All week we’ve been asking people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about their musical firsts. We’ve loved hearing about experiences from people across our community and thought we’d round off the week with Anna & Emily’s answers.
What’s your first theatre memory?
I was four years old and my Grandmother’s theatre company was putting on a production of Oliver! Not yet old enough to perform in the cast, I spent every day sitting on the sidelines at rehearsal while my Mum and brother rehearsed. This was an experience I totally took for granted as a kid, but now realise was an amazing environment to grow up in. My uncle was playing Bill Sikes and had built a balcony of mattresses behind the set so that when Bill gets shot at the end of the show, he could fall backwards from a great height and on to this nest. During rehearsal breaks I would climb the set and throw myself off the top and onto the pile, something you’d never be allowed to do in today’s world of health & safety!
My first theatre memory is of my village ballet show, aged 3 or 4. I watched all the older children in awe as they twirled and jumped around the little stage, before taking to the stage myself as one of the seven dwarfs…
What was your first solo?
It was the school Christmas concert and I was asked to sing the Frankincense verse of We Three Kings. I think I was seven and I remember taking it completely in my stride, without an inch of worry. I wish we could capture the confidence of children and carry it with us into adulthood, especially when it comes to singing. We encounter so many people who’ve been ‘scarred’ by a bad singing experience at a young age and it makes me sad that they may not know the joy of singing as an adult as a consequence.
The first song I performed alone in public was part of a festive recital at my singing teacher’s house - a jazzy version of Silent Night, complete with hand gestures and a few adlibs. I loved every moment.
What was your first choir?
I joined the local church choir when I was about 9 or 10 and sang with them until I left for university at 18. I learned so much from singing with others and was encouraged to go for my RSCM awards and got to take part in amazing experiences at places like Exeter Cathedral and Buckfast Abbey, singing in festivals and big choral works. It wasn’t all church music, though. I was also in the school choir and community gospel choir.
I was a member of two choirs at secondary school, a pop choir and a Madrigal choir which looked at classical pieces. Alongside this, I was part of Shine Theatre Group, an incredible inclusive musical theatre company who performed pop and show tunes as ensembles, where I learned much of what I know!
What was your first big role?
The Balladeer in Assassins. I was cast in the role for a school production as part of my A-Level in Drama. The Balladeer navigates much of this great Sondheim score and I learned so much doing the show. I went to my grandmother protesting that I only had songs and no opportunity to show off my acting in the piece. “My darling”, she replied, “whatever makes you think you’re not acting through song?” Like I say, I learned a lot!
I played Benjamin in my primary school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and while the lyrics were projected onto the back of the hall for all the students onstage to sing along to, I made it my business to sing a few bits by myself, belting out the Calypso as loudly as I could. At secondary school, I loved getting the chance to play Rizzo in a production of Grease. My favourite onstage heckle ensued:
Me (as Rizzo): I’m not Pregnant
My Grandma, watching from the crowd: (at the top of her lungs) Thank goodness for that!
What was your first West End show?
The Sam Mendes revival of Oliver! at the London Palladium. I was about 12 and went with my Dad as a treat. I can vividly remember the set moving during Oliver’s escape to give the impression of a moving landscape and being fascinated by how it all worked. I think my cassette tape of that cast recording was played to destruction!
Growing up in Sussex with trains arriving into London at Victoria, the West End shows I saw first played at the Victoria Palace (currently home to Hamilton). I remember seeing Fame, Grease and Billy Elliot here, as well as making the trip to Les Mis several times in my teenage years!
What were your musical firsts? Share them in the comments below!