Who Says life Isn’t A Musical?
If you’re busy with 3 jobs, dance class, choir and general life events in one week, to add another commitment, an 8 week Musical Theatre Masterclass, with a final showcase would be insane. But so was choosing Musical Theatre as an elective in year 9, even though singing in front of people at the time (almost 10 years ago) was the material of nightmares. And that worked out great! ? So did choosing to do Musical Theatre again; doing this course turned into such a personally fulfilling experience, totally worth including in my jam packed life.
The course was run by Shaun Rennie and assisted by pianist, Nick Griffin (and James Court who filled in for a few weeks). Each actor prepares and presents a song from a musical to the class and takes part in the process of workshopping it afterwards. It’s an acting course, not a singing one and Shaun says ‘I don’t care what you sound like, I just want to see your thought process come alive’.
I was nervous about doing it as I’m not an actor. I’m a dancer/singer, I studied Drama and Musical Theatre in high school and loved it and only want to do this stuff as a (serious) hobby. At first, I was only intending to audit, just to immerse myself in the joy of musical theatre. Watching the showcase from the first series and talking to participating actors, Shaun and my Hub team was the extra bit of inspiration that made me sign up.
This course can be equally fulfilling for people with different goals and levels of experience. Whether you’re approaching musical theatre for the first time or have previously performed in productions, if you want to improve your storytelling skills, deliver better performances for a musical theatre audition or just want to throw yourself in and learn more about performing musical theatre, you need commitment and a great attitude for this learning process, not a stellar voice or tons of experience. You’re in great hands, as Shaun has been so warm, honest, encouraging throughout the process.
Shaun really shows you how to deliver a song authentically- how to unpack it and to consider each phrase, all the while encouraging the actor to be themselves. I appreciated the level of detail we were taught to approach the songs with, in order to deliver a top notch performance. You leave a session with a wealth of knowledge and a new understanding of a song’s story and lyrics which you may have been singing or listening to for years. With Shaun being a director, it was also interesting to work with this perspective, as it added extra insight when blocking and making choices for storytelling. Simple choices such as where to direct your gaze or position the person you’re singing to gives the performance a new dimension.
The difference between my first performance and my second was apparently tremendous.
And I’d say it really was a testament to how much I learnt in only the first week! My new approach to preparation and deeper understanding of the storytelling and grounding techniques Shaun had taught us allowed me to deliver performances which were more alive and thought driven. I presented ‘The Life I Never Led’ from the musical ‘Sister Act’ in week 1 and also in the final week as I knew I wanted to perform this song for the showcase. After weeks of picking up different ideas, practicing the techniques, doing the homework and feeling myself become bolder with each performance, my second attempt at this song was like the ‘after’ in a ‘before and after’ transformation picture.
First comes learning, then comes practice then comes putting your work in front of an audience at the showcase! After I watched the showcase of the previous series, I was impressed at the standard I saw and was so inspired to be a part of the next series. It was a privilege to perform at The Hayes Theatre, (generously given to us twice to accommodate the showcases) as it is Sydney’s leading independent Musical Theatre venue and I’ve enjoyed watching shows there. We were placed in a real musical theatre environment, with a live accompanist and customised lighting. It’s like a powerful reminder of where we want to be and what we’re working so hard for. The showcase is also a great example of how The Hub aims to help actors make connections to industry professionals and relevant companies. An actress who did the last series got cast in production at The Hayes after the last showcase!
I knew even before I started the course that I wanted to perform ‘The Life I Never Led’ for the showcase. The song moves me; I love the passion, sense of yearning, innocence and vulnerability of it and thus it gives an actor the opportunity to perform different sides of the character, a character I felt connected to immediately. So I was excited to share the story I wanted to tell with this song and the work I had achieved throughout the course.
One of the great aspects of The Hub is the community we want to build. Taking part in such courses gives you the chance to meet and work with like minded, talented people. I’ve enjoyed hearing so many lovely girls sing songs from musicals each week and discovering everyone’s unique voice and performance styles.
So that feeling you get when a show that you’re loving finally ends – a mixture of melancholy, satisfaction over the new outlook you now have and the liveliness you’ve been injected with, and gratitude that you were able to experience it at all – that’s how it honestly feels to end this experience. I am thrilled to have been a part of this journey with a group of awesome people; fellow actors, Shaun and the accompanists. I’ve enjoyed each session, the showcase, watching other people learn and showcase their skills and learning to let go a little more each time. Oh yes, and singing songs from musicals ☺ This has been a great way to delve further into the Hub community and experience it out of my seat in the office.