It was my home town’s turn for the national auditions for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s brand new musical “Cats” and I was excited. I had been learning singing for 2 years and at 18, I was ready for my big break. Like every other performer, my passion and dream was to go pro. I had already performed in a number of community theatre produced musicals, had enjoyed creating lead roles and I owned my own chorus shoes.
My audition prep consisted of developing my outfit. This was the 80s and my grey tracksuit and pink leggings were amazing. I’d even cut the neckline out and the sleeves off so that I had that raw, hanging off one shoulder look. Good grief, I couldn’t wait to make my entrance.
I’d practiced my song a few times and had my Big Book of Broadway Songs at the ready. I had no idea what Cats was about and with no internet [remember – the 80s] I had no hope of getting any useful information. Research for my audition consisted of watching my killer dance moves in the bedroom mirror and admiring how great my leggings looked on my high kicks. The choreography I’d created for the third verse of my song was going to blow the audition panel away!
As I entered the audition waiting room it felt like walking into a giant fur ball. There were cats everywhere. Full makeup, fur, the lot. I felt under dressed until I realised that every one of them was wearing leggings – I was fine. The walls in this space were paper thin and I could hear everyone’s audition from the inner room. As I listened to performer after performer sing their songs, I slowly began to realise something – the world is full of talented people.
My name was called, several times. What is it about auditions that makes you forget your own name? Clutching my music, I followed the clerk into an audition space covered in walls of mirrors [my high kicks would look amazing in these]. The panel greeted me and asked me what I was going to sing. I mumbled something to my shoes and walked to the piano where I asked the pianist to play my song – in a different key to the sheet music. The original key was wrong for me but I didn’t think it would be too difficult for him to play it in the key I’d been practicing in my head.
He was so polite and for some reason his face gave me the impression he was looking at a little lamb about to be run over by a fully laden truck! I don’t think he changed the key for any of the 10 bars I got to sing. They stopped me before my dance break! I didn’t even get to see my leggings flash across those mirrored walls. I was politely escorted from the room and, as thin as the walls were, I’m sure I didn’t hear anyone desperately trying to breathe because they were laughing so much. I think I did hear the thump of a head on a table though.
Today as I write about this naive 18 year old girl, I want to wrap her up and tell her everything turns out better than she hoped but I’m laughing so much it’s making me want to pee. So, the next time you do an audition you think is stink worthy, remember 18 year old Sherryl-Lee and her leggings and move on to the next one. Every audition is a learning experience and it’s definitely NOT the end of your career. I promise, cross my heart, hope to never wear leggings again!