Bohemian Rhapsody

Relationship Status:  Single and seeking

Weaknesses:  Forgetful – regularly loses cellphone and keys. Insecure in relationships.

Pet Peeves:  Selfishness, intolerance, and cruelty.

Character traits:  Generous with time and money and regularly donates to charitable organizations. Active in Broadway Cares fundraising efforts. Donates toys, food, jackets, gloves, and blankets to homeless shelters, children’s homes, and children’s hospitals. Genuinely cares about people. Outgoing personality, happy disposition, playful, enjoys life. Randomly dances or sings in public. Well-articulated, poised, confident, charismatic. Supports fellow performers and is knowledgeable about the business end of Broadway. Adopted a Scottish Terrier named Oliver.

For other character bios, see links below.

Gabby   Nathan    Lacy    Lauren    Max

Author Confessions Round 22

 In Center Stage, my main male character, Roger Zellers, falls in love with Lauren Hanson, a woman ten years younger than he is. Throughout their relationship, he struggles to gain the trust of  Dr. Hanson (Lauren’s father). One of my favorite scenes is a bonding moment the two of them share, which makes them both realize that they have much more in common than they thought they did.  Knowing Dr. Hanson enjoys fishing, Roger invites him to spend the day on the lake tossing in lines. Roger starts off the morning by bringing him a cup of coffee, something Dr. Hanson dearly loves. Then, once Dr. Hanson sees and admires his sportscar, Roger hands him the keys and lets him drive. They cruise to the lake, discussing various things, at which time Roger reveals something to Dr. Hanson that he hadn’t even told Lauren.

“Lauren’s lucky she has such supportive and loving parents. Not everyone can say that,” Roger said. “My mother is very supportive of me, as is Gary, but unfortunately I never knew my biological father.”

“Really? Why is that?”

Roger proceeded to explain, “My father was Lieutenant Andrew Zellers, United States Air Force. He was a test pilot. One day during a routine test flight, the engine of his plane malfunctioned.  He was unable to recover from it and his plane went down. Killed him on impact.  My mother was six months pregnant with me at the time, so I never knew my father.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s alright,” Roger claimed. “Gary’s a good man. My mother met him when I was young, and they married when I was eight years old. He’s the only father I’ve ever known.”

“It’s good to have someone like that in your life who was willing to take on being a father figure for you.”

Roger agreed. “Yes. I’m very grateful.”

When they returned to New York City, Dr. Hanson acknowledges, in his own subtle way, his newly gained trust in Roger.

Before they went their separate ways, Dr. Hanson shook Roger’s hand. “I had a great time today. Thank you, Roger.”

“Any time, Sir. Thank you for listening to the story about my father.”

“I feel honored that you shared it with me,” he replied. “Thank you also for looking after Lauren. I feel a lot safer knowing she has you here.”

All those months of working to gain Dr. Hanson’s trust finally paid off. “It’s my pleasure, Sir.”

Author Confessions Round 18

I have several quotes from my WIP that I like, but this one sums up Nathan’s experience with medical school pretty well. The quote is powerful and has significant meaning for Nathan because his father is the one who says it to him.

 

“People will constantly question your reliability and expertise as a physician. If you think for one second that every single patient or family member or fellow physician is going to trust your medical judgment and rely on your word, you are gravely mistaken. That is not the way medicine works. Cases are not always easy, patients are not always cooperative, and quite frankly you are not always going to know the answers. I am helping you see the cold, hard reality of what this profession encompasses. I’ll be damned if I’m going to fluff this up for you and let you take the easy way out. You are smarter and more capable than that, and I could not, on my good conscience, send you down the easy path and allow you to settle for mere mediocrity. So don’t hand me this poor Nathan crap. Grow some balls, be a damn doctor, and deal with it.”

Author Confessions Round 1

I’ve accepted a 31-day author confessions challenge. The day to day challenges are listed below.

I’ll begin with the first challenge-Who is your favorite character in your WIP?

My favorite character in my current work in progress is my main male, Roger Zellers. Roger has been a professional actor, singer, and dancer on Broadway for the last eight years. He was born and raised in upstate New York and spent his whole life taking dance classes, theatre training, and voice and piano lessons. He’s performed on stage since he was five years old and has earned a couple of Tony nominations, winning one for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

Roger is my favorite character in my current book for several reasons. First, he’s a down to earth guy who enjoys life and is fun to hang out with. He’s also multi-talented, has a playful sense of humor, and randomly blurts out showtunes or tap dances down the streets of New York City. Although he’s recognized for his immeasurable talents, he’s humble and goes out of his way to support other entertainers rather than promote himself. Most importantly, he’s benevolent and compassionate. It’s not unusual for him to donate large sums of money to various charities. He’s actively involved in the Broadway Cares Foundation, donates toys to the Toys For Tots program, and is often seen providing food, blankets, shoes, and jackets to the homeless. He sings Christmas songs with sick children at children’s hospitals or the children’s shelter and volunteers his time and talent to various fundraising efforts. He even adopts an abandoned dog to keep him from freezing to death.

Roger does have a past, however, which he doesn’t like to talk about. His biological father died before he was born, he had a bit of a reckless youth, and he’s been in his fair share of bad relationships. He’s friendly and kind, but has a hard time trusting people. It takes a long time to get him to open up to you. Once he does though, he’s loyal and supportive.

Roger is first introduced in the first scene of Center Stage, where he’s returning to the Ambassador Theatre to retrieve the cellphone he had mistakenly left behind. That’s where he encounters Lauren, one of the main female characters in the last book of my series. Here’s an excerpt:

Theater is a calling, an art, and the Juilliard School in New York City was one of the most respected and renowned places in the world to perfect this art. Known for its rigorous program and extensive admission requirements, Juilliard only accepted eight to ten new candidates into the actor training program each year.  Ever since she was a little girl, Lauren Hanson dreamed of singing on a Broadway stage. Gaining admittance into Juilliard led her one step closer to fulfilling that dream.

This year’s incoming freshmen had the opportunity to go on an educational tour through various theatres in New York City. While touring the Ambassador Theatre, Lauren and her classmates were invited to act out impromptu or monologue on the stage if they wanted to. But Lauren didn’t do either of those things. Instead, she confidently stood before an empty house and belted out the song ‘Defying Gravity’ from the musical Wicked.

Roger Zellers, a professional Broadway actor, was backstage retrieving his cellphone when he heard Lauren’s heavenly voice echo through the theatre. He roamed onto the stage wing to investigate. Standing center stage, singing her heart out, was an incredibly attractive young woman wearing a Juilliard tee-shirt and jeans. He watched in rapt attention, mesmerized by the intense emotion she projected through her performance. He had to find out who this woman was.

When the class was about to exit the theatre, Roger intercepted her at the door. “Excuse me, Ma’am?”

Lauren turned around. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry. I know you don’t know me, but I just heard you sing, and you have the most beautiful voice I have ever heard.”

She offered him a small, shy smile. “Thank you.”

“I am correct to assume that you’re a student at Juilliard?”

“Yes, I am.”

He extended an open palm and graciously shook her hand. “I’m Roger Zellers, and if you’d allow me, I’d like to offer my assistance.”

“Assistance with what?”

“I would like to provide you with an opportunity that will help you gain exposure and allow you to meet and work with people in the Broadway community.”

She asked for clarification. “What do you mean?”

“I’m an actor currently doing a show here at the Ambassador. I happen to know that the manager of this theatre is looking to hire theatre arts students as interns. You’ll be behind the scenes during productions, you’ll get to work directly with Broadway performers, and you’ll learn a few tricks of the trade. It’ll get your foot in the door, and people will get to know you. I’d like to give your name to the manager. You certainly captured my attention, I know you’ll capture hers as well. You interested?”

The chance to meet and work with Broadway actors and be backstage during shows was a once in a lifetime opportunity toward fulfilling her dream of performing on Broadway. As excited as Lauren was about this opportunity, she was a bit apprehensive because she knew nothing about this man and didn’t know if she could trust him.

Sensing this woman’s reluctance, Roger offered her an alternative. “Tell you what, why don’t you stop by tomorrow afternoon and talk to her.” He pulled a business card out of his wallet and grabbed a pen to write something on the back. “We have rehearsal tomorrow at 3:30. When you get here, go around the back and enter through the stage door. Show the security guard this card and tell him Roger sent you.”

He handed her the card and she carefully examined it. Printed on the front in huge block letters were the words Roger Zellers, Broadway Vocalist/ Actor/ Dancer. A phone number and website followed.

“So will you stop by tomorrow?”

She smiled with satisfaction. “I’ll be here.”

Center Stage – Chapter 1

The fourth and final book in my Scrubs series, titled Center Stage, is set for release April 15th.  While you wait, here’s a sneak peek into the first chapter. This content is under copyright and I own all rights.

Theatre

Chapter 1

Theater is a calling, an art, and the Juilliard School in New York City was one of the most respected and renowned places in the world to perfect this art. Known for its rigorous program and extensive admission requirements, Juilliard only accepted eight to ten new candidates into the actor training program each year.  Ever since she was a little girl, Lauren Hanson dreamed of singing on a Broadway stage. Gaining admittance into Juilliard led her one step closer to fulfilling that dream.

This year’s incoming freshmen had the opportunity to go on an educational tour through various theatres in New York City. While touring the Ambassador Theatre, Lauren and her classmates were invited to act out impromptu or monologue on the stage if they wanted to. But Lauren didn’t do either of those things. Instead, she confidently stood before an empty house and belted out the song ‘Defying Gravity’ from the musical Wicked.

Roger Zellers, a professional Broadway actor, was backstage retrieving his cellphone when he heard Lauren’s heavenly voice echo through the theatre. He roamed onto the stage wing to investigate. Standing center stage, singing her heart out, was an incredibly attractive young woman wearing a Juilliard tee-shirt and jeans. He watched in rapt attention, mesmerized by the intense emotion she projected through her performance. He had to find out who this woman was.

When the class was about to exit the theatre, Roger intercepted her at the door. “Excuse me, Ma’am?”

Lauren turned around. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry. I know you don’t know me, but I just heard you sing, and you have the most beautiful voice I have ever heard.”

She offered him a small, shy smile. “Thank you.”

“I am correct to assume that you’re a student at Juilliard?”

“Yes, I am.”

He extended an open palm and graciously shook her hand. “I’m Roger Zellers, and if you’d allow me, I’d like to offer my assistance.”

“Assistance with what?”

“I would like to provide you with an opportunity that will help you gain exposure and allow you to meet and work with people in the Broadway community.”

She asked for clarification. “What do you mean?”

“I’m an actor currently doing a show here at the Ambassador. I happen to know that the manager of this theatre is looking to hire theatre arts students as interns. You’ll be behind the scenes during productions, you’ll get to work directly with Broadway performers, and you’ll learn a few tricks of the trade. It’ll get your foot in the door, and people will get to know you. I’d like to give your name to the manager. You certainly captured my attention, I know you’ll capture hers as well. You interested?”

The chance to meet and work with Broadway actors and be backstage during shows was a once in a lifetime opportunity toward fulfilling her dream of performing on Broadway. As excited as Lauren was about this opportunity, she was a bit apprehensive because she knew nothing about this man and didn’t know if she could trust him.

Sensing this woman’s reluctance, Roger offered her an alternative. “Tell you what, why don’t you stop by tomorrow afternoon and talk to her.” He pulled a business card out of his wallet and grabbed a pen to write something on the back. “We have rehearsal tomorrow at 3:30. When you get here, go around the back and enter through the stage door. Show the security guard this card and tell him Roger sent you.”

He handed her the card and she carefully examined it. Printed on the front in huge block letters were the words Roger Zellers, Broadway Vocalist/ Actor/ Dancer. A phone number and website followed.

“So will you stop by tomorrow?”

She smiled with satisfaction. “I’ll be here.”

 

After class the next day, Lauren headed over to West 49th Street. She wasn’t sure what to expect and wasn’t totally convinced this Roger guy was telling the truth about who he was or his connections with Broadway. But as soon as the cab pulled up to the Ambassador Theatre, any doubts Lauren had about Roger quickly disappeared. The marque out front promoted the musical Chicago. Larger than life still shots from the show, one of which captured Roger posing in a black suit, were displayed on the walls outside. Obviously he had been honest with her about his involvement on Broadway, and she felt less reluctant about blindly walking into the theatre.

Once Lauren gained access inside, she took a seat in the back and watched the performers rehearse. Roger, dressed in black jazz pants and a tee-shirt with Chicago printed on the front, danced around the stage with a black fedora on his head and a cane in his hand while he sang a song called ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ He had a powerful baritone voice and quite the stage presence. He was incredibly entertaining to watch.

At the conclusion of rehearsal, Roger gulped down a bottle of water and peered out to the rows of empty seats. When he saw Lauren seated in the back row, a huge grin brightened his features. Removing his fedora, he stepped off the stage and strolled to the back to greet her. “I’m glad you made it,” he said. “I told Carmen about your remarkable performance yesterday. She’s looking forward to meeting you. Come with me and I’ll introduce you.”

Lauren stood up and followed him.

The theatre manager, Carmen Hollister, discussed details with Lauren. Job responsibilities included cleaning up props, helping with costumes, and basically running around making sure the performers had everything they needed before and during the show. Carmen was willing to work around Lauren’s class schedule and offered her twenty hours a week during nighttime and weekend performances. After chatting with Carmen for about thirty minutes, Lauren gladly accepted the job.

When Roger found out Lauren took the position, he beamed with excitement. “That’s fantastic. Congratulations!”

“Thank you so much for your help.”

“No problem. When do you start?”

“Monday night.”

He flashed her an irresistibly captivating grin. “I guess I’ll see you on Monday.”

 

On her first day at the Ambassador, Lauren arrived early, eager to get started. Several cast and crew members were already there, including Roger. He leaned against the makeup counter conversing with another man. The moment Lauren walked in, conversation ceased and Roger’s eyes drifted her direction. “Well, look who’s here. Hello, Lauren. It’s good to see you again.” He motioned for her to come closer. “Have you met Jason? He’s our lead dancer.”

Jason welcomed her with a firm handshake. “Welcome aboard. Always good to have a helping hand around here.”

“Thanks. I’m looking forward to it.”

Roger stood up straight. “Let me show you around.” He said goodbye to Jason then led Lauren back to the dressing rooms. He introduced her to several performers from the show and she met one of the makeup artists. Roger showed her where props and costume racks were stored then guided her back to the main gathering area. Several dancers were now warming up, and crew members busily began to prepare for the show. “Do you have any questions?” he asked her.

She looked around the theatre feeling a bit overwhelmed. “This is a lot to take in.”

“It is, but things run pretty smoothly around here. We’ll help you figure it out.” He checked the time on his watch. “I have to get ready for the show. Have fun tonight.”

“I’m sure I will. Break a leg, Roger.”

“I’ll try not to.”

During intermission, Roger reached into the mini-fridge to grab a bottle of water. As he unscrewed the lid, he caught sight of Lauren. With the bottle in his hand, he moseyed her direction. “How’s it going?”

Lauren looked up. “Busy, but I love it. Everyone has been so helpful.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” He leaned against the wall with his hand in his pocket and gulped down a huge drink. “How are you getting home tonight? Is someone coming to pick you up?”

“I was going to take a cab.”

His eyes widened. “By yourself?”

“Yes.”

He rubbed his hand across his chin. “Traveling alone at night in New York City can be dangerous. Please allow me to escort you home after the show.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I insist. I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t see you home safely. Meet me by my dressing room after the show and I’ll take you home.”

Grateful that he cared so much about her safety, she agreed. “That’s very kind. Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

Throughout the week, Lauren worked three evening shows and all day Saturday. Prior to Saturday’s matinee, Lauren tapped on Roger’s dressing room door to see if he needed anything.

“It’s open,” he called out.

She walked in to find Roger clothed only in a pair of black trousers, holding a white button-up dress shirt in his hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you weren’t dressed.”

Roger shrugged it off. “It’s alright. Come on in.” He slipped the shirt over his shoulders, leaving it unbuttoned.

In her hand, Lauren held the black fedora Roger needed for his opening number. “You left your hat by the makeup counter again.”

“Did I?” He chuckled at his own forgetfulness. “Silly me.”

She stepped closer and placed the fedora on his head.

“Thank you for returning it. I appreciate the way you keep tabs on the items I’m always misplacing. Keeps me in check.”

“Someone has to.”

“And I’m glad that someone is you.” He turned away and began to button his shirt. “You’re doing a great job, by the way.”

“Thank you.” Gaining his approval boosted her confidence. “Do you need anything before the show starts?”

“No, thanks. I’m fine.”

“Alright. I’m going to check on the others then. See you later.”

During a break between the afternoon and evening show, Roger bounded backstage, rubbing his growling stomach. “My tummy is rumbling. We should do a Schmackary’s run.”

“I’m in.” Jason reached for his wallet and handed Roger twenty dollars.

Several other performers added to the fund.

Lauren overheard the conversation and joined them. “What’s at Schmackary’s?”

“Only the best cookies on the planet.” Roger slipped the wad of money in his pocket. “Do you want to come with me? I could use some help carrying the boxes back over here.”

“How far is it?”

“About half a mile. We have plenty of time.”

Lauren willingly agreed to go with him.

When they arrived at the bakery, Roger ordered two dozen cookies—Sch’mores, Carmel Apple Crisp, Chocolate Chip, and his personal favorite, Peanut Butter Cup. Once the boxes were filled with everyone’s favorites, he asked Lauren, “Any kind in particular you’d like to try?”

She peered into the glass case, eyeing the huge selection of sweet treats. “I want one of those sprinkle cookies.”

“Good choice.” He added one to the box just for her.

On the way back to the theatre, Roger struck up a conversation. “Have you seen much of New York City?”

“My sister and I went exploring when we first got here. We saw Central Park and quite a bit of Times Square.”

“Experienced any nightlife?”

She shook her head. “Other than working in the theatre, no.”

“Some of us are going to 54 Below tonight. Would you like to come with us?”

“What’s 54 Below?”

“A dinner club with live performances and drinks. It’s open stage night, Broadway Sings the Blues. Do you want to come?”

Uncertain, she lifted a shoulder. “I don’t know.”

Hoping to entice her, he offered, “I’ll pay your cover and buy you dinner.”

“That’s really not necessary, Roger.”

He did his best to convince her. “C’mon, Lauren. Come cabaret with us. You’re in New York. You need to get out and experience what this city has to offer.”

“Are you sure the others won’t mind?”

“Of course not. We’d love to have you.”

After a bit of persuasion, she agreed to go.

Around 11:00 P.M., Roger, Lauren, and two other Chicago cast members strolled over to West 54th Street. As soon as they arrived, they descended a narrow wooden staircase, enclosed by walls plastered with red-patterned wallpaper. At the bottom of the stairs, they were greeted by a 54 Below doormat. The maître d’ met them at the entrance and graciously invited them inside.

This intimate and classy restaurant was full of sophisticated New York City glam. The décor was stylish and inviting—leather backed chairs, archival pictures, and a central stage complete with grand piano. The entire place had a 1920’s ambience. Every detail from the wallpaper to the molding to the art was reminiscent of a speakeasy.

The group was led to a four-person banquette table. Lauren took a seat next to Roger.

“Do you want a drink?” he asked, hanging his jacket over the back of a chair. “They have a ginger lemonade that’s pretty tasty.”

Being adventurous, she decided to give it a try.

Once everyone was situated and the waiter took their orders, Roger updated the group on the latest news. “Holiday Inn premiers in a few weeks.”

“Yes, I saw that,” Jason said. “I’m surprised you aren’t involved in that.”

“Don’t have time right now. With eight shows a week, benefit concerts, and recording sessions, I barely have time to breathe.”

“Recording sessions for what?” Lauren asked, curious about Roger’s activities outside the theatre.

“A collaborative benefit Christmas album. It occupies a lot of my time, but it’s for a good cause. That alone makes it worth the hours I devote to it.” He took a sip of his wine then set the glass on the table.

While they ate, several performers took turns singing, each entertaining the crowd with their own rendition of various classic blues songs. When it was Roger’s turn to take the stage, he sat at the piano and began pounding away at the keys with effortless eloquence. He boisterously sang ‘Walking in Memphis’, pouring his heart into every word. The intensity of his performance gradually increased until it reached its powerful crescendo. He ended the final note with his eyes fixated right at Lauren.

The restaurant patrons applauded, and Roger slowly rose from the piano bench and shuffled off the stage.

When he returned to the table, Lauren praised his performance. “I had no idea you could play the piano.”

“A little something I do in my spare time. It helps me unwind.”

At closing time, Roger offered Lauren an escort home. When they arrived at Lincoln Center, he walked her up to the main building of the Juilliard dormitory. “Did you have fun tonight?”

“I did. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Thank you for joining us.”

She pulled her keys out of her purse. “I appreciate you going out of your way to walk me home.”

“It’s my pleasure, and it’s not out of my way. My apartment is only a few blocks from here.” Hoping to get her to mingle with some of his Broadway connections, Roger suggested, “Some friends and I are meeting at Tavern on the Green for brunch tomorrow morning. You’re welcome to join us.”

“I appreciate the offer, but my sister and I made plans to hang out tomorrow, and I have some studying to do.”

“Alright. I just wanted to throw the invitation out there, help you meet some new people.”

“Thank you for being so welcoming.”

“It’s not a problem. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Lauren.”

“You too. I’ll see you on Monday.”

He smiled charmingly then stepped away from the entrance, whistling as he made his way home.