“Ladies and Gentleman of the cast and crew, this is your beginner’s call. Beginner’s to the stage”
Last Saturday I volunteered my time at one of my occasional backstage stints – this time making sure the singers had their radio mics attached discreetly & comfortably and more importantly ensuring that they were turned ON. With only 3 mics and many cast members I needed to be standing by to coordinate the switch over’s.
After the show the chairman of the company was chatting with me about my Gramps, who he also knows and is the one to blame for introducing me to musical theatre back when my age consisted of single digits. The chairman made the following comment:
“I really admire him, I don’t know how he can love theatre so much and not want to be on the stage. He used to go up to London all the time to see shows and yet he never feels the need to experience the limelight”
Days later, I find myself still contemplating these words. Can you be a musical theatre fan without wanting to be in one? - Whether this is a realised dream or a secret fantasy.
What is it about musical theatre lovers & the need to be part of this world?
Is it the desire to perform that creates a love of musicals or is it a love of musicals that creates the desire to perform?
For me, trying to answer that last one is like trying to decide whether the chicken came before the egg. It seemed to just happen at once.
Thinking back really, really... really far, I’d say it was actually panto that came first. My Gramps started taking me to panto the second I was able to appreciate it... probably before. I suppose it was this that sparked in me a desire - no, a need - to put on painstakingly drawn out and terrible renditions of my own (I thought they were brilliant and inspired at the time, of course) for my weary looking parents (weary and somewhat drunk... they had to be to get through it, to be fair) & the parents of my friends who I’d coerced into taking part.
Even back then, however, I was more into being the production/creative team. And no, I don’t mean part of it – I was the entire production/creative team; I was script writer, director, programme designer, costume & set designer and lighting designer (and by that I mean I stretched & sellotaped quality street wrappers over a torch). I would only take a small role for myself.
That being said I do love singing. It’s mostly loudly in the shower, self consciously in the car or silly singing with my mum and sister (usually les mis, since I know you were wondering).
So does it have to be on stage to get the feeling that the chairman was talking about? I suppose it depends what that ‘feeling’ is. For him, I suppose it’s the exhilaration of sharing his passion with an audience and basking in the warm glow of the adoration in the applause – in this case, it definitely needs to be on stage. For me, it’s the satisfaction of seeing all the elements of show making come together & knowing you had a part in creating this magical world – for this you can be backstage or on stage, in a role big or small.
Either way, we still feel the need to have a role in it.
Isn’t that what we’re always told, though? – do something that you love. Isn’t it the same for anyone with a passion for something? Or is there something about the magic and escapism of theatre? That we just want to wrap ourselves up in this fantastical bubble and escape from harsh reality into a world of jazz hands and sequins?
“Ladies and Gentleman of the cast and crew. Stand by for curtain call.”