First Night Nerves
So last night it was finally time...
After two months of rehearsing, learning words and worrying about whether or not my outfits would fit it was time to raise the curtain on my first night starring as Connie Francis in the hit show C’mon Everybody.
I’ve kept this one fairly close to my chest – a couple of years experience of working in the rock n roll world has been enough to teach me that until something is actually happening you can’t trust that it will go ahead.
It has been over two years since my first ever paid gig as a musician – backing my then-boyfriend on the keyboards as he performed as Buddy Holly. Shortly afterwards he started touring as Buddy Holly in Rock n Roll Paradise and I was content as his staunch supporter. Mr P, however, had other ideas. He’d seen me play and heard me sing many times and had more belief in me than I could have imagined. When my plans for further education started looking less and less likely he started pushing me to become involved in his music world.
A few months later I received a call and was given my first show playing keyboards and saxophone for Rock n Roll Paradise. I was terrified – I had one month to prepare and I can vividly remember the sleepless nights and panic attacks that preceded it. I will never know how I got through but I do know that without Mr P’s unwavering and sometimes overwhelming belief I would never have got up on that stage.
That show did not turn into the regular gig I’d hoped for but soon other offers started coming in. It was a very unsure and nerve-racking time. I had no experience of the rock n roll musical world and at the time I had no clue how to act or what to do. I would go to theatres ready to join a show only to be met with derision and even out and out hostility. I will never forget the experience of walking onstage to meet the band I was going to be playing with only for the guitarist to throw down his guitar in disgust and storm off shouting.
When I look back at this earlier time I do sometimes feel that I was being set up to fail. I had no idea what was expected of me. I am a decent musician but was in no way prepared for the tribute theatre scene. I had never performed in such a big space before and even though I could play every piece perfectly at home I had no idea just how much performing in a theatre full of people would affect how well I could play. I made mistake after mistake, each time my confidence dipping a little lower. I would break out into a sweat before a performance and sit there trembling – every wrong note pricking me like a needle.
It didn’t help that I had no one to guide me through this whole process, Mr P had been working on the scene for so many years that he didn’t understand how I was feeling or how angry I felt. I felt cheated that nobody was explaining to me what I should do while at the same time foisting more and more work onto me. I would turn up to a gig just in time for sound check only to find out everyone else had been there for hours, I didn’t know what to ask the sound tech for or how to set everything right. There were no such things as rehearsals – nothing gets rid of a professional musician faster than the words “unpaid work”.
I couldn’t understand why people kept booking me. It’s only now with a little distance that I can appreciate how alone and scared I felt. I was trying to make it in a world that would flirt with me constantly then ditch me after the first taste of success. It was like playing the most complicated game in the world only someone had written the rules in chinese and left half of them out. I’d recently been diagnosed with menieres disease and it felt like the final straw. I quit. The stress and fear and sheer exhaustion was making me ill and I couldn’t take any more.
That would have been it had I not received a phone call about 5 months later offering me a part in a brand new show. I was very reluctant to say the least but – I was told – there was going to be musical direction, printed music and above all else a 6 week rehearsal period.
After a little persuasion I signed up.
I’ve mentioned this story before and I’ll try not to go into too much detail but the short version is:
I sailed through rehearsals, my shattered confidence rebuilding with each session. I started to realise that I wasn’t as awful as I’d previously suspected, I was just new. With a little coaching and a lot of practise I began to see what I was capable of and even achieved it from time to time. I started to realise my strengths and was heartened to realise that some of my natural talents such as an excellent ear, accurate pitch and the ability to improvise – matched or even outstripped those who had been doing this for a long time, even though their playing was far superior.
By the time the show hit the theatres I was vastly improved. For the first four shows I was living on a knife edge – expecting to be fired at any moment. After the first shows went down a storm I slowly began to relax. The show’s creator assured me that the job was fully mine without a doubt, that I would never be fired as they adored me and loved my playing. Once again I left my day job and revelled in my newly repaired psyche.
If you haven’t heard this before you can probably guess what happened next.
I was fired from the show, just over a month after getting married and barely 6 weeks after leaving my day job. Two of us lost our main source of income for reasons that have still not been fully explained to me although I was assured that my playing was most definitely not the reason for my sudden exit.
I can’t describe to you how awful the next few months were. But I was not destroyed the way I had been the previous year. This time I’d found a core resilience which would help me to survive. I was married with the full unflinching support of my husband and although losing the show had severely damaged my trust in people I still had a little confidence in myself. I vowed then and there that I would always strive to do everything on my own terms – I was never going to hand my fate to someone else again.
With that in mind I pulled out my red lipstick, and I started writing this blog.
I’m not going to lie there have still been some hard times. Money’s been very tight and being out of work has not been much fun. But there have also been some amazing positives. My relationship with Mr P is stronger than ever; we’ve started working together privately as well as doing just about everything else together and we know we can depend on each other 100%. Through the online world I’ve got back in contact with people I haven’t seen for years and made new friends.
If I hadn’t lost everything I wouldn’t have needed to boost my confidence back up so I never would have started wearing my lipstick and I wouldn’t have started writing. If I hadn’t started writing I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start gigging privately with Mr P so I wouldn’t have been at the vintage fair in Brentwood and wouldn’t have seen the demonstration that inspired me to take up Burlesque. I also wouldn’t have done the gig that led to me being offered my own radio show. It just goes to show you that with a bit of strength and resilience and a hell of a lot of courage you can pull yourself through anything.
I also would never had joined this show.
I first heard that C’mon Everybody had a vacancy through a good friend who had found it out through Facebook. I phoned the show’s creator on the same day and found him to be really interested. I sent him some recordings and within weeks I found myself in rehearsals.
Luckily for me it was mostly all songs and music I had done before and so I didn’t have too much to learn. It was nice as I could just sit back and enjoy the process. Finally – for the first time – I feel like a fully fledged cast member. And last night was my first show.
Words can’t describe how good I felt about being on stage last night. It felt like a validation of everything that has happened over the past few years. I felt strong, confident and ready for it.
And I Loved It
Even the stupid hats.
After everything that has happened, all the heartbreak I’ve endured nothing was going to stop me last night. My inner diva has been straining at the bit for weeks and last night I unleashed her on the unsuspecting people of Milton Keynes – and I’m not done yet!
Check out a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW0TK8bC0l0&feature=youtu.be by this point I'm really enjoying myself and dancing round like a loon!
I’m going to go out on a limb and announce that I will be touring with C’mon Everybody for the foreseeable future, because no matter what I haven’t fully lost my ability to be optimistic. You can check out tour dates here http://www.cmoneverybodyshow.com/index.html
If there are any nearby to you I’d love to see you. It’s a great show with a great cast; in particular I loved working with Johnny Gunner and Linda-Ann Moylan – two incredible talents. Both of them were also starting last night and looked so nervous backstage but brought so much to the songs.
|With Linda and Johnny|
So there you go, here I am. Happy, resilient and hopeful.
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