Authors: Gordon Korman
The countless hours of rehearsal had paid off. The timing was crisp, the voices were clear, and the staging was excellent. From the many faces in the audience, Melissa sought out Mickey Bonaventure. She understood instantly that, although Ta-da! was good, they were not good enough to win the Showdown. The judge was sitting back, smiling politely, yet not with the enthusiasm he had shown the Spotlight cast. Or maybe it was her imagination. She was a computer geek. What did she know about theatre?
The sequence of scenes had become familiar to her by now. A song from
; a reading from
; a scene from
; poetry from
The Belle of Amherst
The Phantom of the Opera
was their mid-revue climax. Logan had no part in that number, so he joined Melissa at the mechanism that would bring down the “chandelier.” He had already put on his warthog costume for “Hakuna Matata,” which was coming up next. It was hard to take him seriously with his head protruding from Pumbaa's mouth. But the middle of the Showdown was not the time to point that out.
“How do you think it's going?” Melissa whispered.
“Mickey Bonaventure hates it,” Logan replied morosely.
“I saw him clapping a couple of times,” she protested.
“Probably swatting at mosquitoes. Trust me. If we don't
from here on, we're doomed.”
All at once, Melissa put an iron grip on his arm. “Look â”
He followed her gaze. Standing at the top of the hill, behind the audience, the two bus drivers were watching the show.
“Do you think they know?” she asked in a small voice.
“Not unless they've got X-ray vision,” Logan replied. “How could they know?”
“Deductive reasoning,” Melissa insisted. “They've scoured every millimeter of the camp. He isn't there, so he must be here. And when they see you onstage, they'll know you're involved with hiding the dog.”
“Oh, yeah, like they'll recognize me in this outfit!” Logan scoffed. “My own mother couldn't find me with a telescope.”
The song was ending, and the big moment was upon them. Melissa threw the switch, and Logan guided the rope upward. There were screams from the crowd as the “chandelier” toppled over the lighting arc and came down to the stage with an earsplitting crash.
A surge of applause swept in from the crowd.
For Melissa, the non-performer, it was her first chance to bask in the approval of an appreciative audience. Her eyes gleamed. “They liked it!”
“They loved it!” Logan agreed fervently. “Even Mickey Bonaventure! Hand me my caterpillars! We're still in this thing!”
What happened next was completely unexpected: Pride Rock moved.
id you see that?” Logan hissed.
Melissa had turned to stone. “Never mind me! Did the dognappers see it?”
Light dawned on Logan. “The crash from the chandelier â” He rushed around to the back of the stage and tried to peer under the rolling cart that formed the base of Pride Rock. To his dismay, he saw four canine legs standing upright. Luthor was awake.
Logan tried to press his cheek to the stage for a better view, but Pumbaa's head was too bulky. He caught a fleeting glimpse of the famished Luthor wolfing down the burger he'd fallen asleep with. Logan thought of the food he had stashed away in his pockets, and tried to reach inside the warthog suit. The costume simply wouldn't permit it. He would have to take the whole thing off, and put it back on again â too risky with “Hakuna Matata” coming up any minute.
“Melissa!” he exclaimed. “I need your burgers!”
She was amazed. “You're hungry
“Not me â Luthor! If we feed him, maybe he'll go back to sleep.”
But it was not to be. Mary Catherine, already in her lion outfit, came up and said, “What are you waiting for? Wheel Pride Rock into position!”
Uh-oh. “Are you sure it's the right time?” Logan stammered.
The Ta-da! captain's eyes shot sparks. “Of course it's the right time! Did you hear that ovation? We're catching fire! We have to keep it going!”
She and two wildebeest began to ease the rolling cart out toward center stage. Logan had a nightmare vision of Luthor overturning the set in full view of the audience and two professional dognappers. If the Doberman had the strength to move the heavy piece on his own, he could probably topple it. Without hesitation, Logan flung himself aboard Pride Rock. He landed flat on his face and, if it hadn't been for the soft material of the warthog costume, would probably have knocked himself unconscious against the wood of the set. When his vision cleared, he found himself high above the crowd, the object of everyone's attention.
Because it was unprofessional to waste stage time doing absolutely nothing, Logan made a great show of eating a caterpillar with much loud smacking of warthog lips. From the back row, the two bus drivers were staring directly at him. Still, no way could they know the dog was under the set.
“Get off!” Mary Catherine rasped from below.
It was a theatrical problem. Pumbaa was not supposed to be on top of Pride Rock in
The Lion King
. But Logan couldn't move without something else to weigh down the set. He could already feel Luthor scrambling around underneath the cart. It was time for an ad lib. He threw his head back and announced, “I think that baboon is coming up here to show everybody the new baby lion!”
There was a bit of a stir backstage, because this was definitely not in the script. But eventually, the actors were in place, and Rafiki the baboon, flanked by King Mufasa and his wife, climbed to the top of Pride Rock.
Mary Catherine was playing Queen Sarabi, and as Logan tried to retreat from the set, she elbowed him hard in the ribs and muttered, “You're dead, Kellerman!”
The camper playing Rafiki held up the stuffed toy representing the infant Simba, and cried, “Animals of the Pride Lands, behold your future king!”
A cheer went up from the cast, matched by one from the audience. It obscured a mournful howl that came from inside Pride Rock. Luthor was still groggy, but he seemed to be coming out of his partially tranquilized state. And that was bad news all around.
Logan wriggled off the scenery and found Melissa at the computer. “Luthor's definitely awake, and he must be hungry! Quick, give me your hamburgers! Maybe some food will calm him down!”
The two looped around the back of the stage and crawled out, hidden from the audience's view by the bulk of Pride Rock. Melissa unwrapped a burger and squeezed it under the gap between the rolling set and the platform. Another half inch would have cost her two fingers. The food was sucked in and snapped up in the blink of an eye.
“I've only got one more!” she warned.
“Give it to him! Give it to him!” It was almost time for “Hakuna Matata.” Pumbaa was due onstage in less than a minute. “I've got a bunch more in my pocket! Can you reach inside my costume, and â”
Too late. Timon and the adolescent Simba had already taken the stage. “Hurry up!” Bobby hissed in his meerkat suit. “And don't forget your caterpillars!”
Logan knew he was out of options. With everything going on, and all the factors that needed his attention, one simple truth shone through everything:
The show must go on.
For Logan Kellerman, that rule was as basic and unchanging as the law of gravity.
So Pumbaa joined Timon and Simba in front of the audience. Logan could feel the bus drivers' eyes boring four laser holes in his costume. But he put that out of his mind, and sang his heart out, popping caterpillars and burping in all the right places as befitted a gassy warthog.
Mary Catherine the Klingon had done everything in her power to make him a nobody in this show. Well, maybe he couldn't change the casting, but there were no small roles, only small actors. And his Pumbaa would have the audience feeling the stomach cramps and tasting the wriggling bugs in the back of their throats.
And then Pride Rock rolled up and bumped him from behind.
The food hadn't calmed Luthor down. He was more restless than ever. Still singing, Logan leaned back against the set, and tried to wheel it away from the edge of the stage. The last thing they needed was for Pride Rock to go over the apron and take out the first three rows! Mickey Bonaventure would definitely deduct points for that.
The final chorus had never lasted longer. The audience must have noticed that Pumbaa did not join Timon and Simba for their dance, and instead leaned against the rock, pressing down with all his might. It wasn't great theatre but, when at last the cast pushed Pride Rock off into its corner, he sensed they were in the clear.
“Keep Luthor under there!” he called to Melissa, “no matter what happens!”
“Mary Catherine says hurry up and change,” she advised. “You and Bobby are the last two for âGettysburg'!”
“I'm on it!” he promised.
A small tent had been set up backstage to serve as the wardrobe room. Bobby had thrown off his Timon costume and was about to don the long frock coat and stovepipe hat of Abraham Lincoln when Logan dashed inside, stripping out of Pumbaa.
“What's going on, Logan? Why is Pride Rock moving?”
“The dog woke up,” Logan explained breathlessly. “And the farmer has two guys at the Showdown, looking for him. Mary Catherine needs to talk to you right away about what we're going to do!”
The trusting Bobby rushed out in search of the Ta-da! captain.
Grim with determination, Logan crammed himself into the President's black frock coat and trousers. He felt bad about tricking Bobby, who was a nice kid, even though he had no talent. But this was necessary. The Ta-da! revue had started off in the toilet, yet he could tell from the judge's eyes that the second half had brought steady improvement. They were in striking distance. He could taste it. But they needed an Abraham Lincoln who could bring the house down. It called for a touch of Kellerman magic.
He put on the fake beard and stovepipe hat, and checked his reflection in the mirror. A jarring note: The burgers in his pocket made him look fat, and Lincoln was anything but. Still, he couldn't dump the burgers. They might be needed to keep Luthor quiet.
Where could he stash them?
In a moment of inspiration, he stuffed them into the tall stovepipe hat, and crammed it tightly onto his head. Perfect. No one would ever know there were hamburgers up there. It might even help his posture look more presidential.
Bobby came rushing in. “Mary Catherine didn't â Logan, why are you wearing my costume?”
There could be no reasonable explanation, so Logan just ran out of the tent and took the stage. The Union soldiers seemed a little bewildered to see the wrong Lincoln standing there. So he launched right into,
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers
. . .”
It was a little fast and energetic for a man with smallpox, so he slowed down and mopped his brow with a handkerchief, being careful not to dislodge his hat. He could feel Mickey Bonaventure's eyes on him. This was it! He was doing it! He was winning over a real Hollywood actor!
A rumble like thunder shook the stage. In that instant, Logan realized that the judge hadn't been looking at him, but at Pride Rock, which was vibrating like a volcano about to blow. Two black-and-tan paws appeared in the gap between set and floor.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation . . .”
Pride Rock rocked. It bounced once, slammed back to the platform, and then tilted up again, teetered there, and finally tipped over.
uthor came roaring across the stage like he'd been launched by a catapult. He gamboled all around Logan, leaping and barking.
The audience was thunderstruck. Was this part of the show? And if so, what version of the Gettysburg Address had Mr. Lincoln being attacked by a giant dog?
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here . . .”
It was the greatest challenge any actor could possibly face â to deliver a classic speech while fighting off a wild beast. Logan never wavered, and he never blew a line. Mickey Bonaventure couldn't have done it! Not even Johnny Depp! When Luthor knocked the hat off and the hamburgers came tumbling down, Logan didn't falter. He finished with
“. . .
government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Luthor stood beside him, his large snout buried in the pile of fallen food.