A Week In The Life Of A Musical Theatre Fanatic
| By London Theatre Direct
My name is Nicky Sweetland. I'm 37 years old and I spend most of my waking hours and a lot of my dreams thinking about musical theatre. I have jobs and children and a normal life, but like a football fan who knows every statistic about their team, I am fanatical about everything musical theatre.
Here is a week in my life.
So, today I have a few jobs to do. Up early to get the teenagers off to school. Quick check of Twitter to catch up on the latest MT news. My favourite musicals are Miss Saigon and Wicked so I am always really interested in tweets about these productions or from people who are in them or have been. I check any tweets from Kerry Ellis and reply to as many as possible. Kerry is performing tonight in my closest big theatre, the Octagon in Yeovil as part of her solo tour. As a Wicked fan this is a must see, particularly as Kerry is back in the production for a limited run. I am also lucky enough to be singing with Kerry tomorrow on the third leg of her tour. This came about after I noticed on Twitter that she was funding her album through pledge music, which meant you could pay for different experiences, one of which was an on stage duet. The prospect of being able to sing with one of my idols on stage was just too good to miss so I pledged the (large) amount of money, put it on the credit card and worried about how to pay for it later. If we go back to the football analogy, which more of the general public understand, it is like paying to play football with Pele, or Beckham.
So, back to my day. I'm a fitness instructor and I teach a variety of different classes. This morning I'm doing Zumba. I love Zumba because every class is like a performance and I can sneakily put in different pieces of music which often have tenuous links to Musical Theatre, e.g Perhaps, by the Pussy cat dolls. Sung by Nicole Scherzinger who has just been cast as Grizabella in Cats at the London Palladium, and was originally sang by Doris Day who was famous for playing Calamity Jane. These little nods to musical theatre help my days pass while continuing to feed my desire and fanaticism.
My next job is for a building company. I have taken on some painting and decorating to help pay the bills (two teenagers are expensive and so are theatre tickets!) I'm gradually educating the lads on the building site, although some of them are a little resistant to show tunes. When "Somebody to love" from "We Will Rock You" comes on they are reluctant but seem to know (and enjoy) it.
Home for a bath (to get the paint out of my hair) and then off to Yeovil with my 15 year old daughter.
The theatre at Yeovil is modern and comfortable, although they always have the air con on too strong for my liking. We are sitting in the second row which means we are really close. I'm surprised at the price of the programme (£15) and I have to say the merchandise as a whole did feel like a rip off.
The show starts with a medley of James Bond themes and when the pint sized Kerry Ellis takes to the stage the small but very enthusiastic audience raise the roof. Kerry's voice is incredible and the band and backing singers are great. Kerry does her own comparing, which to begin with, felt a bit nervy and stilted but as the show continues, and the audience encourage, Kerry relaxes and her sense of humour starts to come through. Kerry's show has a good mix of pop and musical theatre, with some fantastic new arrangements by Craig Adams. I did notice Kerry get the lyrics wrong in a couple of songs, but most people probably wouldn't have, as she covered the mistakes well.
In act two, Kerry introduces tonight's lucky pledger ready for their on stage duet. I wait with bated breath to find out what I will be living up to the next day. The duet is the same as I will sing and the girl does a valiant but very nervous job.
The show finishes with some great show stoppers and a standing ovation from the very excited crowd. My daughter and I decide to head to the stage door, and after a little wait. Kerry comes out to greet her fans. It is obvious from the crowd that Kerry's fan base is mostly teenage girls and other fanatics! I introduce myself and then find my usually confident and cool exterior crumble and I start jibbering like a crazy thing. My teenage daughter steps in and we get a couple of photos. I drive home like I'm drunk feeling like I've had a hit of the adrenaline I get from feeding my theatre habit. Sleeping is tricky as I'm nervous and excited about what's just happened and what is in store for the next 24hours.
Up with the lark to sort cars and get my hair done for the big event. Quick check of Twitter and upload my photos. Very happy that Kerry has retweeted my pics.
The venue is two hours away, and we are traveling down in separate cars. My parents and my daughter are coming down early so that my daughter can come to the rehearsal and make the most of the VIP pass. My son and Partner will follow later for the show. We arrive at the theatre and walk past teenage girls already at the stage door and on to the stage for the rehearsal. Kerry is very welcoming, and I try to be a bit cooler! I give her a couple of gifts (including some Dorset knobs!) and the tour manager gives us our passes and shows us around. Kerry is friendly and sweet, but every bit the leading lady. Not much small talk and very business.
We watch the sound check and then it's my turn. As a pledger, there are no auditions. You pay your money, you get to sing. That's it! This is very brave on Kerry's part as she never knows what she's going to get. As a musical theatre fanatic I take part in amateur musicals and can sing a bit so I think I'll be fine. I get one shot at the rehearsal and luckily get it right. Half way through the song I look across the stage and it suddenly hits me that I am fulfilling a dream come true. I'm singing with a West End star, and the current Elphaba! We are singing "I know him so well" from Chess and Kerry is complimentary about my performance, but I secretly know she has to say that to everyone. I then have an hour to kill before the show. I can't eat and I feel like I'm walking on air.
I watch act one (with my partner who has had a few and is a bit annoying) and then have hugs and kisses from my family before I head backstage to get ready for my go.
I'm sharing a dressing room with a choir from Bristol which Kerry is using as backing for her last two songs. A couple of them are musical theatre fans, and I feel calmer talking about shows and songs. Then it's my turn. Kerry introduces me and I enter stage left to encouraging applause. After another bit of complimentary introduction the music starts and I've got to actually do it. I'm a bit shaky to start with but then mentally give myself a slap. This is my only chance to do this. I have to enjoy it and I calm myself and sing well. We sing together and I feel like I have arrived. As a musicals addict this is nearly the biggest thing I could (other than performing in the West End) I've done it. I leave the stage and can't really remember the rest of the show. After the finale Kerry comes and thanks me and then comes to meet my family and have photos. What a night. Absolutely the best night ever. I tweet my photos and I'm ecstatic that Kerry replies and retweets. Sleeping is difficult again.
Rubbish nights sleep after spending all night reliving every moment of the show and experience over and over again. Try my best not to speak about it in every sentence, but know I am. I upload the video my daughter sneakily took at the rehearsal to Facebook and then spend the morning basking in the compliments. We head to one of the nearby beaches, where my teenagers enjoy a few hours surfing while my partner and I sit and have coffee. He marks some books (he's a Maths teacher) and I spend far too much time checking Twitter and Facebook." Did that really just happen " That's a little quote from Wicked but that was how I spent Saturday feeling. We headed home and I really felt just a bit empty. Back to reality. I suppose I was hoping that the dream would continue and that I would suddenly be discovered. Things like that don't really happen and for someone who lives their life through musical theatre it still comes as a surprise.
Had a few glasses of wine and decided it would be a good idea to book tickets to see Kerry's last performance in Wicked. Another one of those chuck it on the credit card and worry about how to pay for it later. Slept well!
Lie in! Very very tired. Definitely feeling the come down. It's grey outside and that's how I feel. What is there left to look forward to now? I decide to listen to the radio 2 playing of the Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary gala. I was lucky enough to be there after one of my dear friends ran to the theatre and begged for tickets. It was a fantastic experience as a Saigon fan. I've seen the show 11 times (6 previous West End, 2 youth and including the gala, 2 the new production) We were sitting in the stalls and really mingled with the stars. Cameron Macintosh stood next to me for most of the performance and I was able to speak to the great Claude Micheal Strindberg. I also had a chat to the lovely Michael Ball and his wife.
The actual performance was fantastic. The new production, in my opinion is far better than the old one, and I loved the old one. The cast is very strong and the slight changes to lyrics and songs work really well. As a mega fan there are a few bits I'm not so keen on ( Ellen is too old and has a very dated 80s, Marti Webb type voice) After the full show we're then treated to free champayne before the amazing concert starring the cast from the original production. Miss Saigon is what made me love musical theatre from the age of 14, and in particular Lea Salonga. Some girls performed the song "I still believe" in a local variety show and I instantly fell in love. To be fortunate enough to watch Lea Salonga perform after so many years was a major highlight. I loved the interaction between her and the new cast members, particularly Rachel Anne Go and Alistair Brammer . It was great to see the new and old Engineers together too. I have never been a fan of this role and always found his songs ( "What a waste", "If you want to die in bed" and "Dream") a bit boring. The production has changed my mind. The portrayal by Jon Jon Briones is truly mesmerising. Watching the Jonathon price version during the gala performance made me realise why I'd never liked him before (yawn!)
Anyway, back to Sunday. Watched the gala on Twitter just to give myself a bit of a musical theatre fix to help me through the day.
Decided to tweet all of my favourites. I've had a tremendous six months and got to see all of my idols perform. Quite apart from Kerry Ellis and Lea Salonga, I also won tickets to see Kristen Chenoweth at the Albert hall (the best singer I have ever seen, and fantastically entertaining show), got a cheap ticket to see Ruthie Henshall in Billy Elliot and during a trip to New York for a wedding, went to see If/Then starring Idina Menzel(slow show, but great performance by Idina)
Listened to a bit of Elaine Page on Sunday (great music, terrible presenter. How does she she still have a show? Watched her on tour a few years ago and although the singing was still good, the talking and movement made my flesh crawl!) before a walk along the sea front. I live in Lyme Regis which is a beautiful small sea side town on the south coast. Lots of people know me here because they have either been to one of exercise classes at some point or seen me on stage. I did feel like everyone should know about my performance on Friday, and walked along feeling a bit like a celebrity. Someone did stop me to ask me about it, which was great for my Diva's self esteem.
Popped on the 1998 DVD of Hey Mr Producer, while I cooked a Sunday roast. Brilliant collection of performances which haven't dated and my 15 year old theatre fanatic in training, also sat and enjoyed. Performances of note come from the fabulous Hugh Jackman in Oklahoma (who I was lucky enough to meet on the red carpet at the Australian Premiere of Les Miserables while staying with my sister in Sydney) and a lovely rendition of some Sondheim's greats by names such as Lea Salonga, Ruthie Henshall, Maria Freidman and Judy Dench (who can't really sing, but acted it nicely!)
Watched a bit of Sunday night at the palladium because I wanted to see a bit of Cats and the wonderful Miss Nicole Sherzimger. I love Cats but don't feel the new production has anything new to offer. Still, Nicole Sherzinger will potentially be very good as Grizabella. I watched her perform "Don't cry for me Argentina" on a TV show a couple of years ago and she did great job of a difficult and very over performed song. "Memory" is in the same category for me.
Finished watching "Hey Mr Producer" then off to bed.
Urregggh, Monday morning. It's pouring with rain and I feel thoroughly dreary. Teach a bit of Zumba. Vid to some of my clients and they didn't gush enough. Don't they realise I'm in a state of cold turkey and need my ego massaged? Then rather than going to the building site(can't paint windows in the rain) I head home. Tweet a few bits and bobs but get no replies and spend a few hours baking cakes and quiches for the kids to try and cheer me up. Another Zumba in the early evening then off to an Amdram rehearsal. I'm currently rehearsing for "Jesus Christ Superstar" which I haven't enjoyed at all. I'm not a big fan of the show and I wasn't cast in the only female role (Mary Magdalene). Instead I've spent the last three months of rehearsals languishing in the chorus.
As is customary with amateur theatre, we spent a lot of the rehearsal sitting around and the rest being shouted at about how close we are to the show with not much constructive content in between. Home to bed!
Up early today to do one of my other jobs. This morning I am working for the NHS rehabbing Cardiac patients. It's been a job I've done for a long time and is enriched with all kinds of interesting people who I'm able to make a connection with. We have music on during the classes and I spend slot of my time talking to people about musicals and singing.
One of the exercises I get them to do is the hula hoop. I got quite interested in hula after watching Lloyd Webber's "Steven Ward" last year (most interesting thing but about the show!). Most people will have a go with the hoop and generally its a bit of fun that lifts the spirits. One chap said to me that he felt he was too old! I said it is not the age but the technique and he thought I was talking about something else and asked me on a date.
Between classes I checked my Twitter and Miss Saigon was asking for lookalikes so I sent one of me looking like Jon Jon Briones. Lots replies and favourites made my day and it was a giggly fun day.
But more Zumba in the evening and then off to an Amdram committee meeting. Local theatre is riddled with politics and this local group is no different. I have reluctantly agreed to go on to the committee in a bid to try to move the group forward with some more modern ideas and knowledge. I'm the youngest on the committee by 20 years and most of them haven't even heard of Miss Saigon and Wicked. Tried my best to stay awake while they two and frowed about boring issues. The next show is Evita, which I don't really like. I'm production manager for it, and I love that part. It brings together my passion for theatre with my interests in building and painting things.
Home for a quick check of Twitter and then bed.
I start Wednesdays with a 50+ keep fit class. This is s lovely group with a couple of former actors with whom I always enjoy a chat about what's happening in local theatre and in my prospective theoretical career. My Mum also attends this class which is sometimes tricky when I'm trying to portray a professional exterior and she's telling people about me throwing my shoes at a shopkeeper when I was three! Today, however this is great. Mum talks loudly to whoever will listen about my performance with Kerry on Friday and how proud she was.
Off to the building site then where it is very cold and raining. Today's job involves stripping wallpaper off a pee stained wall in a bedroom where someone has recently died. Oh the glamour of me!
Parents evening for my 15 year old fills my early evening. Lots of people have seen the vid of Friday and compliment me on it. One of my daughter's friends tells me how proud my daughter was, which considering I am normally the most embarrassing thing on Earth, really is a huge achievement.
Bit more Zumba then off to a JCS rehearsal.
We are setting the last supper scene this evening and with only 6 weeks left until the show we still don't actually have 12 men to play the apostles we only have 10. This is a common problem in local theatre and so my friend and I are cast, in a Monty Python's "The life of Brian" style as the apostles Thomas and Thaddeus.
This really has made my evening. An otherwise very dull show has now become fun and trying to be a disciple with a high soprano voice really is a challenge! Home to bed!
By Nicky Sweetland