What It's Really Like To Be In A Musical

A behind the scenes look at the reality of performing in a musical, from my personal experience.
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I've been in eight musicals over my seven years of being involved in theatre. Recently, I performed as Oz in my university's production of "We Will Rock You" the musical, based on the famous British band, Queen.

The whole process of bringing this musical to life has been the most unique experience during my time as a theatre performer, especially after over a year of not performing on stage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wanted to share a personal "behind the scenes" experience with you to show what it's really like to be in a musical production. 

the reality of being in a musical
Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro

Auditioning for the musical

Although I've auditioned for numerous theatre productions, I always feel an absurd amount of anxiety. I knew many of my friends were also auditioning to be in this show, so I made sure to sign up for the same time slot as some of them. It's comforting to audition with my friends because I know we'll still have fun while trying our best to hopefully get casted in the show.

For this audition process, we were all given two songs to sing. Since the show was "We Will Rock You," all of the songs in the show are Queen songs. So, I was familiar with the songs, but I didn't know them very well.

I sang a bit of "Killer Queen" and "Somebody to Love" for the singing portion of this audition. Thankfully, we were all given the sheet music for these songs so we could follow along.

Next, the director and stage manager gave us a role, a scene partner or two, and a couple of pages from a scene in the show to learn. We broke up into our assigned groups and dispersed to work on the scene with our partner(s) for about 10-15 minutes.

Then, we reconvened to watch each other perform the different scenes. It's super cool to watch everyone audition with their own style and twist on the characters.

Depending on the musical, auditionees may need to learn a bit of choreography to show off their dancing skills. For this specific show, however, I did not need to do any choreography. I was so relieved as I am such a bad dancer!

It may take a week or two for the director to post the cast list. That can be a nerve-wracking time. Fortunately, the director for this musical posted the cast list after a few days. I freaked out and rejoiced when I found out that I got the role of Oz in the show! I couldn't wait to get started with rehearsals.

the truth behind acting in a musical
Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro

The Rehearsal Process

Rehearsals for the next eight weeks began as soon as possible. The first rehearsal was just a table read for all the actors to get familiar with the script and flow of the whole show. Then, the next few weeks were strictly learning the music. The rest of the time was rehearsing, blocking, and putting together all of the scenes.

For this show, the rehearsal schedule was unique. The cast was divided into two main groups that appear in the show, the Bohemians and the Globalsoft people.

There were some days dedicated to Bohemians and others dedicated to the Globalsoft people. It felt odd to only show up to rehearsal three times a week, compared to every day when I was in previous musicals.

When the whole cast was called for rehearsals, it was strange seeing new faces even though we'd been involved in the same musical production for weeks. I love rehearsals because I get to bond with friends, make new friends, and make incredible memories doing what we all love: performing! 

Ironically, I did need to learn some choreography for a couple of scenes for the musical. In one scene, there was a swing dance number and two of my friends who love swing dancing taught us how to perform it.

This was both exciting and stressful for me as I'm a slow learner and I can't dance well. That's not a great combination. After much trial and error, I finally understood the choreography and it was so much fun!

reality of acting in a musical
Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro

Tech (Hell) Week

Tech week, also known as hell week for some people, is the week leading up to the opening night of the show. This is the most important time at the end of the rehearsal process when all of the technical components of the show are added. Additionally, it can be the most stressful part of rehearsals.

Tech rehearsals tend to run longer than normal rehearsals. Typically, a normal rehearsal is about three hours long. When all tech is added (known as a wet tech rehearsal), rehearsals could run for about 8-9 hours.

For my experience in "We Will Rock You," we spent much of the weekend before opening night as 8-9 hour rehearsal days. We did get a lunch break after a few hours, though, which was nice for everyone.

These types of rehearsals let the technical director and show director know of any technical issues that may come up during scenes such as lighting, sound, special effects, or set arrangement. 

what it's really like to be in a musical
Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro

Performances

All of those late nights and long days over the past eight weeks came down to those four performance days. Performing in a show is an out-of-body experience. It all happens so quickly, it can sometimes be difficult to live in the beautiful moments of the performance.

Adrenaline, excitement, and nerves are the main emotions during a show, especially on opening night. Stepping on stage for the first time in the show is breathtaking.

I snapped into my character in an instant and performed my heart out. It's more incredible knowing that my castmates felt the same, and watching them perform while I'm backstage always warmed my heart.

Closing the show on the final performance day is full of mixed emotions. I think it's the show where we put even more of our hearts into our performance. It was the last musical I was performing at university, along with some of my best friends (whom I met through theatre).

There were a lot of tears, love, and appreciation poured out that day. I'll never forget taking my final bow at curtain call. Just like that, "We Will Rock You" was a wrap and we started taking down the set. 


Post-Show Feelings

As soon as the musical production ended, a lot of us were hit with what we call "post-show depression." Rehearsals took up so much of our time, so it was odd to have all this free time back.

My friends and I joked about how we could perform the show at the same time next week; we never wanted it to end.

Every show that I've been in has changed me in some way. All of my castmates touched my heart in many ways. I made new friends, became closer with my other friends, and cherished every moment.

Being in a show does something to you. The "We Will Rock You" musical was an amazing time in my life that I will always hold dear to my heart.

I love performing.

21 | uni student | aspiring author | overthinker | theatre kid

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