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So it’s been just over a week since the show ended. I expected to feel much more of an immediate impact, but I think because Jess and Anna were visiting, it cushioned the blow somewhat. I had dear friends around who I hadn’t seen for over two years (ARG), we did touristy things and it wasn’t like just going back to reality straight away.

Now my body is starting to go “blurg, can we stop now?” The weather is grey, rainy and windy outside and it seems the perfect time to be rugged up and sitting in bed. Which is where I am. Emotionally I am fine, and that was what my real concern was. I’m always physically tired, so it’s not a surprise that I’m weary, but I was worried I would have the big emotional crash that I used to have after shows. Does this mean I’m getting better at managing myself? Dare I say I have actually matured in the last 20 years? I’m missing everyone a lot, and missing having the show to go to, but I’m not collapsed in a heap, which is a relief.

All that aside, the whole Strictly Ballroom experience was just wonderful from start to finish. It was an incredible bunch of people assembled to bring the show to life – just a lot of hardworking, humble, talented, kind and good-humoured people. No egos. Almost everyone was fairly accomplished in one way or another, but I didn’t know most of it until reading the program bios. I love that. Maybe that’s the difference doing theatre in a place like Launceston as opposed to Sydney; there’s a lot less self-promotion, a lot less competitiveness, a lot less angst about everything. Sure, people have ambition and want to succeed, but it’s not so brash and offputting like it can be in a big city where everyone is climbing over everyone else. Or maybe I haven’t seen it yet. Anyway. In this particular production, there was none of that, which made it a pleasure to turn up to rehearsal and the theatre every day.

‘All out war’ – photo by Jess Walker

The show itself was just gorgeous. So much colour and movement and incredible lighting and fantastic music from the band and the dancing! Oh the dancing! Just watching from side of stage every night when the ensemble did All Out War, I felt like a little kid being able to watch the magical adults at work. I was the only singer not onstage for that number, so instead of standing by the monitor watching our conductor, I would stand in the wings and just lap it up.

My view from the wings, of Celeste and Harrison gliding around like angels

Man I wish I could dance.

But I can sing! I loved singing the music in this show. The ensemble songs were fun, and being able to sing off stage for most of the ensemble numbers meant that even though I wasn’t onstage a lot of the time, there wasn’t as much down time lying around in the dressing rooms like there was in Sound of Music. I think that possibly is one thing that helped everyone feel like we were a cohesive whole, as we were mostly all involved in the bulk of the show.

Becoming Abuela – lots of hairspray, white paint and makeup involved
The Vargas family

One of my joys was being part of the ‘heart’ of the show. Rick, Charlotte and I had our little family unit (Rico, Fran and Abuela), and my two songs were all about connecting with the “music of your soul”, believing in yourself and being true to what you believe and who you are. It was a moment to come down from all the frenzied neon sequins and feathers of the ballroom world, with the muted tones of set and costume, and my lower-pitched voice, and the rhythmic dancing of Magnifico.

‘Leap of Faith’ – photo by Jess Walker

And Leap of Faith (written by Sia, no less) is just a gorgeous song that I felt privileged to sing – totally within my range too, which is nice. Apparently we made many mothers (and Rick) cry (Charlotte and I kept an unofficial tally).

Speaking of Charlotte, what a joy to meet and work with her! She and Tarrant are every bit the stars that they looked on the posters in terms of talent and helming the show, but as people they are so beautiful and down-to-earth and just delightful. I really hope they both go far in the performing arts, but also that they lose none of that genuineness and humility. It was so fun sharing a dressing room with Char, Celeste and Denise.

Dressing Room 4 Divas!

A three-week run (nightly shows Wed-Sun with a Saturday matinee) while working full time is a hard slog – it really was much easier when I was 20 and only had to pretend to pay attention in class the next day! I’m glad my character needed to look old as I didn’t have to think about the bags under my eyes.

So tired

I ate really badly; lots of sugar, lots of caffeine, lots of carbs (just the ticket for a type 2 diabetic, hey?). I would go straight from work to find dinner, then into the theatre because there wasn’t really enough time to go home to Grindelwald and back into town (one of the few times I wished I lived in town!). And eating dinner at 4:30pm is weird too.

Then after the show we wouldn’t get out of the theatre until just before 11 (once you take mics, makeup, costume off). 20 mins to get home. Still wired and hungry. Not asleep til 12:30 at the earliest. Then the alarm goes off at 7am to do it all again. The bar across the street was open each night for people to wind down, but I just couldn’t go out on a school night and still function the next day.

But that’s just the reality of any marathon effort. I’d do it all again. Of course. I am so glad I was part of this production. I was saying to mum today, it’s nice to reflect on it and realise that I am actually good at performing onstage and it wasn’t just a misguided lark back in my uni days. In fact I think I’m probably better now than I was then, more confident in myself, less trying to prove something. And less annoyed with playing the older characters – I used to be frustrated that because I’ve always had a womanly shape and demeanour I would never get a look in for the young, gorgeous ingenue roles. But hey. Character acting is where it’s at! And in musicals you can get decent stand out songs (think Matron Mama Morton’s song When you’re good to mama in Chicago, for example).

Scott (Tarrant) being sassed by Abuela (me in the shawl) – photo by Jess Walker

The weirdest thing is getting used to praise. I never know what to say to people who gush about the show, and there have been a lot of them! People at school stopping me as I walk past, or coming into the office especially to tell me how much they loved the show…and me in it, specifically. People on social media! In the hairdresser’s! On the street! We broke Encore’s attendance record, with around 10,100 in attendance, some multiple times (a teacher at school told me he came twice and wanted to come a third time but his wife wouldn’t let him). The standard is praised as being incredibly good. And I am so proud and grateful to be one small part of that, part of bringing so much joy to people, part of getting people on their feet to sing and dance during the curtain calls, part of sending people out of the theatre, grinning from ear to ear and feeling happy.

Me and our director Danny G – thank you for this experience, Mr G!

People keep asking me what’s next. I don’t know. It will be something! But this one was special – I don’t think anything can top it.

‘Magnifico’ – photo by Jess Walker