My life dream is to be in a musical. Help, please?
December 15, 2017 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Okay, ONE of my life dreams is to be in a musical. How can I make this happen and does anyone here have any experience with amateur musicals?

I used to be in choir all the way up to high school, but never had any formal singing lessons. My piano teacher when I was eight told my parens that I had a beautiful voice and they should make me get singing lessons, but they didn't see the use (why they found it more useful for me to be a terrible pianist, I will never know.)

During middle and high school (same school in Germany), my music teachers praised my voice, but also simultaneously (together with some bullying classmates) managed to ruin my confidence and I could never sing in front of people other than in the big choir. While everyone else pushed for solos (and got them), I was the reliable first soprano who made sure the younger girls stayed in tune so the soloists could do their jobs. People often told me, though, that they could still hear my voice clearly standing out of the choir, which makes me think I probably was pretty good.

These days, ten years after getting out of high school, I only sing at home and at karaoke clubs, but mostly karaoke boxes which you rent, something I do a lot with friends now that I live in Japan where they're ubiquitous. When I have the machine rate me, my accuracy etc. even on fairly tough songs from musicals are usually pretty high, and my friends tell me I'm good. I know that my chance of ever becoming a professional singer is long gone, and I'm okay with that and like the way my life is not, but lately especially I can't help but wonder what it would be like to stand on a stage and be part of a musical.

I can sing in front of people now, which is good. I know I'd probably have to take some voice lessons for technique and voice health, which I'm excited for as soon as I make some time (and money.) Right now, I am a grad student finishing up my second-to-last semester, and since I won't have any classes next semester, I thought I'd join a musical group at my university, if they let a foreigner join who's also a grad student (most clubs are for undergrads) and who'll only stay for one more semester. This could be one chance, if it works out.

Next summer, we'll probably move to somewhere in Europe, and I was wondering if anyone here knew of amateur musical groups in Europe, and perhaps had any experience? Any experience with amateur musical at all would be great!
What do I need? Money, time, ...?
Should I take dancing classes as well? I'm not very good... Acting classes?
Any tips? I'm assuming a newcomer won't get any roles at first anyway?

I know Geneva has an amateur musical society, but when we lived there, I didn't have time to participate. Which other European cities offer good opportunities? I won't base our next move on it, of course, but it could be the deciding factor between two cities considering all else was equal.

I'm sorry to ramble, but lately I'm on quest to live life more fully (after some depression and anxiety) and I really, really want to make this happen!
posted by LoonyLovegood to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend who sings with Sweet Adelines and really loves it. They are amateur women's choirs that sing a cappella, four-part harmony music, barbershop style. On the home page at the top you will find link to "listen and watch" and "find a choir" It is an international association and it looks like they are in several countries in Europe.
posted by metahawk at 11:42 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I sang with the Sweet Adelines, it’s a really great group! I would bet there would be choir members involved in the local theatre scene.

I also sang with the Nagoya City Opera - no auditions, just turned up. That was also pretty fun.

I had a couples years of voice lessons in high school. I’m not especially good, though I can carry a tune. No operatic training at all.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:09 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you like Gilbert and Sullivan? In college, G&S was always like, the relaxed wing of the Opera Society, and I get the idea that there are still clubs around in cities that may involve singing.

If you just want to sing (with no commitment whatsoever), you could try Sacred Harp, though that requires a tolerance for (mentions of) Christianity, and you might be the one holding the section in tune again. Other than that, I'll third Sweet Adelines, from glowing second-hand accounts from several friends.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:45 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mr K discovered his voice after retirement -- and it's beautiful! He's acted all his life, major roles, to acclaim. He was very excited about being in local amateur musicals, but at least in the Northwestern part of the United States, the first part of every audition is a dance section. If you can't show off at least enough moves to prove you can be taught a routine, the audition ends there. This is true even for parts that are singing only. :-/ Of course, this may not be true in other areas.

From his experience, I would say that if you're interested, start to work on your singing immediately. You need someone to give you feedback, an individual teacher or a choir or other singing group. And you need to practice every day, if you want to get better.

My personal advice would be to continue singing and having fun, and watch for an opportunity, but mostly just continue to enjoy yourself. (I say this as someone who cannot carry a tune in a bucket, and so much wish I could just ...... sing.)
posted by kestralwing at 2:13 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

What you might need to do to participate obvs. depends on the level of professionalism of the group you (want to) join, and I bet different cities will have groups that expect/employ very different levels of talent. Here in Berlin for example there are any number of pop/folk choirs, especially in the "expat scene" that take and improve /give confidence to total beginners, so with being able to sing well already you're ahead of the curve. There are also amateur groups that do semi-pro cantatas in the cathedrals etc., while on the am-dram front there are "script reading" groups that are basically TEFL, and very committed impro/Brechtian groups. Whatever city you end up in, check the classifieds/ etc., and if you don't find a group that suits I bet you could put one together.
Also, I would say reliability, consistently turning up and taking on responsibility, and willingness to do the less glam stuff, will stand you in good stead with whatever production you find.
(DM me if you want details on the Berlin stuff)
posted by runincircles at 3:52 AM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: Do you want to be in a musical theater production (like "Guys and Dolls" or "Ragtime" or a musical group like Sweet Adelines or a mixed-voice choir? Or both/either? I love singing in choirs but it's a different experience from a musical, with different rehearsal demands and different goals. Choral singing is more about blending (unless you have a solo, and if you're in a very serious choir they are likely to hire professional singers for solos). For musicals - if you're peasant number #3 in Les Mis (making up character for illustrative purposes) singing only in big ensemble numbers, you'll need to blend and dance and probably act a little. Jean Val Whatsis needs to have a stand-out voice, acting ability and the stamina to sing for hours.

Blending and soloing are two different skills - it's good to develop both, but that also depends on your goals.

I have a decent voice and a little training, and I've gotten into every choir I've ever auditioned for. Once after a long break from singing I took a few voice lessons to get back in shape and prep an audition piece. Based on what you've said about your ability, you could probably easily get into many choirs with just a little prep. Just try to listen to them first, at least on-line, because nothing sucks like getting into a choir and realizing that you don't care for the style/sound/direction, or that the director doesn't fix issues and you wind up in performances that embarrass you.

For musical theater - personally I'd start with getting to know people in your local community theater scene. Regardless, find out what the local theater groups are and what musicals they're doing next season, and where/how they announce auditions. Try to get the scuttlebutt on different groups and see if any have major issues you want to avoid. The advice I've gotten on getting into musical theater is to keep an eye out for auditions and show up. My impression is that a beginner would probably start off with minor roles which involve some ensemble singing but no/few solos or spoken lines, and keep building the resume and getting more experience through additional shows. If you wanted to be a lead, you'd want to study acting, singing and dancing and build up your experience with smaller roles leading to medium roles etc. Once you're in one show you'll have connections and that will also help.
posted by bunderful at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: UK-based - am dram groups here specialise either in non-musical theatre, or musical theatre (eg. EGTG vs Edinburgh Music Theatre), so you're searching for somewhere that has at least one of the latter, or ideally several to give you more choices/opportunities. Look for reviews of their shows online in local press to see if they're regarded as charming amateurs who are 'good, considering', or nearer to professional level.

This page on the EMT website gives details of their most recent audition procedure, which sounds pretty un-scary, and mostly based on the idea that new members will start out by going into the chorus, though does also mention sheet music for auditions for the principal roles. I imagine that's not necessarily a universal procedure, other companies might not have workshops and group auditions, might just ask you to show up and sing.

Most companies would be delighted to have someone along who can sing well, but think long game, and plan to start in the chorus and work your way up in subsequent productions, as they discover not only how well you sing, but also how you always turn up to rehearsals on time, having learnt your parts, pick up new things quickly, do a good job at helping them publicise the show, stay uncomplainingly to strike the set on the last night etc.

My experience is more on the non-musical side, but would guess that a good thing to do in the meantime might be some singing lessons where you work on potential audition pieces from the shows, and of course listening to plenty of recordings of musicals so you've as good a chance as possible of knowing the songs of whatever show you audition for.

In terms of what you need, I've found it's either free or cheap to participate; the most important thing is having enough time to rehearse and to practice in your own time.
posted by penguin pie at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been involved with amateur musicals.

A little acting and and dance training certainly wouldn't hurt you. Being able to move on stage in a way that tells a story is basically what is going to be different than being in a group that only does singing. Also participating in any performance opportunities these offer you would probably be something you'd find enjoyable as acting and dancing are certainly part of the experience of being in a musical (or if they aren't enjoyable, you might want to just join a singing group)

I don't know anything about what cities in Europe would have groups, however if there are cites you are considering that are known for having great theater and dance companies, people with a lot more training and experience than you who are hoping for eventual paid jobs in these professions will be working day jobs in these cities and looking for performance opportunities -- and you'll be up against them in auditions.

You'll want to take a look at the amateur theater scene in any city you are considering. Part of this is going to be whether it appeals to your personal preferences.
posted by yohko at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2017

Time is going to be more important than money. Practice, practice, practice.
posted by yohko at 12:05 PM on December 16, 2017

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