Monday, 16 September 2013

"But I can't sing!!"

If I hear another potential auditionee trotting this one out, I shall throw a very diva-like tantrum... OK. I've already posted a few thoughts on this elsewhere, but I wanted to bring it further up your awareness list.

When we audition, on Monday 28th October (or some other close date if you can't manage that one), for this show, we do not need singers as much as we need entertainers. We need you to be able to tell a story, play the house, create a character. Yes, there will be a lot of music, and yes, it's helpful if you can carry a tune in a bucket; but stop thinking that 'good singer' is the only qualification. Here are a few pointers.

There's room for all combinations of vocal ability - as long as we get a couple of each:
  • Powerful, tuneful, confident singers (can deliver a good ballad)
  • Folks who can use music with confidence without being 'singers' (think Victoria Wood, Noel Coward, Dame Judi) - this is probably the most important category and one that too many people forget about
  • Folks who can't sing at all (or don't think they can) but who can deliver a monologue with masses of character
Listen to some of the guys on the YouTube playlist we've been building up.  Find the one of Ella Shields performing I'm Burlington Bertie from Bow. How much singing does she do? The last line of the refrain each time. Every other line is spoken with verve and character. Many of the Music Hall stars came into this category.

One other pointer: it's actually far more important that you can keep a rhythm rather than hold a tune. If you were at either of our Music Hall workshops at the Sewell Barn, you'll remember that we included an exercise in each which involved all the participants joining in with a line, or a couplet, each. In one case, it was the non-sung monologue Albert and the Lion (Stanley Holloway, who again, seldom sings a note); in the other, it was Noel Coward's I have been to a marvellous party (another performer who has plenty of chutzpah but next to no 'singing voice'). Both were reliant on the performers delivering their lines with character, feeling and rhythm, but involved no singing whatsoever.

Oh, yes. I'm going to include a link to one more type: the performer who pretends to be really dreadful for a specific effect. Have a look here at the inimitable Sheila Steafel performing a genuine music hall song, Popsy Wopsy. In manner of Les Dawson at the piano, or Morecambe & Wise tormenting 'Andrew Preview', this is a skill all its own. Keep it in mind.

Don't forget that we'd also like to include speciality acts if possible. I've posted about this separately here. Do let us know if that's you!

One final thing. Our Barn colleagues will be familiar with the fact that Selwyn & I have directed The Shakespeare Revue at the theatre, with a superb set of performers whose vocal styles were all very different but perfect for what we wanted; and that some of that cast, and several others from around the county, have taken part in the occasional concerts of Vocal Score, who perform to raise funds for various charities. 

Obviously we'd LOVE to have those performers audition for the music hall. However, part of the point of suggesting this show was to give as many people as possible the chance to try out for, and to take part in, a show that requires some unusual skills - some of which you might not even know you have. I'd love to have loads more auditionees than I could possibly use in the show, because I want to mix and match the personalities, voices, appearances and characters, and to include as many authentic characterisations from the Golden Age as I possibly can. There are no obvious castings here: it depends on the combination of people I get. There's no point in my casting three men who, while all 'good singers', are each perfect as Albert Chevalier; I'd prefer to have one Albert, one Harry Champion and one Dan Leno. Or whatever. In other words, don't try to second-guess: let us decide!

This is therefore a plea for you to come one, come all. Audition (using any appropriate song - you'll find more about that here). Enjoy the experience. It will be fun, I promise, whether you're cast or not. If you want to entertain: give it a try. Please.

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