x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Suddenly, life is a musical

'Fly Me to the Moon' may not have cut the mustard at the Sound of Music audition but it did the trick with Oliver!

I now understand the meaning of the expression, “It never rains but it pours.” Lately, I suddenly seem to have become involved in one too many musicals.

I overheard someone moaning the other day that there weren’t enough chances here for budding singing stars to be talent-spotted. Perhaps not, but as far as I know, there are certainly a couple of West-End-style productions about to happen that are providing people – teenagers, especially – with an opportunity to strut their stuff and croon their way to fame. Well, fame within the musical-watching crowd in Dubai.

Anyway, when I heard that my friend Lisa would be auditioning for a part in The Sound of Music, it didn’t take me long to fill in a form, too, liking as I do to poke my nose into as many different things as I possibly can. I was under no illusions about my chances of getting anywhere: Lisa is a stunning singer who trains every week while I bawl away mostly in the shower where no one can tell me to shut it.

When I got to the audition at the Hayya Club, the Meadows, offering frantic apologies for being late, someone talking into a microphone quelled me with a stony glance, an action which he repeated when I spotted Lisa and began waving slightly conspicuously.

“So what are you singing?” a girl sitting next to me asked nervously, after microphone man had disappeared. “I’ve been practising mine for months, my vibrato’s still so uneven on some of the long notes though...”

I moved away from her fairly quickly and went off to find Lisa. I hadn’t thought about what song I was going to perform until we were halfway through the car journey to the Hayya Club. My vibrato isn’t uneven, though, because I don’t have one. I can’t hold a note for more than a couple of seconds before it suffers a sort of Doppler effect and goes flat.

After a bit of waiting, we were herded into groups which were ushered into a room one by one, where a rather intimidating panel of judges awaited us. I like to attribute my not being able to make it due to the fact that I was right after someone with an astoundingly, unjustly, hair-tearingly virtuoso operatic voice. Practically everyone in the room was left spellbound as she finished her verse and curtsied prettily, but all I remember thinking was, “Would they believe me if I said I had suddenly caught a cold in the past half hour and lost my voice, and had to leave?”

When the judges reluctantly turned to look at me, next in line, I managed to squeak out the chorus from Fly Me to the Moon and hastily retreated behind the other girls equally bowled over by that first performance. Later, they taught us a “simple dance routine”, and asked us to perform it, too, which caused everyone except the ballerinas – you could tell who they were by the way they stood in a perfect plié – to trip over their feet and generally look silly.

Lisa, on the other hand, was wonderful and got through the first round, so of course it wasn’t at all awkward when she patted my head and told me, sounding rather unconvinced herself, that I should have got in.

Judging by the (expected) disaster the Sound of Music audition was, I didn’t have high hopes when I tried out for Oliver! (based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens), another production that’s being put together in the Dubai Community and Arts Centre (DUCTAC) in Mall of the Emirates.

A couple of friends were trying out too, and it doesn’t hurt anything but your ego simply to audition – and, as a bonus, rehearsals make pleasant weekend-fillers.

Just a couple of days earlier, we had been to a lovely concert in DUCTAC, called Three Phantoms, which brought together three West End actors who had played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera. One of the phantoms had cheerily dispensed some useful advice between songs, which was to sing exactly the same song for all your different auditions, so you keep getting better on that song.

I tried that strategy with Oliver!, and, funnily enough, it worked – I got through with my shaky rendition of Fly Me to the Moon. Although we haven’t been assigned roles yet, the musical promises to be a magnificent production when it’s performed in a few months’ time.

Attacking the opportunity with characteristic enthusiasm (I’ll probably end up playing something in the background without any lines) I have learnt quite a few of the songs and Mum has made up a new rule: the song Consider Yourself is forbidden inside the house, or within her earshot.

I think I might have to cut back on this musical stuff. It destroys your ability to control your urges and makes you want never to stop whistling, which can lead to disagreeable face-offs with irate people in the vicinity.

I sang along to the numbers I recognised in that Three Phantoms concert, although I think I still have a long way to go before I get that perfectly even vibrato. A very long way. But after that it’ll be only a matter of time before I find myself on ­Broadway.

• The writer is a 15-year-old student in Dubai.