Who doesn’t want to be in a world where everyone bursts into song and dance?
My husband for one. Ask him why and he’ll reply,
“If you’ve got something to say say it don’t sing it. It makes no sense to me!”
Sometimes I have no idea how we are still together… because I love musicals. It’s not just the songs there’s the dancing the costumes. The sheer spectacle of it all. I was interested to see the poll of the UK’s favourite musical numbers of all time published recently after the BBC celebrated musicals on television and radio. Predictably there were a couple from Les Mis and The Lion King and some of the newer musicals like Rent and Hairspray but I was thrilled that there were a couple of classics in there from The Wizard of Oz and Singing in the Rain. I grew up getting the drippings of the great Hollywood musicals, which I watched on television on Saturday afternoons with my father..after the wrestling! All of those Busby Berkeley classics and the Ziegfeld Follies. The elaborate production numbers often involving complex geometric patterns filmed from the air. The aqua musicals with Esther Williams rising out of the water and not a nose clip insight. Cyd Charisse, Dancing in the Dark with Fred Astaire. Singing in the Rain with Gene Kelly. I was an Astaire fan more than Kelly. Both inspired dancers and choreographers but I preferred Astaire’s grace to Kelly’s athleticism. And of course, Ginger Rogers who I met when she came to London in 1991 to promote her memoirs. By then she was a sad shadow of her younger self, still quite bitter about Astaire, and actually did remind me that she could indeed do everything he did ….backwards and in heels. Yes, but could she have done it on the back of a carthorse in Sidcup Village Hall because that was my introduction to singing on stage? It was for a drama school production of Jack and the Beanstalk. I played Jack but only because Sarah Douglas, who went on to star in the Superman films, fell ill and I was the only one with a pair of thigh-length suede boots. The part required me to sing The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha. A fantastic song performed by Peter O’Toole in the film. Well, there was one major drawback. At the time I hadn’t exactly perfected my stage singing voice. Not that I have now but age, experience and confidence allow me to belt out a passable performance. The director, my great, late friend Paul Toothill, had a vision of me riding a white horse through the audience to the stage. Alas procuring such a creature in Sidcup was a step too far so Vi, the landlady from our local, The Station Hotel, had a word with her drayman who loaned us his beast. Which, as it happens, was quite appropriate given the size of my thighs at the time! Needless to say, ‘Sampson’ stole my big moment by letting rip halfway down the aisle and releasing enough manure to feed every flower bed in the 57 hectares Lamorbey Park home to our drama school. The closest I’m ever going to get nowadays to singing on stage is with my choir and when The Greatest Showman was shown on television over Christmas I raced for my song sheet and joined in lustily with Hugh Jackman and the cast. My husband simply smiled, put on his headphones and watched a documentary about the Cairngorms on his laptop.
Ah…that’s why we’re still together!