In a surprise 'twist' (hahahahaha I crack myself up) my daughter, who up until now has shown little or no interest in theatre performance, scored a part in the school musical at the last moment and over the last two weeks has been gracing the stage with her presence!
I must admit that when she told me she was signing up for the musical at the beginning of the year, I was quite surprised. As a stage mad girlie, with a background in musical theatre and dance, I had enthusiastically enrolled my tiny daughter in ballet, gymnastics and music classes. Additionally, as the child of a single parent she was frequently dragged along to rehearsals for a variety of her mother's pantomime and drama productions from an early age. Imagine then my shock and horror as she announced to me (aged 3) that she would NOT be doing that ballet concert for which I had spent hours making a costume!
"What do you mean?" I spluttered. "You like ballet!"
"I don't like all those eyes looking at me!" she announced.
I have to admit I wondered immediately if there had been a swap at the hospital!
A very good and wise friend reminded me that our children are not carbon copies of us and I had to resign myself to the fact that the Baby Angel's only interest in theatre was as a spectator. Even as a spectator she needed to get a grip. During a performance of 'Cinderella', as I had my homemade ball dress ripped apart by the ugly sisters, the BA howled in the audience and had to be restrained from running up onto the stage to 'stop them hurting my mummy!!!!!!'. I just didn't think the theatre was for her.
But, sign up she did. I encouraged her as I thought it would be a good way to build relationships in a new school. Initially it involved being in one or two dance numbers and standing about strategically in scenes. When I quizzed her about it she seemed non-committal and less than motivated. Imagine my surprise then when, a month before the show, she came home to announce that one of the speaking parts had had to resign since she would be in Melbourne on the weekend of the show and that she, the Baby Angel had been chosen to replace her!
She had won the role of Noah Claypole, the bullying undertaker's apprentice whose taunting of Oliver leads to his running away to London to seek his fortune. So, a pivotal role no less!!! We spent a few evenings learning her lines together and working on the characterisation but after that she was all "It's fine mum; it's going well," and I was left to wait in anticipation for opening night.
It was with mounting excitement and a touch of anxiety that I entered the school hall on the first Thursday night. The school hall at my Alma Mater, is a churchlike affair; vast, vaulted, polished wooden floors and, until recently, unheated! There is a stage, albeit without a proscenium, curtains or wings and I had vaguely wondered how they were going to use the place to effect in the Dickensian setting of the show. In a way, the austerity of the place has a somewhat workhouse feel to it, so perhaps it was going to add to the atmosphere?
In his wisdom, the director had decided to use the floor of the hall as the stage and erect stadium seating at the rear. The stage at the front had some sets placed on it and stairs leading down to the performance area, but mostly the action took place on the floor. There were no real 'wings'. There were no real lights to speak of!! Oh, and did I mention there didn't seem to have been much direction either????
Perhaps I am being a little harsh. Then again....no.......I'm not.
It was just the wrong place for a musical production. The lovely voices were lost to the enormous height of the ceiling, the lights were washed out in the vastness of the space. And let's face it, most teenage girls playing men are not strong enough performers to carry it at the best of times let alone in the enormity of this setting. Up close and personal in a little intimate theatre they may have got away with it, but in the 'Great Hall' it just didn't work. I began to worry about the BA. On a positive note, at least she wouldn't stand out as a complete newbie. Many of the performances were static and lacked depth although the singing was, for the most part, very good. The trouble was most of the main characters looked as if they'd just stepped out of the front row of a choir. And not a show choir either!!
Earlier this year we had the pleasure of seeing my friend Prof J's daughter performing the same show at her school. Lanky J (as I shall call her...she is enormous!) played Fagin in a hugely enjoyable production where wonderful sets, bright, cheerful lighting and some terrific comic performances covered a multitude of sins (as my mother would say), in the way of weak singing voices, dodgy chorus costumes and average acting. It was a school production, obviously, but it made up for what it lacked with energy, verve and colour; a crucial rule in amateur theatre is to keep the audience visually entertained if nothing else.
The BA's cue approached. I waited with a fluttering stomach for the first lines I had practised with her over and over....
"CHARLOTTE? Open the door Charlotte! OPEN the door will ya????"
The dulcet tones of my Baby Angel bellowed from behind a dresser. She could be heard! within moments she was there onstage and with a leap of my heart I realised that she lit up the space. Sure she was just a schoolgirl in a school play but she held her own, injected some life into the flat atmosphere and kept me riveted to her performance with her energy and presence.
I was so proud.
Now, I ain't saying she's got a career in the theatre or anything. I mean, it was her first ever performance and she had L plates showing all over the place, but she was no weak link in this cast and she was at least as competent as other pupils who'd obviously been doing 'drama' for many years. Like many of them, she seemed uncomfortable in her body on stage but that is a teenage girl thing and something which will improve with experience and confidence.
Oh who knows. She may never do another thing but for the 10 minutes that she was on stage she exuded a presence and energy that took me completely by surprise. Whaddayknow? She has got some of my genes after all!
Congratulations BA on a great job in a difficult setting. Let's see if we can talk Mr Director into hiring a proper theatre for his next show!! Stay tuned folks as Miss Baby Angel stars in the Alma Mater Christmas production of 'The Great Santa Kidnap' (or some such thing) in which she plays a goblin. Naturally.