Read Olivia Flies High Online

Authors: Lyn Gardner

Olivia Flies High

Olivia Marvell jumped lightly on to the low wall outside the stage door of the Duke’s Theatre, flipped forwards on to her hands, and walked the entire length of the wall upside down as if it was the most natural thing to do in the world. Her little sister, Eel, and her friend, Aeysha, clapped enthusiastically. Several passers-by walking down the passage that divided the Duke’s from the Royal Vic Theatre next door stopped to applaud, too.

Olivia flashed them a shy grin as she jumped gracefully down, wiped her hands on her jeans and said impatiently, “How much longer? They’ve been ages. I’m going to explode into a billion pieces if I can’t tell them our news soon!”

A gaggle of children emerged from the stage door, adults in tow. Like all the children who had dribbled out in small groups over the last hour, they didn’t look too happy. One of the girls was snivelling, and her mother, a glamorous blonde woman with sharp features, said loudly, “Silly man. That director wouldn’t know real talent if it bit him on the nose. Never mind, Kelly, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. You’re on the shortlist for that car commercial. It’s much better paid.”

“But I wanted to be in
The Sound of Music
and sing ‘Do-Re-Mi’…” whined Kelly, her voice drifting into the distance as they walked down the passageway.

“Not long now; they’re down to the last few,” said Bert, the stage-door keeper. He’d slipped out from behind his counter just inside the stage door to join Olivia, Eel and Aeysha. Nobody, not even Gus the theatre cat, got into or out of the Duke’s without passing by eagle-eyed Bert. He prided himself on knowing everything that was going on and was a fount of delicious gossip.

“So do you think that Tom and Georgia will be cast in
The Sound of Music
?” asked Eel,
doing the little wriggle that had given her her nickname.

Bert shrugged. “The longer they’re kept back, the better it looks for them. But there’s another group of kids coming back for a final audition this afternoon, so nothing’s certain. The director, Jon James, and the casting director may not finally make up their minds for days. And of course Chuck Daniels’ll be trying to stick his oar in.”

“Who’s Chuck Daniels?” asked Aeysha.

“He’s important; he’s the producer. He raised the money to stage the show. Anyway, they’ll want to decide which kids they think will work well together in which teams. I doubt anyone will be told today, although I have known it happen.”

“Teams? It makes it sound as if they’re going to play netball,” said Eel, wrinkling her nose.

“No,” explained Bert with a smile. “If you don’t count Liesl, as that’s a main role, there are six Von Trapp children. But they’ll cast eighteen children in the roles and split them into three teams. Each team rehearses and performs together and the three teams share the
eight performances a week between them. That way nobody gets too tired. But it does mean auditioning a lot of children.”

“I’d hate to have to do an audition,” said Olivia vehemently, pushing back her curtain of dark hair. “If I had to choose between going to an audition and going to the dentist for a filling, I’d choose the dentist.”

“You’re just weird, Livy,” said Eel, pirouetting very fast across the passageway and causing a man in a pinstripe suit to glare at her. She came to a stop with her chestnut curls still dancing and said, “Oh, I wish, I
really
, really wish that I was auditioning,” so dramatically that Olivia, Aeysha and Bert smiled at her heartfelt passion.

“Why aren’t you?” asked Bert. “You’d make a cute Gretl.”

“I would, wouldn’t I; I’m small enough,” said Eel with a smile and a twirl. “But Granny Alicia wouldn’t let me. She said it would be bad for my technique, and that I hadn’t been at the Swan long enough to take part in a professional show. She said that I need to learn to dance properly before I can do auditions. Livy and I have only been Swans for a term. Before that we
were with our dad in a travelling circus.” She did a perfect cartwheel as if to demonstrate the truth of this.

“Your gran’s probably right. She and I go way back. Alicia Swan is a legend and the Swan Academy is by far and away the best stage school in the country,” said Bert. “I always like having kids from the Swan at the Duke’s. The Swans are not just talented. They’re well behaved, not like the little monsters from some other schools. They’ve always got their feet on the ground and their heads screwed on. It’s why so many of them do well.”

“Unlike you, Eel,” said Olivia. “You’ve always got your feet off the ground and your head in the clouds.”

Eel stuck her tongue out at her sister affectionately. Gus slunk out of the stage door and wrapped himself around Bert’s legs like a furry bandage before leaping on to a window sill. Bert lifted him down.

“That cat won’t stop climbing. Last week he got up on the roof and then got completely stuck on that ledge,” said Bert. He pointed to the high ledge that ran along the side of the theatre just below the roof. A few rusty flagpoles, long
since disused, stuck out from the side of the building just below it. “We had to get the fire brigade out to rescue him. Naughty puss.”

“I’m going to burst if I have to wait a minute longer!” said Olivia, pacing up and down. Just then the stage door was flung open and Tom and Georgia came racing out, followed by Abbie Cardew, the Swan Academy’s head girl, who had already been cast as Liesl. All three had massive grins on their faces.

“We’re in!” shouted Tom and Georgia, hugging Olivia, Aeysha and Eel. Eel’s arms and legs got a bit twisted up with Georgia’s as she tried to do a little dance of triumph.

“My first West End engagement! My mum will be so proud,” said Georgia, her eyes shining so that she looked more like a china doll than ever.

“She will!” said Olivia. “We’re
all
mega proud of you.”

“They were fabulous! Miss Swan will be delighted with them,” said Abbie.

“Who are you each playing?” asked Aeysha.

“We don’t know yet,” replied Georgia. “They say it’s still to be decided. But they must
have particular characters in mind. I’d love to play Louisa, but I expect I’ll be Brigitta. Louisa is supposed to be older so has to be taller. I bet Tom will get Kurt.” Georgia did a little skip of excitement.

“I can’t wait for rehearsals to begin,” said Tom. “But we don’t know everyone who’s in our team yet. Apparently there’s another final audition this afternoon.”

“It’s mint,” said Georgia. “I was sure I’d blown it after I was sick on stage at the first audition before Christmas.”

“The director must’ve seen it was nerves,” said Tom. “I knew you were in with a chance when I heard him say you were really talented, just a bit lacking in confidence.”

“Listen,” said Olivia. “I’ve got amazing news too. About
Romeo and
Juliet on the High-Wire.” Romeo and Juliet on the High-Wire
, a wonderfully inventive mix of Shakespeare and circus skills created by Olivia and Tom, had been the Swan entry for the Children’s Royal Spectacular last term. Georgia and Aeysha had been part of the team and it had won the competition outright. When they had performed it on Christmas Eve at the London Palladium,
its originality had brought the house down. Even Olivia, who saw herself as a circus artist, not an actor, and who had been worried about having to act in front of so many people, had loved the experience. It made her feel tingly inside just to think of it.

“What about it?” asked Georgia.

“Guess!” said Olivia, her eyes sparkling.

“You never will,” said Eel with an excited jiggle. “It’s the bestest.”

“Tell us!” demanded Tom and Georgia together.

“We’ve been invited to go to New York to perform
Romeo and Juliet
at a special charity benefit on Broadway!” beamed Olivia. Tom gasped and Georgia gave a little scream of excitement. Eel performed another small jig.

“That’s amazing! Congratulations,” said Abbie. But a sudden look of worry flashed across Tom’s freckled face.

“When is this, Liv?”

“End of the month,” said Olivia happily. Tom and Georgia looked at each other.

“But, Liv, we won’t be able to do it. Rehearsals for
The Sound of Music
start next week.”

Olivia stared at them, the colour draining from her face. “They must let you have time off for something as important as this, surely?”

“I don’t think it works like that, Olivia,” said Abbie slowly. “Tom and Georgia will be part of a team. Going to New York would completely muck up the rehearsal schedule. They’re going to have to choose one or the other.”

There was a long silence. Olivia looked at the others, willing them to choose
Romeo and Juliet
. A pained expression crossed Tom’s face, which had turned almost as red as his hair. Meanwhile Georgia was staring guiltily at her shoes as if they were the most interesting things she’d ever seen.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, Tom spoke. “Liv,” he said, not quite meeting her eye. “I’m really, really sorry. I know how much
Romeo and Juliet
means to you. But it’s just one night and however exciting it would be to perform in New York, this is our chance to be part of a huge show in the West End. It’s what we’ve been working for since we came to the Swan. I’m so sorry, but we can’t not be in
The Sound of Music
.”

Olivia felt sick with disappointment. She knew she was being unrealistic to expect Tom
and Georgia to give up their opportunity to appear in the West End, but she still felt crushed. A minute ago she had been so full of excitement, so certain that, despite her difficult first term, the decision to stay at the Swan Academy had been the right one, and now she suddenly felt unsure and nervous again, as if realising that her priorities were never going to be the same as everybody else’s at the Swan.

Without Tom, who Olivia had been teaching to walk the high-wire and who had demonstrated a natural flair for it, they wouldn’t be able to do
Romeo and Juliet.
How silly she had been to think that they would take it as seriously as she did. Nobody at the Swan thought that circus was as important as acting, dancing and singing. She wanted to be generous to her friends, but she felt as deflated as a leaky balloon; tears prickled behind her eyes and her throat itched.

She tried to make herself say, “That’s all right. It doesn’t really matter,” but she couldn’t control her disappointment and it made her lash out instead. She turned to Tom. “I thought we were a double act, Tom. I thought you loved the high-wire as much as I do, but clearly I was wrong. It was just a passing fad. Probably just
as well you’re not that good at it, isn’t it? I also thought you were a real friend. But I guess I was wrong about that, too.” She turned on her heel and walked stiffly away.

Tom looked stung. “Don’t be like that, Liv. Of course I’m your friend,” he said. He rushed after her and placed a pleading hand on her arm, but Olivia shook it off.

“Just leave me alone,” she said. “Don’t you have
rehearsals
to go to? I wouldn’t want you to miss out on any
opportunities
or anything.” She started to walk faster, even though she longed to stop and run back to them and say she was sorry, she hadn’t really meant what she’d said. But she was crying hard now and anyway, what did they care how she felt?

Eel looked stricken and made as if to go after her sister, but Abbie caught her hand and held it firmly. She didn’t want Eel running around London with Olivia in that state.

“We’ve really let her down,” said Georgia. “I feel awful.”

“You mustn’t,” said Abbie. “Livy will get over it. Give her time. Sometimes you have to make choices in life and you can’t always make the one that will please your friends. If you
turned down
The Sound of Music
even though you knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, you’d just end up resenting Livy
and
the
Romeo and Juliet
show. I didn’t think she’d take it that badly, though.” Abbie looked at her watch.

“Come on, I’ve got to get you back to the academy. We’ll just be in time to tell Miss Swan your news before the first-day-of-term assembly.”

They waved goodbye to Bert and set off for the school. As they walked along, Eel asked, “Who’s going to play Gretl?” No one knew for sure, but they told her about the other children at the audition, and a little girl called Freya who they thought might be Gretl, and another contender called Mia. They were so engrossed that they didn’t notice a black four-by-four with tinted windows draw up right outside the Duke’s Theatre, or the blonde girl who got out. But she saw them, and a little cat-like smile twitched around the corner of her lips.

“Have you got everything, Katie?” came a voice from inside the car.

“Of course, Dad,” replied the girl.

“Good luck, kitten.”

The girl winked. “Don’t worry, Dad. It’s
in the bag.” She gave him a wave and then swept through the stage door as if she was a fully fledged star about to meet her adoring audience.

Other books

Damage Control by Michael Bowen
Dead Statues by Tim O'Rourke
Gabriel's Clock by Hilton Pashley
Pilgrim Soul by Gordon Ferris
Ethereal Knights by Moore, Addison
Side Effects by Michael Palmer
The Sign of the Crooked Arrow by Franklin W. Dixon
Saving Jessica by Lurlene McDaniel