With the first preview just days away, Michael Xavier is struck down with a virus and a voice like a squeaky toy. Find out what happened in week three of his The Pajama Game blog…
Do you ever get those times in your life when you’re really busy and don’t want to catch every bug going around and end up sick?
It’s called “rehearsing for a West End musical”!
Yes, I’ve been struck with the dreaded term all of us hate to hear at the docs – and those who take their computers to be fixed – “You have a virus”. There’s bugger all you can do about it! No antibiotics will work and I’m informed by my trusty (never met him before) walk-in GP that my diet is good – see Week 2’s blog – so all I can do is have physical and vocal rest. Say whaaaat?!? I’m in a blinkin’ musical!! When have you ever been to see a musical and thought “Oh, they must all be on physical and vocal rest?”
This week had been going so well – especially as we didn’t start back until Tuesday! Us actors don’t ever enjoy the benefits of Bank Holidays like ‘normal’ folk, unless you’re unemployed, in which case you can’t afford to join the working ‘normal’ folk out enjoying the resting ‘normal’ world. Yes, the week was full of rehearsing scenes that we hadn’t quite refined before running the show on Thursday. The virus had since developed into a lovely cold – NOT man flu I might hasten to add!
Now, for those of you who sit in front of the TV judging singers on those dreadful reality let’s-find-a-star-in-five-minutes-then-drop-them-when-album-sales-dip shows, let me remind you of one thing: the voice is a fragile instrument. Unlike the piano or other orchestral instruments the voice requires maximum physical and emotional health to operate to a high standard. Even the great tenor Plácido Domingo admitted in an interview that he doesn’t watch or read the news on the day he is singing as it will affect his vocal quality. Yeah, try doing that six days a week for four months Plácido!
Now when you have to sing with a cold in front of the entire cast, crew and creatives including the formidable – and I don’t use the word lightly – Sir Richard Eyre, it’s a frustrating and somewhat embarrassing situation. The voice you have developed since screaming out “Jeeeeesuuuuus!” in your bedroom as a teenager along to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar has simply decided to abandon you like a whimsical dog-buyer ditching their puppy after Christmas! All that is left is a tone that can be likened to a child’s squeaky toy – not to mention the razorblade pain in the throat.
So, I’m resorting to doing what is often considered being ‘precious’ in the business: I’m marking it! This means not singing out fully, which is very hard to do when you’re emotionally charged and just want to let the larynx loose. Our wonderful Musical Supervisor Gareth Valentine reminded me today that “Opera singers are so good at marking it. Actors are terrible at it!” He’s right. I found it so difficult to not sing out and when I managed it I felt like the world’s worst actor!
Luckily this has happened before we open The Pajama Game on Friday and I’m glad that my voice has decided to rejoin me after this untimely leave of absence. If not, I would have had to give my Rex Harrison version of Sid Sorokin.