My Journey Into Theatre and why I LOVE it!

Last night Sunday 5th April should have been Olivier night. A celebration of Theatre and the theatrical community. Sadly due to COVID19, the ceremony has been postponed. Just because our theatres aren't open right now, doesn't mean we can't celebrate our incredible industry. I miss theatre, as an actress, but more importantly as an audience member and fan. So I wanted to write about my journey into this wonderful, crazy world.

Growing up, I was that kid who sang show tunes to nursery, danced and sang in front of the tele to Disney Sing Alongs and watched the Les Mis 10th Anniversary Concert almost every single Saturday afternoon.
I have wanted to act and sing for as long as I can remember. Any old video of me is always putting on a show. Whether it was using Teddy Bears as puppets, forcing my sister to create dance routines with me or doing my one woman show of Les Mis.
(Les Mis will be a running theme).

I have had my eyes on the prize since I could speak. When I was in reception, my mum used to do a rota with 2 other mums (we are all still best family friends) my 2 friends used to completely make fun of me for constantly singing in the car. To be fair, we were all 4 or 5 years old and I would most likely have the casette of Anything Goes on in the car, belting along to Patti LuPone singing Blow Gabriel Blow, so to a degree I can understand their frustrations, although why they couldn't appreciate that sublime soundtrack I'll never know.(They are both still very very good friends of mine and have subsequently seen everything I have ever been in).
Little mermaid duvet cover and ballet wall paper
You are probably all thinking I was a stage kid. Well, I was the complete opposite. I used to play a lot of sports at school. Acting and singing was something that I did at home for fun. Weekends were for MGM movies and, you guessed it, the Les Mis 10th anniversary concert.
Mary Poppins on in the background
My Dad used to do a lot of Am Dram when I was little and that's how I got exposed to so much theatre, especially the classics. Carousel and Guys and Dolls were the first 2 live musicals I ever saw. To this day, my Dad will tell you that HLOC's production of Guys and Dolls was up there with the great performances of our time. I jest, but these 2 musicals are 2 of my all time favourites. My first taste of showbiz was in 2002. My dad was doing a production of Fiddler on the Roof playing Motel, they needed 2 young girls to play the 2 youngest daughters. Well, it's the only part I've ever got without auditioning. 
Believe it or not, I was 11.
I started taking my hobbies a lot more seriously when I was heading into Secondary School. I had a solo in my year 6 school play "Rabbi Good and Chaverim" also known as "Robin Hood and friends" I played Mrs Levi (Little) John. 
(I wish I was joking, this was my actual school play). 
I had my first taste of stage fright. I spotted my parents in the audience during my solo and sang the first verse twice as I forgot the words, I've never quite forgotten the trauma. (Dramatic much?)
Following on from the performance, a lot of the parents at school asked my Mum if I had been having singing lessons, I'm going to imagine she just told everyone that was naturally exceptionally gifted, or the more likely answer of "No, can you actually have singing lessons?"

The first song I ever sang in a singing lesson was "Far From The Home I Love" from Fiddler On The Roof. If you could have told 11 year old me that 26 year old me would be playing that part professionally, she would have jumped up and down, cried tears of laughter and passed out from excitement. That pretty much did happen to 26 year old me as Helen Clarkson will recall. That show really was so much more than a job to me.
Emma Kingston, Simbe Akande, Rose Shalloo - Chichester Festival Theatre
From 11 onwards, that was it. I was going to be an Actress, I was going to be in Les Mis and I was going to be on Broadway (2/3 SO FAR aint bad). Kirsty Mackenzie, where do I even begin. I could probably write a whole blog just about how your singing lessons changed my life. Every Thursday at 5pm, Kirsty would park her red car on the driveway and come round to the house to teach me. She used to write down my range in a notebook every week in order to track progress, or tell me when I was tired. 
We went from singing Italian Arias, to stand alone Arias, to classic musical theatre, to more contemporary musical theatre. I will never forget you asking my Mum if I could sing songs that were slightly inappropriate for a 14 year old. The answer was always YES! Cue singing "Waiting For The Music To Begin" from "The Witches of Eastwick." It wasn't until a few years later I realised my top C that I was so proud of was actually the character climaxing after an erotic session with her Cello.

Whilst I was an avid theatre goer being lucky enough to live in London and my Dad always playing show tunes, Kirsty introduced me into a whole new world of music. I became obsessed. With the introduction of YouTube, I would find myself getting lost in new repertoire. From Rogers and Hammerstein, Gershwin and Cole Porter to Jason Robert Brown to Jeanine Tesori and Adam Guettel. I'll never forget taking "Glitter and be Gay to my singing lesson when I was 16, Kirsty looked at me like I was crazy. I wanted to be the best and I wanted to do it all. I sang it and Kirsty just nodded and said "Ok, so we're doing this." 
West End Live 2008 with Yafit
I decided quite early on that I didn't want to do the typical university route. Now, try telling that to Jewish parents. With the help of my singing teacher (and MANY arguments) my parents said if I got into Drama School post A Levels, I could go, but not before. 
Then a slight twist of fate. We were on holiday in Israel and our flight home was delayed. We happened to be on the same flight as a family whose son had an agent, and was doing really well, naturally my Dad enquired how to make me famous. (Again, slight exaggeration, or is it?) When we got home, we called his agent, got referred to a different agency and that was that. Thanks Greg ;)
Who knew I would end up playing Eva Peron (Argentina 2007)

There was the compromise for me staying at school.
 When I was 16 a show called Spring Awakening was advertising for young people to come and audition. I think my dad sent a random photo of me and I got an audition through. 
I took a day off school and went to this run down church in Brixton. I sang Who Knew by Pink and Angel by Sarah Mclachlan. Then something crazy happened, after meeting all the American creative team, I had made it to the final round of auditions. Well, Dad bought opening night tickets and I practically gave school my 2 weeks notice...didn't get it. 
I tell you, that rejection certainly toughened me up. 

Auditions when I was 16/17 were exciting. I used to take time off school, venture into London with a printed out map and a highlighted route of where I needed to go and those 5 minutes were my time to shine. I was young and ultimately wanted to show off.  
I would be lying if I said I didn't miss being that exciting new young person. I still have the same green attitude. Rejection can really knock you, but ultimately it's striving for the YES that could change your life.

Me entertaining everyone on the piano, Israel Trip 2005
Skipping a few bits, I then got into Mountview and the rest is history really.

People always say to me, why do you spend so much time at the Theatre on days off when it's your job?
My response is always "Because I Love It." For me, it's escapism and magic at it's finest. For 2 and a half hours, you can be transported into a completely different world. I love seeing my friends on stage living out their dreams. I love being a part of a community that all share the same joy.

The first Broadway show I ever saw was "The Color Purple" starring Fantasia Barrino in 2006. That performance and show is so vividly imprinted in my memory. Theatre has the power to make you feel extreme emotions like nothing else. Live music actually makes my heart skip a beat. 
I collected theatre programs, I would clock which actors I'd seen more than once. I checked where they trained, I wanted to be up there with them. I also just love re living the memories. It's crazy to me now looking back at a lot of these programs and seeing who I have now worked with or know. It seriously blows my mind.
That's not even all of them!
Similarly when people ask "If you could do any other career, what would it be?" I don't have an answer, I've never wanted to do anything else.
Even in the darker times of my adult career so far, when I've been in between jobs, crying after being told "No," playing your dream role and it not quite living up to certain expectations, I have still never ever ever wanted to do anything else.
This time last year I went through some of the worst rejection of my career, but this business changes at such a rapid rate. 2020 I found myself jetting off to Japan, doing musical workshops and being involved with a brand new production of Zorro. 

2020 may be on pause right now and Theatres might be dark, but the lights have just been dimmed, they have not been turned off. 
Theatre is a necessity! It gives people like me a purpose, and it gives others a reason to escape into a world of magic.
Theatre is special and when the lights come back on, it will be bigger and better than ever.
I miss my industry, I miss my friends and most of all, I miss being on stage. It's my home.

There's no place like home!

"I'm there, I'm HOME!"


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