Antonia Darlene is the most surprised of anyone to find herself on the stage in the Broadway Rose Theatre Company's production of "Beehive," with good reason.
"It was my worst-ever audition," said Darlene, who gave birth two weeks later on Oct. 27 to her second daughter. "I started singing, and then I had a contraction so I stopped. I started singing a different song, and half-way through, the pianist stopped. In my pregnancy haze, I put the music in the wrong order."
But it all worked out: She got the role and delivered a beautiful baby named Winter with her husband Benjamin, who both came along for her interview.
Darlene is one of those rare talented performers who has never had a voice lesson yet has established a career in musical theater, first in Seattle and now in the Portland area.
Moving comes naturally to Darlene, who was born in Southern California but was raised mostly in Germany in a military family that moved every two years.
"I went to German public schools until at 14 we moved to Maryland," she said. "When I was 16, we moved to Washington, and I was in the choir in high school."
But her big pipes got her into trouble early when at age 16 she sang a Whitney Houston song in a talent show and lost. "The judges thought I was lip-synching until I showed them I was using only a music tract," she said.
Darlene's mom believed in her talent and encouraged her to get into theater, and once she started, she was on a roll. "They started casting me," Darlene said.
"The Issaquah Village Theatre was looking for black dancers, and I'm not a dancer, but they were so strapped that they hired me," she added. "The Seattle Opera was doing 'Porgy and Bess,' and I auditioned with a rock musical song. They asked me to come back with an opera song, and I got the role."
Darlene got her Equity card, and including the Seattle Opera and Issaquah Village Theatre, she appeared in nearly two dozen shows at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, the Tacoma Little Theatre and Tacoma Musical Playhouse, the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, the Capital Playhouse and the Harlequin Theatre in Olympia.
By this time, Darlene had her first daughter, and "I tried my hand in New York, but it isn't a good place to raise kids," she said. "And as soon as I got to New York, I got a job in Seattle."
Back in Seattle, Darlene was fostering a boy the same age as her daughter and ended up adopting him. Then her grandpa left the family his farm in Corbett, and she went back and forth between Seattle and the Portland area for a while before settling here, although she stayed away from diving into the Portland theater scene.
"My thing is musical theater," she said. "I don't do straight plays. I prefer musical theater like 'Beehive.'"
Darlene met her husband Benjamin two-and-a-half years ago and has worked at a variety of jobs.
"I worked as a waitress when I was first here, and I sing at the Edgefield winery," she said.
Darlene also started working on her degree in history and communication from Grand Canyon University and on the side has a hair and makeup business. "I do two or three weddings a month," she said. "I went to cosmetology school right out of high school and started doing hair under Mary Jones, the head wig mistress at the 5th Avenue Theatre. I was wig mistress for some of the Seattle theaters. You do a lot to keep yourself afloat.
"I was a bartender at Edgefield for two years. I set up booths at markets and fairs and do face-painting. I'm a woman of many trades."
Then she auditioned for "Beehive," had a baby (and has another one on the way) and is now looking forward to appearing in the show.
"I'm excited," said Darlene, who is a soprano. "This is my first show in Portland. It's exciting to get going and to be doing theater again."
In the Broadway Rose program for the show, Darlene "thanks God for everything and for her mother who watches over her three beautiful children and without whom none of this would be possible." She adds, "Love you, Mommy!!"