One year later

It is a really amazing thought that it is a year ago today that Ben Mills first asked the audience what to do with the lamp, rubbed it and received a visitation from a librarian in an alarmingly revealing costume.  Yes, Aladdin opened a year ago, and what a year it has been, both on stage and off.

Such a lot has happened over the past twelve months, much of it never mentioned here.  Many things have had more significance than you might expect, such as the arrival of carpet in various rooms of the house (bedrooms, front room, hall, stairs and landing) which really helped make it feel like home.  More major life changes have included the move from the old Library of Doom to the sparkly new building which I am coming to think of as the Learning Centre of Farce.  There have been some very good times and some very bad times – there have been points during the last 12 months when I’ve been proud of myself and others where I’ve been ashamed.

In theatrical terms, the year has been varied and exciting.  The panto was a wonderful experience, where I got to meet some great people and get to know some similarly great people better.  Rehearsing full-time and learning the show in such a short period was a real challenge as was taking on a role that I was theoretically completely unsuited to, both physically(my build is decidedly ‘average’, not what one expects from a Genie)  and in terms of voice, since Queen is not normally something I would seriously attempt to sing.  Challenges continued throughout the year with an infamously difficult patter song in The Pirates of Penzance, some serious belting in Hot Mikado and an entirely new experience in stage managing for Thoroughly Modern Musicals.  A concert with two contrasting featured spots (an Edwardian duet and the solo lead vocal of ‘Superstar’) and playing a teacher in Fame added to the variety.

A particular pleasure of the year was the opportunity to build on skills learned in one production as I entered each new one.  The unfamiliar vocal skills which I had to try to find for Aladdin were used again in Hot Mikado and then most notably for ‘Superstar’, where I got to unleash a rock tenor side of my voice which I didn’t know I had.  The gospel style of some of Hot Mikado came in useful for the finale of Fame and skills in getting lyrics out quickly from The Pirates of Penzance were re-employed in a tongue-twisting trio for Hot Mikado.  Both Aladdin and Hot Mikado took me out of my comfort zones in terms of dance, The Pirates of Penzance stretched my comic acting (the youngest man  in the cast playing a doddering old fool) and the rehearsal technique of Fame challenged the way I approach my characters.  Every show I do requires something new from me, but the last 12 months have particularly struck me with the way this has been true.  I don’t think I could have sung ‘Superstar’ in the concert if it hadn’t been for ‘A Kind of Magic’ and ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ in Aladdin.  I’m not convinced I’d have managed to articulate “to sit in solemn silence in a dull dark dock” etc in Hot Mikado had I not had to wrap myself around ‘Modern Major General’. 

As I rehearse for The Pajama Game and When Midnight Strikes, and look forward to some filming in the near future, I can also see the links between the last year’s shows and what I am doing now.  There are connecting threads from other shows as well (I am certainly going to be using skills and ideas from A Doll’s House and West Side Story in When Midnight Strikes, for example), but the last year has made a difference.  I believe I am a more confident performer now than I was this time in 2009, somehow – I was truly proud of what I achieved in Hot Mikado and enjoyed the whole week, a true rarity.  My attitude to dance has changed – the intense learning period for Aladdin and the challenges of Hot Mikado mean that I now throw myself at dance with as much energy and concentration as I can muster.  My interest in backstage work has been reawakened since I discovered that I could apply skills from work and pleasure as a stage manager.  I look forward to stretching my abilities in the shows to come, and I am grateful for everyone who has given me opportunities and pushed me beyond what I thought were my limits.  Who knows what I’ll learn in the next 365 days?


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