by Alyn Hawke
Ever since I was little, my love of performing came, first and foremost, from singing. Throughout my musical theatre training I was best known by my peers as a singer and I assumed that would be my strength as I started out in my professional career. However, little did I know that my jobs would send me on the path to becoming a hoofer! After spending a few years on Top Hat, every production I have done since has involved dusting off my Tele-Tones. I have loved every second of it, but I do miss getting the opportunity to properly sing my guts out.
In recent years, I discovered a wonderful outlet for this suppressed desire; Cabaret. Strangely though, I’ve noticed amongst my peers that this can be a dirty word. Peoples’ perceptions of cabaret nights being a form of karaoke for performers to show off their extensive rep folders or showcase their astonishing range and talent for all to see. I get it; even I cringe at the thought of a night like that. But, in my experience, they are the total opposite!
A bar in central London recently launched post show cabaret nights, giving people an opportunity to see company members from West End shows performing after the curtain came down on their production. They proposed a cast takeover night and approached 42nd Street in the hope that we would perform its very first monthly show, in aid of the charity Theatre MAD. With a company of 58 cast members, as well as the backstage team, surely it would be easy to fill an hour and a half of songs, right?
Wrong. Initially only four people expressed an interest in singing. This really shocked me; surely, I wasn’t the only person who longs to sing something other than “We’re in the Money” eight times a week? I spoke to a few people about it and the responses followed a theme; fear. Fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of feeling uncomfortable.
We reached out to some of the original cast members who were no longer performing in the show and were so grateful for the positive response we received. This meant that the line up consisted of the entire 42nd Street family and boosted our set list considerably.
During the rehearsal, the same day as the gig, I became aware that for many of the line up it was their first attempt at a cabaret performance. Many of the performers were nervous, not knowing what to expect or how to conduct themselves. It seems, for us thespians, performing as someone else comes naturally, but to get behind a microphone and truly be you is a totally different challenge.
The support on the night was astounding; many of the company of 42nd Street came to support as well as friends, fans and the general public. I was so happy and proud to hear the first time performers reveling in how much the enjoyed singing and already throwing themselves at the next opportunities to get behind a microphone again. I was most surprised at the amount of people in the company who approached me and said, “I wish I had sung.”
Over the past year, I have met new people and gained multiple new friends and contacts, gained confidence and knowledge from the various companies I have performed with and, overall, had a really fun time doing Cabaret! It is a chance to try out songs that you will never, ever be asked to bring to an audition or perform roles that you will never be cast in. You can play it safe or take risks with absolutely nothing to lose!
So, in the spirit of New Year and embracing the “New You,”I urge you all to step outside of your comfort zone in 2019. If you have ever thought about, wanted to or dreamt of singing in a cabaret, DO IT! You’ll have so much fun and fulfillment and, even if you decide you won’t do it again, at least you can say you’ve done it.