I'm sitting in the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny at the back of the stage at the moment. The theatre is quiet for now. Pretty soon the brilliant cast from this musical will arrive and the place will come to life. Show time is a couple of hours away. For now though I relish the opportunity to blog my experiences so far.
People always scoff at me when I tell them that I'm actually quite a shy, private person in real life. They point to my blog, to things like this and to my prediction for taking on a variety of challenges as evidence to the contrary. Truth be told though I constantly push myself out of my comfort zone, away from the security of what I know and to the joy of finding out what a challenge can bring. That in essence is why I chose to play Corey Palmer (snr) in this production in Kilkenny - to see if I could do it.
Could I step out onto a stage and be believable as a 30 year old American looking back on his high school days? Would I make a holy show of myself and be an embarrassment to myself and the kids around me? Could I positively contribute to a medium that I have no experience in but a fascination about and attraction to? Based on my experience of the past two nights, the answers are yes, not totally and yes. That's not bad, not bad at all.
From my first rehearsal a week ago in a school hall outside of Kilkenny to the closing of the curtains last night, I cannot help but feel a huge amount of respect to the young actors and actresses that I've been sharing a space with this week. Their dedication, enthusiasm and above all talent is inspiring and exciting and it gives me huge energy.
To watch these young people transform from local kids chatting about bebo profiles, girls, boys and all that sort of stuff into American High School students in the 80s, to hear the power of their voices, the fervour and exuberance to put into their repeat practises and performances and to know that they enjoy it enough to come back time and again is a wonderful vindication of my involvement here.
Opening night was daunting. Yes, I forgot lines, yes, I relied too much on my script and yes I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite the initial come down from the energy rush, I went home and proceeded to dream about the show, something that Jason Ryan, the director assures me is common. How could I make it better? What else could I say? How would I manage it?
Other than a voice transplant there was nothing much I could do about my singing, but I came back yesterday and attacked the script with renewed vigour. Little things chopped and changed, and, as I tweeted, it's a bit like "serious" blogging (whatever that is) in that it needs plenty of preparation, improvisation and the ability to get it right first time. It's a skill I'm trying to cultivate and have certainly been learning in the last few days.
It's the young actors though that make this show a wonderful experience for both the audience and the adults working with them alike. Jason, Sharon, Ailish and I have all been side stage watching their antics and in knots of laughter at their honing and spontaneity, wondering just where they get their extraordinary nerve from. There are a couple of scenes - a Proclaimers tribute, Rick Astley fan Billy trying to chat up a girl, a fight scene and two girls simply running to tell teachers about a fight that have had me in stitches since rehearsal.
Their extraordinary personalities as well means that each encounter with them is unique, each conversation hilarious and that their enthusiasm is infectious. It's almost impossible not to enjoy this, despite the daunting prospect of someone I know being in the audience.
I'm having fun. There's no other way to describe this. The amount of work put in by the children, the reaction of the audience and, to be (even more) horrendously clichéd and sentimental for a minute, the smiles on the cast's faces, whether they're the lead roles, background dancers or the juniors who dance to fame is something I'd highly recommend as an experience.
I'll miss not being Corey Palmer after Saturday. I'll miss Amy Mullholland's wonderful voice and star portrayal as the younger Corey, Claire Funchion's splendid portrayal as Tiffany, Corey's love interest, Mairéad Doheny's eerily accurate transformation into Michael Feldman, Terrence Christle's hilarious portrayal as the class geek, the great stage presence of people like Laura Doyle, Pat O Halloran, Sean Lennon, Amy Cooke and Tina Fitzgearld, the delicious mania of Michaela Reilly and Jane Walker as the hilarious Laura and Debbie and the constant entertainment of messers supremo and cool dudes extraordinaire Chris Brennan, Niall O' Riordan and Colum Fulbrook.
One young actress, Emily Mullaly Trotman has a spine tingle inducing voice especially in a soulful rendition of Walking on Sunshine (seriously!) and I look forward to her first album. In fact, the girls should consider performing together more often.
People are downstairs now. Someone's singing "Let's hear it for the boy", actors are rehearsing dialogue once again and the backstage team will soon be hear to ensure everything's ready for the performance. I'm about to take out my script and biro and see what else I can do to make my turn even better.
I'm really looking forward to tonight and tomorrow. The folks will be in the audience. I'm looking forward to hearing what they think. Regardless, it's been a blast. More? Yes please!