Esther O’Moore Donohoe on what a background dancer can teach you about life
When it comes to bus routes, I am a magician. If I hear you mention you’ve to get somewhere but are worried about parking, I will appear behind you in a puff of Leap Card green, smoke ‘The RrrrDeeeSsss you saaaay? Take the 122 to Camden St, walk to the Harcourt LUAS, get the LUAS to Ranelagh and the 18 to the RDS. You’ll be at the 17th Semi Annual Coloproctology You Tube Conference in less time than it takes to google ‘coloproctology*.’ You’d then carry me on your shoulders to the nearest Spar and tell me to pick whatever bar I wanted saying ‘Teach me everything about the National Transport Bus Connects programme’ as I tossed a multipack of Boosts on the counter.
Some people are mad for road. I am mad for bus. Sitting on the top deck of buses, I have accepted Oscars and run with the Olympic torch down the Lower Kimmage Road to crowds, ten people deep. I have cried, laughed out loud at podcasts and replayed the time I asked a man sitting across from me when his braces were coming off only for him to tell me that he wasn’t wearing braces and that was just the colour of his teeth. And at least once a month since 2008, I’ve thought about the bar scene in the Disney romantic comedy, 27 Dresses.
Starring Katherine Hiegl as Jane Nichols and James Marsden as Kevin Doyle, 27 Dresses had a budget of $30 million and grossed almost €163 million worldwide. Hiegl as Jane, has been the chief bridesmaid for 27 of her closest friends. There is no mountain too high, no hen party activity too many or dress too in bits for this gal. Simply put, Jane is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. ’Poor Jane’ we are meant to think. Alternatively, we may also think ‘Don’t set yourself on fire Jane. You’re not the one making the legally binding contract of commitment here. Build a Bridal Currach Class followed by Hand Santiser and Gin Making Class is more than enough for a hen.’
One, two, skip a few, Hiegal and Marsdan get together even though they couldn’t stand each other initially but now, blah, blah, blah, they love each other – classic rom com behaviour. Do I think you should watch this film? No. Do I think you watch The Bar Scene in 27 Dresses? I do. *throws bouquet*.
In The Bar Scene in 27 Dresses, our two romantic leads whip the American equivalent of The Templeogue Inn into a complete frenzy singing Benny and the Jets by Elton John. And while the song is stunning, it’s the background actors that I think of fondly and way, way, way, way, way too often.
The purpose of the background actors in any production is to waft about behind the stars silently. They are there to add authenticity and colour and aren’t meant to pull focus on the principal action. In The Bar Scene in 27 Dresses however, they take their dazzling light and kick the bushel clear off the screen with their whooping, dancing and stomping. I could not take my eyes off them.
Lest you think I am mocking these performers, I am absolutely not. Reader, I love them. I love their energy. I love their enthusiasm. And it is because of their embodiment of the Stanislavski line ‘There are no small roles, only small actors’ that I reflect on them as often as I do. These actors’ names didn’t appear on enormous movie posters lining the streets of Los Angeles. Nor did they shoot the breeze on late night American talk shows, alongside the two leads, but they have given me so much joy for so long, they should have.
Before we proceed however, let us first return to the scene in question briefly. As the music starts up Hiegl and Marsden start singing along to the Elton John classic, Bennie and The Jets. We are meant to suspend our disbelief sufficiently enough and imagine that these two characters could go from singing the opening lines to each other at the bar, to getting the entire room to sing and clap along as they perform ON TOP of the counter by the time they get to the second go of the chorus? Your honour, the timeline does not make sense.
But to get caught up in mental gymnastics like this is to miss the point. This is not a Leaving Cert question. It is a film whose female lead is a woman who has been a bridesmaid 27 times. I don’t care if it makes sense, which it doesn’t. The main thing is to drink in the background actors as they give it loads, acting like Harry Styles and Beyoncé themselves have just shown up. They are there to remind us that if you’ve ever been afraid you came on too strong in a situation or don’t know whether to text someone you fancy, think back on this incredible scene and remember that nobody cares and neither did these people. But I bet they had fun.
Now, you might think that’s all I have to say about this 1minute 54 second scene in a film with a running time of 1 hour and 51 minutes, but no. I still have approximately 400 words left in me. Because while I love all the extras in The Bar Scene in 27 Dresses equally (ish), like Kris Jenner, I too have a favourite 27 Dresses child/background actor and his name is Michael Mosley.
Credited as Bar Dude on IMDB, Mosley is unmissable in the scene. Wearing a charcoal coloured t-shirt with ‘Cougar Bait’ written across it, he nods, not just his head in time to the beat, but his entire body. He smiles off camera to an imaginary friend whilst still keeping time to the song. And then at one point, says to the person beside him ‘These guys are awesome!”
Michael is the best of us. He reminds us to do our best, even in the most challenging of circumstances. It is Michael and his colleagues who deserve all the awards for bringing this work to life. They are all the King’s horses and all the King’s men. It’s all well and good shining a light on the two lucky show ponies out front but the scene would be nothing without the background actors’ tireless work. Am I attempting to draw an allusion between this rom com and a monarchical form of government? Perhaps I am. I need sleep.
Life may seem to be an unending burning rubbish bag of fish guts and sour milk at the moment, but when it all gets too much, sit back on the top deck of your metaphorical bus and think background winners in The Bar Scene in 27 Dresses. Then think of the unsung background winner in your life. Give them their flowers now. Give yourself some flowers too while you’re at it. You might not be where you want to be yet but you showed up when you could have phoned in sick. You’re giving it 62% in work when all they deserve is at best, 57% of your efforts given your salary and the fact they took the free tea bags and the Nespresso machine out of the communal kitchen during the summer and seem to have no intention of bringing them back. You may have gotten on the wrong bus and you don’t have any credit left on your Leap card, but at least you’re using the public transport system.
And in case you’re wondering that happens just after The Bar Scene in 27 Dresses, Jane and Kevin leave and go and have sex in a car. And they all live happily ever after.
*The surgery that deals with investigation, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the colon, rectum and anus…OBVIOUSLY.