Greener BeeGreen TipsThe Green Room: Tips for working on your first musical

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…


Albert Parker is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Jenny Talbot is 39, with nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre, and occasional forays into TV, film and plays

Pierce Caffrey, 23, graduated from drama school and has performed on TV and in theatre


Dale McKenna is 24. He trained at Laine Theatre Arts, has performed in West End musicals and is currently touring the UK


Victor Winstanley is 42 and his theatre career has encompassed the National Theatre, West End, touring and regional work. He also writes extensively for radio and TV


Molly Muffet is 36. After graduating from university, Molly joined the cast of a major BBC sitcom. Since then she has worked extensively on stage


Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company, worked on numerous new plays, and toured both national and internationally

Albert I absolutely love watching musicals, but my experience of performing in them is very small.

Victor I did a lot of musicals as a teenager and a student, then none in my 20s and early 30s, and now am starting to do them again. I suspect that’s quite a common experience among actors who sing well but dance badly.

Albert I’ve done a couple of pantomimes and one major musical. I’ve directed about eight or nine of them at drama schools. I think I was asked to do the musical I did because of my acting talents rather than my singing, which should really be restricted to the bathroom.

Jenny I’ve done a fair few musicals in my time. I find them really enjoyable to both be in and watch.

Pierce I trained in musical theatre, but at a drama school with a heavy focus on classical acting tradition, so I would suggest that an actor who is working on his or her first musical approaches it no differently to a play.

Beryl Couldn’t agree more, Pierce. Approach a musical as you would any play. Intentions and objectives still count – there’s a reason to sing.

Victor Yes. Don’t switch off and go into song mode, however brilliant your voice. The question “Why am I saying this?” should apply every bit as much to a song as it does to a scene.

Albert I think Imelda Staunton is the best argument ever as to why actors rather than performers should do musicals. Sometimes you suspect people haven’t exactly examined what they’re saying or singing all that much, they’re just concentrating on getting the right notes.

Pierce From an acting perspective, when a character sings the idea is that the emotion he or she is trying to convey has reached such a point that the natural progression is to express this emotion through song. If you approach your sung text as an extension of your spoken text, like a heightened emotional response, then you will retain the truth that you have from within the realism of speech.

Jenny Whenever I’ve worked with straight actors who haven’t been in a musical before, it always surprises me how nervous they are about singing. It’s as if they think that’s all that matters. What actually matters is that the story continues to be told through music and that the song needs to be acted as well as sung. It’s not always about vocal quality.

Beryl Looking after your voice is probably one of the challenges – constantly warming up and steaming will be the order of the day.

Molly So true. It’s important to take care of yourself. A sore throat or slight cold can be debilitating when you’re singing. And there’s nowhere to hide – you can either hit the note, or you can’t.

Dale I guess boring things are really important, such as being as prepared as possible. Look at music and script if you’ve been sent them.

Albert It’s also easier to cut things. I worked my socks off learning choreography to front a number on the musical that I did, only to be cut from it after one preview.

Victor On the subject of dancing, unless you’re really good, beware the dreaded movement audition. Agents and casting directors will tell you that it’s not about getting the steps right, it’s about creating a character. This may be true but the character you create won’t be so amazing that they’ll choose you over someone who can actually do the steps.

Molly Very true, Victor. The audition process for musical theatre is subtly different to that for plays. In the early stages, the creative team tends to see people in shorter time slots so there’s not as much opportunity to chat with the director or to get over nerves. This can be a bit of a shock if you’re used to longer meetings but you soon get used to it.

Dale I also think it’s important to embrace the social side of the job. Find the balance between hard work and fun. Don’t be overzealous.

Beryl True. Don’t separate yourself from the musical performers. Try not to think of yourself as from a different camp, you’re all performing together. Don’t be scared to ask the advice of those who have done lots of musicals.

Jenny I truly believe it’s the hardest onstage work in theatre. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of commitment.

Albert Broadway musicals are fascinating to watch. Each and every member of the ensemble performs as though the spotlight is only on them. Personally, I love that.

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