I think I can safely say that nothing will ever be able to top this year in terms of absolutely bizarre and fantastic happenings on New Year’s Eve. I’ve never liked the holiday, really – despite Sarah’s wonderful dinners every year, it’s tough for me not to feel like the whole thing is an anti-climax. You go somewhere, there’s all this buildup, you watch the ball drop, you maybe drink a bit more, you go home. Well, that’s not what happened this year.
I had been looking forward to what was described as a Masquerade Ball with a Cats theme for New Year’s eve. I’ve never been to a Masquerade, and they sound so glamourous and fantastic, I was much looking forward to it. But by the time the actual event came close, it had been scheduled to such a degree that it seemed clear it would be more working than glamour. That, and I was scheduled to waltz with Tim, my host, in what was a sort of spotlight dance with us and the Mayor and his wife. This would have been fine, except though I am an acceptable dancer, I am a horrific follower, and Tim had never danced at all before. So we had a rehearsal, and I was a little nervous for the whole thing.
Well, true to form, I left the theater late, and then couldn’t figure out what to do with my hair, and then had some issues spackling on the eye makeup that I thought might make up for the fact that most of the company knows me from wandering around with glasses and a hoodie. So I ended up walking in just as the festivities were starting, which included a speech by Tim, a video of Andrew Lloyd Webber that only worked on a small television, and an ice sculpture spelling out ‘CAT’ (the S didn’t fit on the table, so sat on a tray on a table nearby), and lots of dry ice. Then, it was the time, and I fulfilled my promise by being a truly terrible follower, and even crashing into people. I sucked, and if Tim ever reads this, I do apologize for that. Anyhoo, after the dance I was very excited to finally have a much-needed glass of wine in hand, and I was headed over to the food table when Bernadette, one of the producers of the show, grabbed the wine out of my hand. “You’re a Cat tonight,” she said, as I wistfully looked at the wine glass move away, “go do this press thing.” She said the Mayor had some sort of party, and had been promised two Cats in our masquerade masks to appear.
I didn’t quite have time to process this before I was brought upstairs with Tony, the castmember whose flight I had booked a week before, and we were put into a car that was surrounded by police on motorcycles with lights flashing. As the car drove off careening through traffic (the perks of a police escort!) KC, another producer, explained that the party, which I had imagined as twinkling candlelight and important Tainan people milling around in some small banquet room somewhere, was actually the official Tainan New Year’s celebration, with performances by popstars and such. And about 100,000 people would be there. Oh, and we would be onstage. And on television. As the guests of honor.
This is about when the continuous little scream in the back of my head started. We arrived at this large park, with tents set up like a concert and hundreds of people wandering around, and the far off sound of amplified singing. We were led through the crowd and brought to the side of the stage, where they had a tent with an impressive array of machinery, and a monitors showing what was happening about twenty feet away, on A HUGE HUGE STAGE, with lights and dry ice and the whole bit. My heart was pounding now, and it only got worse as I waited with Tony (who was eating it all up) until the onstage MC called out something loud, and somebody grabbed me and led me to the stage, where I tried my best to negotiate my heels and limited visibility through the cat eyemask, and suddenly I was walking out onto the HUGE HUGE STAGE and there was an ENOURMOUS CROWD of 100,000 people and they were all screaming for the two of us. And it was awesome. Well, terrifying (I was shaking, just a little bit, and what are you supposed to do with your hands after you wave at your adoring public?) and awesome. And then some other stuff was said in Chinese, and I realized that I was standing next to what must have been a rather famous popstar of some sort (all the posters in the crowd were of him), and at one point we were throwing little plush toys into the audience and then there was a countdown and it was the new year. So, if you were watching TV at around noon and they happened to show any of the celebrations from Tainan, Taiwan and you saw a girl in a white cat mask awkwardly trying to figure out what to do with her hands (blowing kisses to the audience was well-received, and clapping was often required), that was me.