I have a nerd-fession to make.
I LOVE MUSICALS!
Sure, it’s not a huge revelation to most of you…
But, the irony of my love is that despite the great depths of my feelings toward musicals and music theatre as a genre, I am doomed never to be cast in a musical.
You see, there’s this condition.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of it – it’s really uncommon.
It’s called stage fright.
That’s a joke, you guys!
It’s so common that something like 75% of people claim they fear public speaking more than death!
Even amongst seasoned public speakers, actors, politicians.
Professionally, those people have to face their fears on a daily basis.
That’s an adrenaline rush right there.
Maybe that’s part of why we’re addicted to what we do.
When it comes to acting or public speaking, I do get nerves, but nothing debilitating.
Nothing I can’t work with.
Only enough butterflies to propel me forward.
I can conquer those nerves.
I can rein them in.
It’s partly due to training, partly due to experience and partly to do with my nature, I guess.
When it comes to singing?
That is a whole different kettle of butterfly-fish nerves.
You see, I can sing.
Let me be clear: I’m not a singer but I can sing.
You get me?
Well, I can mimic.
I can learn a whole album – or soundtrack – and sing along in the same key, just as long as no-one is accompanying me on a live instrument and trying to guide me.
Their help confuses my simple brain!
And I love to sing!
Just not when there’s an audience.
A certain friend will tell you of an audition I did for a student theatre production at uni, when I hid behind the piano in order to make it through the scales-singing section of the audition.
As a music theatre lover, I truly miss having a car.
You don’t follow?
I promise this isn’t a complete tangent.
In Australia, I had a car.
I miss Tina…
Ok. Now I’m on a tangent.
She and I went everywhere together.
I drove her from Melbourne to Adelaide and back.
To Sydney and back.
To Ballarat, plenty of times.
We loved a roadtrip.
And I really enjoyed the opportunities to do these long drives without passengers, as it meant I could put on a music theatre playlist – without judgement – crank up the volume and sing!
Let me bring you to this week’s lesson.
On Friday night, I was taken to a karaoke venue.
But, it was a karaoke bar suited to a certain clientele…
There’s a live pianist at this karaoke bar.
Which makes it a Piano Bar.
Capital letters and all!
It’s for Music Theatre lovers!
Show Off is the name of this Piano Bar, and showing off is definitely the name of the game!
The Sugar Man who introduced me to the bar knew that I have a ridiculous love for the genre, but was still shocked that I did better at his Which-Show-is-This-Piece-of-Sheet-Music-From? game than he’d anticipated!
He and I were both impressed to see that I knew the host of the night, Mr MT himself!
Despite my multiple assurances to The Sugar Man that I would not be singing, his cunning plan kicked in.
I started warming to the idea.
I can’t help it – I’m a performer.
There’s a stage, I need to be on it.
It’s a magnet to my metal-based-core.
There were other people who couldn’t hold a note who were getting up there, having a great time and being supported by the crowd.
I could do this.
I can sing.
I could do it.
I’d spotted “Don’t Cry Out Loud” from The Boy from Oz in one of the songbooks.
I know every word.
It’s my favourite song from that show.
Both versions of that show.
Todd did it better.
I figured, I could play the Aussie card.
The Sugar Man took my almost agreement to his fourth round of asking the “Do you want to sing?” as an opportunity to write my name on a list.
And that was it.
I had to do it.
I snuck in a mini rehearsal in the bathroom during a pee break.
I could do this.
My name was called.
I know this song back-to-front.
I could do this.
I looked at Mr MT in terror.
He prepped the crowd for my nerves.
I stepped up.
I took the mic.
I thought of that old expression: Fake it ’til you make it.
I could do this.
Despite my many reassurances to myself…
The nerves kicked in.
There’s this contradiction I’ve witnessed in others.
Particularly in my father.
Big Al has a serious fear of heights.
Yet loves going places that give him the best experiences and sights.
So, inevitably, things that are high up.
I rode on the Singapore Cable Car with him.
It was an amazing thing to experience.
And it was amazing to watch him.
With both hands gripped so hard that knuckles, joints and whole fingers turned white, his face bore the massive grin of an enthusiastic child, wide-eyed at the wonderful sights below him.
And I was impressed – he was equal parts shitting-his-pants scared and shitting-his-pants thrilled!
As I was standing there, on Friday night, fingers gripping tighter and tighter around that small, black microphone, I realised that I was in the same contradiction.
I love performing.
I live for it.
There’s an audience?
I want in.
But I am shitting-my-pants scared of singing.
In front of an audience.
I don’t trust my voice.
I don’t trust myself.
And still I forced myself to do it.
In true “I learnt this song by listening to Jill Perryman speak/sing it on the original soundtrack” fashion, I started by speak/singing.
Think Rex Harrison.
But more Aussie.
The pianist looked at me – at first a little concerned that I didn’t know that this was a song, then trying to urge me into full voice, like a parent trying to encourage a child to cycle without their training wheels.
I got to the chorus.
There was no choice.
I had to sing this bit.
It’s what Jill does.
But, my voice decided to do something that Jill doesn’t do.
I did what I do when I’m in panic-sing mode.
I went into what I call “comic opera”.
I can hit notes if I’m making fun of them/myself/the song.
Finally though, by the end of the song, I’d managed to ease a little bit into it and almost went for the final note.*
Everyone was lovely.
They had been on the journey with me and I did actually feel their encouragement and support.
It was lovely.
It was a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling.
But I was also pissed off.
I should be better.
I should do better.
I know that song.
I know it.
Every inch of it.
I’d nailed it in the bathroom.
I’d sung perfectly well when I had no microphone in front of me.
When the whole bar had sung together, I was on pitch.
So now I’m thinking I have to go weekly.
Until I conquer this fear.
If you don’t challenge yourself you won’t grow.
And that is this week’s lesson.
* I did not really go for the final note