What a weekend it has been! Our little production has been a MASSIVE hit and the audiences have been NUTS this weekend. LOL!
It has been such a treat to work on this production. When I was asked to join the cast, I was thinking it would be for Mushnik or ensemble. Secretly, I was hoping it would be the dentist and the 3 people that offer Seymour contracts in “Meek Shall Inherit.”
And then, Gentle Reader, THEN director, Whitney, says “we are thinking you will be a great Ronnette.” SAY WHAT!!?? Of course, immediately I said “I’m in!!”
I didn’t realize the implication of what this role would take. I LOVED IT!!!
It has been one of the most challenging roles to date. As a tenor, I automatically go for the higher notes in harmonies and the melody lines in songs. I know there is a tenor joke in there somewhere. (How many tenors does it take…)
Singing the alto line was SO much harder than I expected. It wasn’t the fact that it was higher than I usually sing, it was the fact that I kept trying to jump up to the soprano’s notes. It was so hard for me to maintain my vocal line. I know, I KNOW, singing isn’t my strong suit and this is my first major vocal role in almost 2 years. So I tried not to get too upset when I couldn’t get things right immediately.
To say that I leveled up my patience is an understatement. I know I had a crap ton of work to do. It wasn’t just because I was missing nearly half of the rehearsal time, but because the revival music is so much more complicated than the original.
My Dear Reader, let me tell you that the stress levels were high. Not only were the songs something to focus on, but I had to find my way through playing one of these roles in a gender bent versus a drag performance. I am so glad that the director wanted to try the gender bend because it gave me more of a chance to find ways to bring something a little bit different than what is already in the bones of the show. I kept thinking how can I, as a male counterpart to the two other ladies in the the trio, react to things in the script. For example, in Act 2, the Shoppettes, fawn over Seymour in Scene 3, which is right after Mushnik’s last scene (just to keep the details vague in case of spoilers, LOL) and I felt like that it wasn’t the right move for me to also make. Instead, I used the line that one of the other Shoppettes says “You’re going to be so rich,” into the start of my character arc building. I then went back through the script and used “Somewhere That’s Green” (we are on stage at this point) as my motivation to get out of Skid Row. Everything from that point on, all my choices are driven to be sure that #RonnettemakesitoutofSkidRow.
Oh, Kind Reader, with only 2 more performances to go, it feels like we are still finding more and more joy each time we step on those boards at Pintello Comedy Theater and I am going to be so sad to see this production end.
Be sure you catch this show while you can! What’s your favorite song from this show? Mine has to be the title track. I am bummed that I only get to slip on my mermaid sequin green/black jacket two more times. That’s right. You’ll have to see it. Is there a moment in the show that you love? That would be mine. LOL! Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.
“‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make“
HELLO Gentle Reader!!!
Christmas time always brings around one of two things.. 1. A Star Wars movie or 2. a feel-good movie. I skipped 1 and went directly to 2. And I don’t regret it.
To say The Greatest Showman is a fantastic movie is barely doing the film justice in my opinion.
The idea of bringing yourself and others up from being held under by circumstances like class or appearance or race weaves a moving story of the start P.T. Barnum’s (Hugh Jackman) career, a dreamer with the belief that he can create a life for his family that is the complete opposite of his childhood. However, focusing on trying to fight your past can create other issues with your present.
Jackman’s performance is spectacular in all facets; the acting was clear and strong, the dancing was amazing (his clarity of movement and lines were mesmerizing), but for me, his singing was the clincher. If you were to listen to his performances in Oklahoma or Les Miserables or Boy From Oz, you know his “sound.” He’s a belter. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I want to hear a little variety in a voice. The Showman music has allowed him to show more of his voice in a way that I feel hasn’t been featured much, if at all. I was expecting it for Bring Him Home in Les Mis but never got it. Hearing him use this lower register more was like being given the most wonderfully unexpected surprise. This role could not have been played by anyone else that I can think of with the same power.
The major theme of acceptance runs throughout the film. From Barnum wanting to elevate his status in society, to the performers in his circus wanting to just be a part of society not just its freak show as well as self acceptance, to Barnum’s wife, Charity (wonderfully played by Michelle Williams) who just wants a simple life with her family, to Zac Efron’s socialite producer, Phillip Carlyle, who is too afraid to lose status in society to find something that makes him happy. The entire ensemble was fantastic. I was so happy to hear how talented all the actors were.
The script was written by Jenny Bicks (Emmy winner for Sex and the City) and Bill Condon (Oscar winner for Chicago and Dreamgirls). It is no wonder why this movie feels so polished in its storytelling.
The beautiful and uplifting songs were written by the team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, A Christmas Story and the incredible Dear Evan Hansen) and are easily something that can be recorded into a pop song and played on the radio. I am a wee bit surprised that “This Is Me” “Never Enough” or “Rewrite the Stars” haven’t had that treatment yet. LOL. I found the music energetic and catchy and haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack since.
Visually, it was a crazy spectacle of color and flash during the circus scenes interspersed with stunningly clear regular life. Some of the shots were just gorgeous. Two that pop in mind right away is during the number “Rewrite the Stars” there is a shot of Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) on the trapeze singing beautifully clear while the rest of the shot spins around her. Then, in “This is Me” there is a moment where Lettie (Keala Settle) turns around and then everything else around slows down. There are so many great shots but there is also one really bad one. LOL. It happens toward the end of the movie during “From Now On.” With so much great imagery, there is one that is just so jarringly out of place I wanted to flip a table. GRRRRR!!! When you see the movie, I am sure you will see it. Still, director Michael Gracey has made a very well done film.
I was really excited to see this movie and am so glad that I enjoyed it so much. This is like a little love letter to the dreamers. The people that want to be something more.
Can you believe this is the first post of 2016? Would you believe it if I told you I am working on completing 4 different shows in the next 5 months? It’s true. I will get to some of that in a second.
Going back to the question at hand… are they paying you?
I have had a number of people ask me this question in regards to my next project. My current project is just a little dance number in “She Loves Me” at Foothill Musical Theatre, which is playing its last weekend beginning Thursday. The next project in the works requires that I commute to Hollister which is about an hour outside of the San Jose area, if the traffic is not too bad. I don’t mind the drive at all. I enjoy any car ride as long as I have something to shamelessly sing to/with. Currently, it is a toss up between Hamilton and Something Rotten.
While I do need to take some time away from the survival jobs to make it to rehearsals on time and pay for plenty of fuel, it isn’t an unreasonable question to ask. When I tell them the answer is no, I am given the “oh damn!” look. You know the one. It looks kind of like a combination of smelling something bad and sucking on a lemon.
I am glad my friends are looking out for me, but I do have my reasons on this project.
I call this a “gotta do it” project. Think of it like facing your fear. My next project is with the San Benito Stage Company’s Sidecar production. It is a cabaret style show in a quaint little bar in a building called The Vault. The show itself is called “The Subject is Love.”
I have always loved to sing, dance, and act. My preferences of the three disciplines are in the exact opposite order than what I just listed them. For some reason that I didn’t understand, I would always get in the most trouble for singing.
Both my parents were big popular music lovers. So of course, I grew up listening and loving the radio’s top 40. Once I was introduced to musicals (Thanks, Tawni!), my interest in the regular music that the rest of the people around me listened to waned. I began to collect as many cast recordings as I could get my hands on via the local libraries. I loved to sing along with these magnificent songs that held so much story and emotion. I didn’t just sing though, I belted out these songs. I was constantly told by my family to shut up. I was a terrible singer. I could never do something like that (be in a musical).
This negativity was around me every day for years, because I couldn’t help it that I loved these songs so much. Subconsciously, it made me believe that I couldn’t sing and that I would never get to be a part of something so incredible. Now I could be bitter at this mental block I have been given by my family, but I realized, oddly from watching America’s Funniest Videos*, that it wasn’t because I was bad at it. It was because I was maybe a tad loud, but mostly because it wasn’t the style of music that my family was used to. Since they weren’t, they believed it was terrible music and wouldn’t stop to really listen to it.
To this day, I have this anxiety of singing in front of others, especially at auditions. It is one thing to be in a role and embodying a character as one sings, but it is a whole different show when it is just you as yourself singing a song for a group of strangers. ‘But there’s the whole karaoke thing, you can’t forget that!’ one dear reader exclaims. I reply, “Yes, but there’s the whole alcohol thing , you can’t forget about that.” I think somewhere in the back of my mind there is that cluster of voices from long ago echoing those negative phrases still. For those that have known me a long time, they could mention Smokey Joe’s Cafe, but even then our director created a story arc for the show which gave way to creating characters.
Yet, I have this crazy idea that I would love to perform a solo cabaret show sprinkled with a couple of friends and with this mental block I don’t see how I can make that a reality. I have had the opening number all staged for the last 5 years. Maybe it is 6. By facing down this insecurity of mine, maybe I will finally scale this seemingly insurmountable wall that I put up when it comes to singing and get my ass in gear to complete this goal. And who knows, maybe my other auditions will level up! Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed. Until then, I shall continue to sing with whichever great cast recordings I have on the road with me.
Do you have any favorite songs that you like to sing along to when you are driving down the road? If you were only allowed to belt out one really good number, what would you choose? Let me know! Maybe we can post videos of us doing just that.
Take care, Gentle Reader.
*I tried to find the video but finally gave up. In it, there is a young boy singing a show tune. I can’t remember if it is from Cats or Annie but his older sister is screaming for him to be quiet. The boy was actually on pitch and singing pretty well. So the video brought back a lot of memories.
Has anyone ever told you to trust yourself? Or how about: Get out of your own way? I get that often. Actually much, much more than I really care to hear. While hunting for an old headshot of mine last night, I came across all of my old paper work from past theatre classes and I kept a lot of it. On nearly every critique from my teachers or more advance students, that dreaded word was in each of them: Confidence. Character believability, vocal choices, physical choices and interpretation were all very well received, but that little word has kept me from reaching the fullest of my potential. And, to be frank, I don’t know how to get over that.
The reasons that I have thought of have been fear of success or fear of failure. Of course that’s always a big issue for nearly everyone. There is also lack of a seriously studious work ethic because I have to try and balance a “normal” job somehow/somewhere in there.
But I think with the advent of shows like “American Idol,” I may have actually found the real reason.
I am amazed at the ego that some of the “hopefuls”, and I use that term very loosely, have when they come in to audition for things like SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Dance) or AI. I worry if maybe I have been coddled as clearly most of these people have been. You can tell that they are being told by people how good they are, when it obviously isn’t true. Most likely, it’s their parents, or friends or even well meaning teachers that are just trying to build up their confidence. Could I possibly be having that same thing done to me? I don’t know. I can tell you for a fact it isn’t my family. They always had quite the opposite reaction. But I won’t get into that. Friends are supposed to support you, but do they always tell you the truth? The really good ones do. Even if you don’t want to hear it. For the sake of breaking this down fully, let’s look at some other possibilities.
Or I can liken this to crazy people. Please forgive my use of such a politically incorrect term. The thought that I have is that crazy people don’t go around asking if they are crazy do they? It doesn’t occur to them that they are standing just outside of the “norm.” So logically, one would believe that simply by asking yourself that tiny question, you shouldn’t be crazy since you are taking the time to think about the issue. If I were just to believe that I could do everything well, would that I mean I have the talent to do it? If I stopped and thought about it, it wouldn’t make any sense. This would then make it fall into the realm of ego right? But what if I had examples of it working out in some aspects and not others? No longer is it ego, but more like the crazy man trying to figure out if he is indeed crazy. So, couldn’t that same theory hold true for my situation as well? Possibly. Let’s look at another thought.
There is also what could be the attention factor. By saying that I don’t believe in what people are saying about my performances or ideas, some people usually try to explain why they are well done or good, thus breaking down the work and adding more compliments to it and more time praising which equals more attention. And while yes, I have a lot to say (some which isn’t appropriate for this blog site) and a outgoing demeanor the occasional ego stroking could be most welcome. However, I can assure you this one isn’t the case. Well maybe by 5% it could be. Subconsciously, speaking of course.
Another reason could be trust. Now I know that this could be a real stretch, but hear me out. I know not everyone likes the same genre of music or style of singing so therefore, many people don’t agree on what sounds good. There are the singers that sing out of their nose. There are the singers that sing like they are trying to hold everything in the back of their throats. Then there are singers who have a whole other voice sound or quality that they use to sing. That one I can’t even explain but I’ll try. Now I am not going to name any names, but let’s say I know someone who talks like Kermit the Frog, but when he sings, he sings like Miss Piggy. For the sake of argument, I did exaggerate this. But the sound and quality of his voice changes in a way that, to me, makes the whole performance feel fake and just bad. So when I see things like this happen on stage especially when there are other people that I know who could have fit into the role better, then I feel I have a legit reason to distrust people. And sometimes that distrust of people plays with my head. For example, about a month ago, I went in to audition for the role of Bob in “White Christmas” and the Vocal and Orchestra Leader was Rachel Michelberg, who I worked with on “Sweet Charity” at the beginning of the year. She had never heard me sing, and after the auditions, she said how well she thought I did. Do you know what I told her? My dumb ass said, ” Really? Blech.” Then she took me to task! Whew! Her mouth fell open for a second in disbelief and she said, “I am a professional music teacher! I teach people how to sing so I know what I am talking about. When I say that you sing well, you say ‘Thank you!'” So really really embarrassed I said sorry and thank you and quickly left. I do have to say thank you, Rachel for that needed slap in the face. The thing about that exchange was that it was just like a reflex to disregard the kind words of someone else. I find it confusing, because I can take a compliment if it were about shoes or clothes or even a blog post, but when it comes to “talent” or appearance, I just can’t do it.
So in the end, I guess what it comes down to is even if you don’t believe in yourself, ACT like you do; but seriously dig deep and find out why. The roles or opportunities that you have missed out on before could be yours if you have confidence. Here are some ways that will give you a boost. Be prepared. Study your material so you know as much as you can about it. Know what your guidelines are and be sure you respect them. Dress in something that makes you feel good about yourself, not necessarily something that makes you look good. When I wear a suit I feel super constricted and uber-self conscious so you’ll hardly ever see that. Be sure that it’s not something trashy though. Don’t wanna walk into an audition in a pair of cut off shorts if it isn’t called for, right?
I think that maybe my lack of confidence comes from a little of everything, I don’t know for sure. But I figure if I point it out to myself, I will finally start working on it. Thanks for lending me an eyeball!
Do you have confidence? What are some things that you have found that work for you? Do any of these ideas about where the lack of confidence stems from resonate with you? Which one? Let me know, maybe we can help each other out of this. I look forward to hearing from you.