It's Magic (Hopefully!)
Yes, we are having fun. And yes, it does become work. One doesn't always experience chills and thrills upon entering the dressing room, or donning the costume, or warming up those vocal chords. At some point along the way the charm wears off, the exhilaration of opening night jitters is gone, there are no more notes from the director pushing you forward into finer accomplishment (you are now on your own...) and sheer discipline is required.
So you dutifully brush on the rouge, stretch the muscles, lay out the costumes. You check for that letter taken on in scene 5, making sure it is in place on the prop table. The hair is sprayed one last time, a hat secured on top.
"Places. Five minutes!" is called. You move to your position to wait.
Then the first chord is played. Transformation begins. You become a cockney woman, cold and tired, trying her best to make the most of her meager existence, enjoying the companionship of an old friend, watching the passerby, meddling with neighbors. The show is running once again and you become swept away with the energy, the magic, the joy of story telling in its most intricate form.
A mere cog in this much-larger-than-you piece of story telling machinery, you feel the weight of dependence upon you. It may seem small or insignificant, but those involved all know and appreciate everyone's contribution. The magic won't happen without the successful completion of each duty, each role, each line, each flute ornamentation, each moved set piece, each lighting cue called and obeyed.
Oh, it's a complicated machine, this contraption known as musical theater. But when the wheel starts turning and every cog and gear respond in timely fashion, a magical thing happens. Make believe comes to life. Worlds only existing in thought now take form.
If we're on our game, the audience is swept away with us, off to faraway places and times, meeting new and interesting characters. They will learn to love them, hate them, or simply put up with them. Hopefully when all is said and done, they will have been magically entertained.
The curtain falls one last time. Farewell to Mrs. Pearce and her household.
Hang up the dresses, wash off the wrinkles, and put away the shoes. Stow those t-straps safely in the corner, ready for tomorrow's arrival - when you draw again from sheer discipline. Scales will be sung, makeup sponged one, necklaces arranged. You'll hear the call, "Places. Five minutes!" You take your place and wait once again for the magic to begin.
That is theater.