In My Opinion

The Top 10 Shows I Want to See Next

  1. An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre) – A beautiful Gershwin musical that is the talk of the West End, which I cannot wait to see in May!
  2. Mamma Mia (Novello Theatre) – This is a long running show, but I am still yet to see it. I love the film, and all of ABBA’s classic songs, so I think this show would be very entertaining.
  3. Motown the Musical (Shaftesbury Theatre)
  4. School of Rock (New London Theatre)
  5. The Girls (Phoenix Theatre) – After their stunning Olivier Awards performance, I would love to see this show written by Gary Barlow.
  6. Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre)
  7. Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre) – Who doesn’t want to see this smash hit musical?
  8. Judy! (Arts Theatre)
  9. The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wale’s Theatre)
  10. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (Duke of York’s Theatre)
  11. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 (Palace Theatre) – Technically, this makes my list a top 11, but I couldn’t not include this play that was highly praised at the Olivier Awards!

I hope this list has given any theatergoers some inspiration (if you’re looking for an idea of what to see next). Of course there are tonnes of amazing musicals and plays in London and on tour right now, and this list names but a few. Let me know what shows you’ve seen recently (ones you’ve enjoyed, or even ones you didn’t).

Dealing with Drama School Rejection

Hello everyone, I cannot believe this is my first post of 2017! Better late than never I suppose.

In around October/November 2016 I applied to study Musical Theatre at three drama schools and three universities. I had one audition in December, two in January and one in February. I attended all three of the drama school auditions, and one of the university auditions, but as I researched into the other two universities (and thought about the fact that I would also have to pay to audition there and travel to these auditions) I decided to withdraw my applications. I’ll admit, I was hopeful that one of the drama schools would offer me a place, or even a callback, but that wasn’t the case. The one university I auditioned for offered me a place, but on a different course. Then, slowly, all of the drama schools rejected my applications and my dream seemed to be drifting further and further away from me. It was a very difficult time for me for several reasons:

  1. As I’d been accepted into a very good university, everyone assumed that I would just study there come September. Yes, I did consider it for a while, but I always had a gut feeling that it wasn’t the right thing to do. I didn’t accept or decline the offer, I just left it sat in my UCAS account while I made a decision.
  2. I currently study Musical Theatre at college, so of course almost everyone in my class was also auditioning for drama schools and universities. It seemed everyone was being inundated with offers, except me. We would all sit down discussing where we were planning to study next year, and people would be debating about which drama school they should go to (as they’d had multiple offers), or which uni they should go to (as again, they’d been offered several places). People would always ask me ‘Lucy, where are you going in September?’ and when I’d say I was unsure, I’d always get the same response ‘But you got into that university didn’t you?’.
  3. Rejection is hard to deal with on your own, let alone when you are constantly being compared with everyone else in your class, and around you. I have met lots of people over the years, and made lots of friends, who also auditioned for drama schools. I scrolled through countless ‘I got into drama school!!!!!’ Facebook posts, and this just knocked my confidence every time. Even without thinking about other peoples success, I was miserable. It was all I could think about, and all I could think was that I was a failure. People said to me ‘Maybe it’s not your time’ and ‘Just try again next year’ or ‘You could still go to university’.

This was the most uncertain I’d ever felt about my future, ever. I didn’t want to take a gap year, as I want to keep training and improving. Lots of people I know who take gap years never end up pursuing their drama school dreams (some do, I’ve just not met many people who do). So, from here I decided to stop moping around and look for more courses to apply to. The trouble with gap year courses and one year foundation courses is that they aren’t cheap, but I was prepared to do whatever is takes. I applied for a foundation course at a top drama school, and a gap year course at a theatre school which is fairly near where I live. I was considering applying for more gap year courses (as there are a lot out there) but I decided to see how my auditions for these two went first.

I auditioned for the drama school foundation course in March, and again, I didn’t get in. At previous auditions, I’d had to wait for a while to hear back from them (as to whether I had been given a recall audition or not) but at this school, they told you right there and then to your face. I’d held it together well at all of my other auditions, and when I’d heard back from schools. Of course, I’d cried over being rejected several times, but whenever news was given to me, I’d always been strong and put on a brave face. This audition was different. I felt like this was my last chance to go to drama school, and so when I was told that I didn’t even get a recall, I was devastated. I have never wanted to leave a building so quickly in my life, as I didn’t want to embarrass myself and let everyone at the audition see me so upset.

At this point, it looked like I was going to have to go to the local stage school for a year, which was difficult for me to accept. Luckily, I’d had an email from one of the drama schools I applied for, saying that although they didn’t offer me their three year degree, they’d like me to audition for their foundation course. I accepted the offer, as this was my favourite drama school out of all of the ones I had visited, and waited to hear back from them. The next piece of news I received from them was that I didn’t need to audition, they would just base their choice on my previous audition.

So I waited to hear from them, and during this time I was rejected from the other foundation course I was describing earlier. I’ve always believed in the term ‘everything happens for a reason’, but at this point I just felt defeated. The day after I’d been rejected again, I went into college and did my lessons as usual. At the end of the day we had a ballet class which I completed, and then packed up my stuff and looked at my phone. I had an email notification, so I frantically opened it and discovered that I had been given a place on a foundation course at my favourite drama school. I immediately burst into tears (of joy, of course) and my whole class ran over and gave me a massive hug. I then ran outside to tell my mum, who also shed a few tears over the news. I have to say, this was definitely the best moment of my life. Finally, I wasn’t a failure, I was going to a drama school, and it was one that I had fallen in love with when I auditioned. I still cannot believe it. I later declined my uni offer, and accepted my place on the foundation course.

After this experience I thought that everything really does happen for a reason. If I had been offered a place at another drama school, or I’d accepted my place at university, I wouldn’t have the offer that I have now (an offer that is the best thing to ever happen to me). I went through a really hard time, and I know that probably sounds ridiculous when there are people suffering and fighting harder battles than me all over the world, but I really did go through months of feeling lost. An analogy I used to describe those months of rejection was that I was stuck in a little wooden boat with no oars, there were holes in the boat (so it was sinking), the water was still and everyone was cruising past me in their luxury speed boats while I was stuck in my little sinking boat. Thankfully, someone threw me an oar when I was offered a place, and I have never felt so blessed and so lucky in all my life.

I think the message I’m trying to send here is to never give up. Yes, people say that all the time, but really, don’t ever give in. I went through knock back after knock back, but it was all worth it in the end. Just know that there is always something better waiting for you on the other side.

As I researched into a lot of options for what to do if you don’t get into drama school, I would like to share those with you (as they may help you out if you are still trying to find something to do come September).

  1. Go to university, work your hardest, and then complete a Masters Degree at a drama school (but remember, you will have to fund that extra year yourself).
  2. Start trying to find work and learn on the job as you go (get an agent, join casting websites, go to open casting calls and just try and see if you get any work even with no training). Another good way to get experience is to accept unpaid acting jobs (giving you contacts and credits for your C.V.).
  3. Apply for gap year courses and foundation courses (they will help you gain skills, but again remember you will need to fund this yourself).
  4. Create your own work. Find others in the same boat and set up a theatre company, write plays, write songs, enter competitions and get your own ideas out there.
  5. Make a YouTube channel where you post singing videos or acting videos, you never know who may end up watching it.
  6. Remember that you can always get a job (maybe in a theatre) and then re audition for drama schools next year.
  7. Is the drama school route really right for you? Have you looked into other courses that may interest you? A lot of people who get rejected are glad that they were, as it helps them discover another passion (maybe for writing or directing) so you could see where a different path may lead you. However, if you are determined to be a performer, then don’t give up.

I hope that this helps anyone who was also rejected from drama schools, or even to prepare people who want to apply for them at some point. Whatever happens, just know that it will make you more experienced, and you will have to work harder and for longer to get where you want to be, but that’s okay too. The struggles you face will make you more grateful for your success’ in the end.

Drama School

Lately, I’ve been preparing to audition for drama school (as I will have to apply later this year). At first I thought that I would just audition for all the top schools in London and maybe I would get a place somewhere and everything would be fine. However recently I have realised that it isn’t that simple…

The Truth About Drama Schools:

  • It’s expensive. I thought I had far more options than I actually do, because I was under the impression that every BA (Hons) degree course could be funded by a student loan, when in fact a lot of drama schools require you to self fund your place (and realistically, who has £40,000 lying around?).
  • Not every school will be right for you. Each course is different, and if you’re more of a dancer there is no point going somewhere that focuses mainly on acting. Also the atmosphere in a building can differ, as well as the kind of students who attend each school. I have only visited one drama school so far, but this is a useful thing to do as you can start to see what you like/don’t like in a school. 
  • If you don’t get into a three year course first time, there aren’t many backup options. Of course you can take a gap year, but if you want to stay in education there aren’t many 1 year courses available that don’t cost the earth (as you can’t apply for a student loan for these sorts of courses). 
  • It’s a bigger decision and more serious process than you think. It’s all well and good having the ‘drama school dream’ but in reality you will have to attend this school for about 3 years, and you will have to live there (so making sensible decisions is vital).
  • Many drama schools don’t have accommodation. Often, some drama schools are independent and therefore you will have to find somewhere to live nearby (and for an 18 year old leaving home for the first time, getting a flat in central London could be quite daunting). It’s as much about the area surrounding the school as it is the school itself, as a safe/nice location can make all the difference.
  • Saying that you’ll just ‘audition everywhere and go wherever I’m accepted’ isn’t the best idea. Each audition will cost about £45, so if you go to 10 schools you’ll have to find nearly £500 before you’ve even begun paying tuition fees. Also, not all of these places will be good for you or right for you, so you need to research all your options and think about what you want.
  • I knew that drama schools are hard to get in to, and the audition process is very competitive, but some schools have around 2 thousand applicants for about 30 places. 

However I’m glad that as I’m researching my options more and actually evaluating where I should apply, I am learning a lot about what my future could hold for me. I’m hopeful that I will gain a place at one of the drama schools I audition for, but there are always other options so I’ll continue to keep learning. 

Another topic that really interests me is the ‘uni vs drama school’ debate, so I will probably be posting about that once I’ve looked into it. University has always been an option I’ve considered, but at the moment I’m pretty convinced that it’s not right for me. 

Paloma ‘Passionately Hates Musicals’

As The Voice UK returned to our screens this evening, I decided to watch the show as usual. I was sad that Tom Jones would no longer be a judge, but I was looking forward to seeing what Paloma Faith and Boy George would bring to the series. So far, I love Boy George, and I’m surprised that more acts haven’t chosen him as their mentor. Paloma was hilarious and seemed lovely, but then she made a statement that really upset me. 

Obviously, as a musical lover myself I am biased. I’m a musical theatre student who has loved performing since I was 2 years old in my ballet classes, so it’s difficult to express my views on her comments in a neutral manner. I am not annoyed that she doesn’t like musicals, because I understand and know that many people in the world share that same opinion. As a judge on a talent show, and a professional musician, I felt that Paloma made a statement that was very unprofessional. Many talented people who work in the same industry as herself have worked in musical theatre, including one of her fellow judges (Boy George, who has written a musical). By saying that she “hates all musicals with a passion” she is insulting the careers of many other professional artists and musicians, which shows a huge lack of respect for a huge genre of music. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion; but when hopefuls are auditioning for a TV show, and one of the judges slates the music they have chosen to perform, they are going to feel upset and that they were perhaps not successful in the process because of their taste in music. 

As I previously mentioned, I don’t have a problem with anyone disliking musical theatre, but there is a difference between stating that it’s not your cup of tea and saying that you ‘hate it with a passion’. As it is an opinion, you have to state that personally you have other interests, and not that you hate it and think that it’s terrible. I think the way she so casually insulted a huge worldwide industry, which is very closely related to the industry that she works in, was disgusting and her thoughts should have been voiced differently. Let’s not forget that Paloma herself was in the cast recording of ‘Finding Neverland’, and yes you guessed it, that is a musical. She then proceeded to take to Twitter, where she replied to tweets about her claiming that she ‘loves Grease and Rocky Horror’. I think this was simply an attempt to shield herself from the huge amount of angry viewers that thought she should have been more careful with her words. 

The performers and the vocalists in musicals are incredibly talented people, most of which have spent years and all of their savings training so that they can do what they love. For Paloma to degrade this art form in such a bold way was very shocking, as musical theatre is a huge part of a lot of people’s personal and professional lives. 

Would she have slated other genres and styles of music in this way? Jazz? Country? Blues? No. So I don’t see why she was allowed to tear down a form of artistic expression that is just as valuable as the female pop industry. 

   
    
   

University Fees (Specialist Arts Training)

As you may know if you have read my blog before, I want to be in the musical theatre industry when I’m older, as a performer. To be able to achieve this dream I have decided I would like to go to university. I researched several of the well known schools, and soon began praying that I could take out a loan large enough to cover the extortionate fees for taking a 3 year course. 

These establishments are not only hard to get into (as they are so popular, and are only looking for the best new talent), but they are incredibly expensive to attend – with some courses adding up to about £40,000. This is of course without the cost of living in London, which would also amount to a huge debt, and that is very worrying. I have read articles about Andrew Lloyd Webber and other well known theatre personalities delivering speeches recently on why fees should be lowered, and I could not agree more! 
Imagine: the richest student at the audition is the least talented, but is able to attend as they have the funds to support themselves. However, a student who comes from a family who aren’t as wealthy, but is very talented, may not even have a chance at auditioning due to their low budget. Money does not define who is more talented than who, or who will work harder or who is more deserving of a place. 

I feel that it is unfair to make students rely on bursaries, scholarships and loans which they may never be able to pay back. Perhaps the government should consider reducing fees for everyone, or even just those who really cannot afford to live their dream. So much talent will go to waste if something is not done to provide students who need financial support with the reassurance that they can still attend university, and not have to worry about any sort of debt. 

Everything’s as if we never said goodbye

When was your last blog post?

January, so about 5 months ago.

Why?

Unfortunately, I am at the age where I have to sit tonnes of exams (GCSEs), so I haven’t been able to write any blog posts as school seems to take up the majority of my time. I now only have 4 exams left, and I thought this was long overdue. 

Advice for people taking GCSEs next year?

  • Start revising a few months in advance, even if it’s only a little bit
  • Don’t underestimate how much work you have to do
  • Prioritise subjects you want to continue studying after GCSEs (and revise them more) 
  • Try not to cry
  • Make a pile of notes and books of subjects you have finished after your exams are over, so then you can destroy it all 

What musicals/plays have you seen this year so far? 

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the nighttime (but I had to write an essay on it and take notes during it, so I probably missed a lot of it) 
  2. Cats 
  3. Matilda (for the second time) 
  4. And next week I’m going to see Children of Eden 

What sort of blog posts will you be writing once your exams are over, and when is that?

My last exam is on the 12th of June, so after that point I should be able to start posting again. I’m not really sure what I want to write about, so maybe I’ll just see what inspires me. Of course if there is anything I get asked to write about I will, but we shall see. 

Theatre Bucket List

Firstly, thank you so much for getting my blog to just over 1,000 views, I’m over the moon! It may not seem like a lot, but I have not even had this blog for a year yet, so I think it’s progressing pretty well.

Also I would like more suggestions and requests for posts people would like me to write, so you can send these to me at: justamusicalgal@gmail.com
Or on Twitter: @justamusicalgal

Another little update before I begin this post properly, I now have Instagram! Follow me at: @justamusicalgal for more regular updates.

So most people have some kind of idea of a list of things they want to do in their life. So, here is my take on a theatre/performers bucket list:

1) Be in a West End/Broadway/Professional show (Status: incomplete)

2) Train at a top theatre school (Status: incomplete)

3) Be a character at Disneyland, or a performer in their parades and shows (Status: incomplete)

4) Be signed to an agency (Status: I used to be, but I decided to leave to focus on school)

5) Be in a television drama (Status: I was once an extra in a BBC drama called What Remains)

6) Be in a film (Status: incomplete)

7) Release a Musical Hits CD (Status: incomplete)

8) Be in a famous musical e.g. Les Miserables (Status: incomplete)

9) Be on an original cast recording (Status: incomplete)

10) Be nominated for/win an award, or be invited to an awards ceremony e.g. The Olivier Awards

Let me know any more that you would add to my list, or if you have indeed achieved any of these goals.

J Is For January

First of all, happy new year! Thank you for just over 900 views, I know my posts aren’t that regular at the moment but I’m hoping to update my blog more often this year. So, here is my list of J themed favourites for this month:

1) Jersey Boys
Currently playing at the Piccadilly Theatre, Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I have wanted to see this musical for a really long time, as I love the soundtrack and have read excellent reviews of the show. This is on my list of must sees for this year, so fingers crossed I’ll get to see it!

2) Jesus Christ Superstar
I’ve had the soundtrack of this show on constant repeat since the new year began, and I’d have to say it’s definitely my current favourite CD. So if you’ve never listened to it before, then I’d highly recommend it.

3) Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
This is one of my all time favourite musicals. I own the soundtrack featuring Jason Donovan, and I love every single song in the show. Sadly I saw it years ago so I can’t remember too much about what it looked like, so I’m hoping a new production of it will crop up soon.

4) The Jungle Book
This was my favourite Disney film when I was little, and still is to this day. I think this is one of Disney’s best ever films, and I would love to see a musical version of this one day!

5) James Corden and Johnny Depp
The Into the Woods film has been in cinemas for a while now, and I still haven’t seen it, so I’m still really looking forward to it. I’ve heard very positive reviews, especially ones about James Corden’s role in the movie, so this is a must see for this year.

6) Gypsy (not quite a j, but close enough)
The Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Gypsy is due to transfer to the Savoy Theatre in the West End in April, along with the incredible Imelda Staunton continuing her run as Momma Rose.
This will be the first time gypsy has been seen in London for 40 years, and I hope it doesn’t sell out too quickly as this is something I would really love to see! Definitely on my list of must sees for this year.

Are The Arts Appreciated In Schools?

So I have been having a very busy time at school recently, as I am in my final year at school studying for my GCSE’s. On top of that I like to take part in all of the performances going on, so I have been involved with the dance show, the school musical and the school carol concert.

While I enjoyed this term and had a great time performing, it obviously took up a lot of time, and this also meant some lesson time had to be sacrificed. The majority of teachers accepted this and let me catch up with the work I missed from their lesson, but some other teachers didn’t seem to agree with the idea.

As well as disliking the fact that we are busy with other areas of school life, it has come to my attention that GCSE results are handled differently when it comes to the performing arts. I take drama, dance and music at GCSE, and although I will be credited a separate grade for dance and drama, the school will not. This is because they are seen as “too similar”. This, I do not agree with.

Firstly, dance requires 4 pieces of practical coursework to be performed, as well as a written exam. Whereas drama requires 2 pieces of written coursework, a theatre review, and a practical exam. This automatically makes them differ from each other.

As well as this, being able to act does not mean you are a dancer, and this works both ways. I don’t see why the school should get any less credit for someone who has a passion for drama and dance, than for someone who has a passion for geography and history.

There may be another reason as to why they are seen as similar which I am overlooking, but personally I think they are very different subjects. Dance requires a lot of revision for the written exam, whereas I do not revise for drama except when I have lines to learn.

So really unless you go to a stage school, the education system just doesn’t seem to appreciate how demanding these subjects actually are. They are not easy at all. Especially music, as this requires just as much revision as any academic subject would. So when pupils are presented with options of what they want to study they shouldn’t be guided away from creative subjects by the teachers, as really all subjects are equally challenging in their own right.

Many schools in my local area have scrapped all of these subjects from their option blocks, and even as extracurricular activities. I think this is a great shame, as many pupils that went there with the hopes of taking a performing arts subject would have been devastated.

I think schools really need to start thinking more about this issue, as it’s not all about getting more pupils to take very academic subjects. It should be about making students who have a talent and a passion for other things able to take the subjects they want, and allowing the school to get just as much credit for these as the academic subjects.

Into The Woods Film: First Impressions

Due to be released in the UK on Christmas Day this year, Into The Woods is looking good so far. From the trailers that I have seen I think it could be brilliant! Here is one of the trailers so you can have a look for yourself: http://youtu.be/2Byk9Is3TjY

The Witch – Meryl Streep
I love Meryl Streep. I think she has a great voice and is an amazing actress, so I think she’s perfect for the role. She is one of the biggest names in the film, and although I usually dislike the use of celebrities in films just so more people will go and see it, she will be one of the best things about the film I’m sure.

The Big Bad Wolf – Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is one of my favourite actors, as he is just so versatile! He is an incredible actor, and he has a pretty good voice too. Although his singing isn’t as strong as his acting (in my opinion of course) I think he will be an asset to the movie.

Cinderella – Anna Kendrick
Probably best known for her role in the film Pitch Perfect, Anna has a really good singing voice. Technically speaking, she probably does not have the right kind of voice for musical theatre, but at least she can actually sing.

The Baker’s Wife – Emily Blunt
A great actress, but I have never heard her sing, so I will be interested to see what her voice is like. Again, I do not know if technically she will be as able as a trained musical theatre performer would be, but she is a very good actress so I’m sure she will not disappoint.

The Baker – James Corden
I am a big fan of James Corden’s work, and I believe he went to stage school, so I have a feeling he will be excellent as The Baker. Hopefully he will bring some technique to the singing aspect of the film, and he could end up being one of the best things about the film.

Other cast members include:

Cinderella’s Prince – Chris Pine
Cinderella’s Stepmother – Christine Baranski
Cinderella’s Mother – Joanna Riding
Lucinda – Lucy Punch
Rapunzel – Mackenzie Mauzy
Rapunzel’s Prince – Billy Magnussen
Red Riding Hood – Lilla Crawford
The Giant – Frances de la Tour
Jack – Daniel Huttlestone
Jack’s Mother – Tracey Ullman
Florinda – Tammy Blanchard
The Baker’s Father – Simon Russell Beale
Grandmother – Annette Crosbie

I shall be uploading another post of a more in depth review after I have seen the film, as this is just my brief first impressions. So, watch this space.