THE VAGARIES OF AUDITIONS AND AUDITIONING ... (Continued)
The first day, after I arrived in L A from my drive back from Denver, I went back to The Horn, to give a little payback to Rick Ricardi, for essentially getting me into the Business of Show. He was happy to see me and had me sing three sets of three to four songs ... that’s, three sets of three to four songs a night ... for the next year, seven nights a week! The only problem was, he only paid me for the occasional job I would do as a carpenter–we put an illegal storage shed up, one day, behind the Horn, from ten in the morning to eleven at night–I wired an intercom from the bar to the kitchen and helped Rick build a new piano bar top ... at the princely sum of two bucks an hour. For the singing, he never paid a dime. I also picked up playing the bass, when that player was off two nights a week ... and bongos! Rick relied on all of the out-of-work singers, in town, coming in to “exercise their chops,” when not working, who wanted to keep ‘their machinery well-oiled.’ He never gave me so much as a dime for gas. I didn’t need much and my Mom, the lovely Charlotte, kept me alive in all other respects.
On the plus side, Rick let me work an hour a week with the best coach I have ever had, Carlos Noble. He taught me how to communicate with the audience by immersing myself in the meaning of the text ... and letting the voice take care of itself. Singing three or four sets a night, did wonders for my voice and my ability to entertain, to communicate. I had the occasional audition outside of the Horn, but not much came of that until ... my audition for Edwin Lester, of the L A Civic Light Opera Co. To suggest it was an audition in the typical sense, would be a bit of an exaggeration, since it ran almost an hour. After my initial offering, of “They Call the Wind Maria,” he began to stage me, number after number, giving me pointers from the producer’s point of view, while having me sing through five other songs. He liked my voice ... but, pointed out that I had “little experience!
Four months later, he set up the audition for the National Company of Music Man, which was put together in L A. I sang my song “They Call ...” and the audition staff from N Y, jumped to their collective fee, applauding and yelling ... and hired me on the spot. Apparently, Rick from the Horn, with Mr. Lester’s contribution, had made their collective mark on me.
I had learned, essentially, to approach every opportunity on stage as ... a performance! I learned, over the succeeding years, not to go in as though my livelihood depended upon my performance, even though most often it did. I went out on stage like a herd-of-turtles, to entertain, looking at and engaging, my audience, when the lyrics dictated I should and at the “forth wall” when it didn’t. I always went out onstage to enjoy myself. It was the greatest place in the world to be! I always knew I would sing well ... because I performed every night ... several times to lotsa different people and they always were generous in their response.
Three years later, after eleven months with Music Man, a summer as Stock Baritone, at the St Louis Municipal Opera ... and nine months of lotsa auditions for Broadway, with nothing to show for it, but, with lots of church work, I got a call from my agent who told me I had an audition for a chorus job, the next day at the Schubert Theater, for “Tenderloin,” a new Broadway Show. Somehow, I had missed the call when they first cast it and expected it would be me and several other fellas.
When I showed up, I was surprised to find that I was the only one they were hearing. The spokesman of the auditioning foursome asked what I would sing and I replied, “There But for You, Go I,” from Brigadoon. The pianist came up to the lip of the stage, from the pit, took my music and disappeared waaaay under the stage. When he started playing, I had trouble hearing the piano. Since this was in the day, long before singers were miked, I sang conversationally, but with a fairly full voice ... and soon lost close contact with my accompanist. That didn’t bother me, because I knew he could her me!
From the bridge of the song, through the last eight bars, I leaned on it “pretty good,” enough so, that I couldn’t hear the piano at all! I knew with the energy I was using, I was pushing sharp, but I kept right on, ploughing ahead, ending with a big high A flat ... which should have been a G.
There was a momentary silence from the audience and then the fella said, “Mr Fredricks, that song doesn’t end on that high note, does it?” “Well, no ... I just wanted you to know I have high notes.” “Oh, OK ... but, uh ... were you aware that you were just a bit sharp?” I said, “Noooo sir, I was really sharp! I couldn’t hear the piano, so I wanted you to think it was him and not me!”
After they stopped laughing, he continued, “Well, we’re inclined to hire you, but ... uh ... we’re a little concerned that you might be too good for the chorus!” “No problem there ... give me a lead!” They all laughed, a bit embarrassedly and he good-naturedly asked, “But, what have you done?” “Aaaah, there is that,” said I. “But,’” he continued, “We have decided we are going to offer you the job.”
To be continued next month ...
THE VAGARIES OF AUDITIONS AND AUDITIONING
- ABSENCE OF TENSION
THE FLAT TONGUE TECHNIQUE AND HOW DO YOU
MAKE A VOWEL
THE VOICE COACHING THAT MADE MY
- WHAT ARE YOU SINGING?
KILL A COLD IN FIVE DAYS
- A BIT MORE
- MORE SUPPORT