Authors: Samantha-Ellen Bound
Four friends. One dance school. A whole lot of drama.
Ellie has a new love â musical theatre! She is determined to become a âtriple threat', but can she really sing, dance and act?
Jazz has always been Ellie's thing, but since taking singing lessons at Silver Shoes, she has dreamt of making it on Broadway. Her chance to leap into this world comes when auditions for a grand musical are announced. Ellie is sure she has what it takes to be a star of the stage! That is, until she realises she needs to be able to tap, and until the all-too-perfect Cadence Kohdean comes into the picture. Will Ellie be able to tap her way to the top and become a leading lady?
Belated birthday presents are the coolest.
This was the best one I'd ever received: better than my week-late trip to the Gold Coast on my eighth birthday; better even than the pre-order voucher for the whole series of
when I turned ten.
My eleventh birthday was a few weeks ago. I'd had a party and everything, but now it was time to experience Mum and Dad's present:
a yummy dinner in the city with the biggest, most delicious sundae I'd ever had and, finally, I was about to watch a real, professional musical â something I'd dreamt about for years.
Mum and I had two tickets to see
at the Performing Arts Palladium in the big city!
I guess you have to know a bit about me to see why I was so excited. My name's Ellie, I'm a dancer and I've been working on becoming a âtriple threat' for a while now. A triple threat means you can sing, dance and act. So not only do you get way more opportunities, but you also get to do musical theatre.
And I love musical theatre! I've been going to my dance school, Silver Shoes, since I was a tiny, and my favourite style has always been jazz. But my teacher, Miss Caroline (who also owns the school), encouraged me to try
musical theatre because I am âvery dramatic and expressive when I dance'. Our musical theatre teacher at Silver Shoes is called Billie, and she started giving me singing lessons. Then, I guess, I fell in love.
I'll never love any style as much as jazz, but musical theatre sure comes a close second. Don't get me wrong â I still have big dreams about being a famous dancer or choreographer and appearing in the video clips of pop stars. Maybe I'll even be a pop star myself!
But lately the stage has been calling me. Just thinking about it makes my fingers and toes tingle. I imagine how my acting will make people cry, and how my singing will fill the theatre and make the audience's hearts swell.
For a minute I will feel larger than myself, Eleanor Charlotte Irvin, and be part of something greater and more fabulous.
It's the same feeling I had now, as Mum and I weaved our way through all the people at the Performing Arts Palladium. Bodies were packed into the foyer and up the stairs, and everything smelt like toilet spray perfume and peppermint mouthwash. Mum and I had to go totally ant style, weaving our way in and out of arms and legs, and dodging the drops flung from people's champagne flutes while they laughed loud enough to burst our eardrums.
I mean, great that they're enjoying themselves, but I need my eardrums or I'll never be able to sing properly. I don't want my career sabotaged before it's even begun.
âWelcome,' the usher said to us at the door. He had a moustache drawn on with eyeliner and talked with an American accent like in gangster movies. His slicked hair had about
half a tub of gel holding it back. âHow you two ladies doing tonight?'
âJust fine, thank you,' said Mum. She looked around at everyone and winked at the usher. âEven better when we can breathe.'
âWhy breathe when you can sing?' The usher shrugged. âMy name's Mikey, pleased to meet you.' He glanced down at me. âAnd you, princess? You look like a leading lady in the making.'
I gave him a big smile and did a little curtsy so my glittery pink dress floated out. âMy name's Ellie,' I said. âOne day, I will be.'
âA princess or a leading lady?' The usher grinned.
âBoth,' I said, flicking my blonde curls over my shoulder.
âBig aspirations, this one,' Mum chuckled, giving one of my curls a playful tug.
Mikey laughed. âMaybe next time I'll be working the door for one of your shows.' He checked the tickets Mum was holding. âTonight you two will be seated on the mezzanine level. It's just up the stairs to the right. Enjoy. You'll see me around at interval.' He gave my nose a friendly tap. âMaybe we can have a dance-off,' he said. âWhaddaya think, angel?'
âI think you better be prepared to lose,' IÂ said.
He laughed and so did Mum.
âOh golly,' she said. âCome on, Ellie, before you go and make me fetch your jazz shoes.'
She took my hand and we headed up the grand staircase, ready to watch the show.
The theatre was
Mum and I came to the top of the stairs and walked down the row to our seats. We were at the front of the mezzanine level, which is like a balcony, so you sit up high and look down onto the performance.
Curved stairs with gold balustrades led up to the stage and red velvet curtains â the lushest I'd ever seen â hung down either side.
There were lights along the walls of the auditorium that looked like old-fashioned gaslights, very dim but bright enough to see the shadows of people leaning over to whisper to each other or settle themselves in their seats. There was a buzz of excitement.
My heart felt dazzled by it all. It was like I'd stepped back in time and my insides went all glittery, the same way they do right before I'm about to go on stage myself.
I knew this was where I belonged.
âStop squirming, Ellie,' said Mum, looking in her bag for some gum. âThere's people behind us, honey.' But I couldn't help it, I had to look everywhere and take everything in.
When the lights finally went down, the most spectacular hush fell over the audience as they waited for the show to start. I imagined how it would be standing on the other side of the curtain.
From the minute the opening chords of the first
song rang out, I was hooked. The story was set in something called the âGreat Depression' and it was about a young girl who arrives in New York, makes her way into the chorus line, and eventually lands the leading role in a big musical. Then she has to deal with falling in love and an older star who doesn't want to be upstaged by the latest âit' girl.
There was heaps of dancing, but all the songs either went along with the story or moved the plot forward. Every single performer was beautiful and talented and had these pin-curl hairstyles, which made them look so glamorous. I made a note to try it out for school assembly next week (it was my turn to be the host, so I wanted to stand out).
The best part was that all the performers were equally as good at singing, dancing and
acting. A lot of the dancing was tapping, which isn't really my thing, but
just about changed my mind. It was like the dancers were creating music with their feet, and the rhythms were so catchy and clever.
Costume and set changes rolled by and I was so entranced by the world on stage that Mum had to pull me back because I was leaning so far forward I almost toppled over the balcony.
But the stage and the songs were calling to me. They were saying, â
Come on down, Ellie â light up the stage with us! We need a girl just like you
By the time the end rolled around and the cast were taking their bows, I felt like I'd just experienced magic. The real world seemed fake and boring, while the world on stage was in my blood.
I stumbled down the stairs with Mum
andÂ almost ran into Mikey, the usher from before.
âAhhh,' he said, reaching out a hand to steady me. One side of his eyeliner moustache had slightly smudged. He winked at Mum. âShe's got that look. There's no going back now.'
Mum laughed. âShe was born with that look.'
âSo was I, once,' said Mikey.
But I barely heard, because I was walking somewhere up in the clouds. I was in musical theatre heaven. It had never been clearer what I was supposed to do.
âAnd then they tapped on these coins and the coins lit up,' I whispered to my best friend, Paige.
We were lined up in the corner of the studio at Silver Shoes, waiting for our turn to do travelling exercises. I was trying to fill her â and our other two close friends, Riley and Ash â in on
âAnd the song was really catchy, it went like this â' I sang it, quietly of course, just under the music Miss Caroline had been playing, but Paige grinned at me.
âWow, Ellie, you're getting really good,' she said.
âPosÃ© turns,' Miss Caroline called out. âRemember, spot that blue cross in the far corner, and keep the extended leg straight. Jasmine and Tove, you first.'
Jasmine and Tove always go first in travelling steps.Â Show-offs. Jasmine is one of the best dancers at Silver Shoes, and my number one competition. In the personality stakes, though, she loses. Tove just does whatever Jasmine wants.
They launched into their posÃ© turns, and Miss Caroline followed them across the floor, her eyes never leaving their legs.
âLovely, Jasmine,' Miss Caroline called out. âBetter, Tove â but pull up, pull up!'
âThere was this other part,' I whispered to my friends excitedly, âwhen they were in a carousel and there were these projections that made it look as if they were moving along, like trees and buildings going past, and they kept peeking out of the carriage curtains. It was so funny. I think the song was called “Shuffling Off to Buffalo”.'
âEllie, we're next,' Paige whispered to me.
I closed my mouth and lined up next to her. We took off across the floor in our posÃ© turns. I love it when Paige is my partner in travelling steps. It's like looking in a mirror â we always keep so in sync.
Miss Caroline travelled with us across the floor, clapping on the down beat so we'd get the rhythm right.
âLovely, girls,' she called. âPaige, just watch you keep your shoulders down when you turn.'
âUgh,' Paige said as we reached the other end of the studio and took a few steps to shake off the dizziness. âYou'd think with all the ballroom I've been doing my stupid shoulders would stay down.'
We watched Riley and Ashley posÃ© across the floor. Riley, of course, looked like she was already dancing in some professional corps de ballet. Ash was improving too, but because she had so much energy she kept over stepping on the extended leg and putting herself off balance. You should see her dancing hip hop, though â then you'll know where all that energy goes!
Ash made a face as she lined up behind me and Paige. âUgh, Ellie,' she said, flicking her bangs off her forehead. âI'm so dizzy I'm seeing three of you.'
âSounds like your lucky day,' I said. âSo anyway, while they were in the carriages, there
was another group at the front doing a tap sequence, and oh gosh, there was not one tap out of tune.' I turned to my best friend. âPaige, why have you never told me how amazing tap is?'
Paige is well known for doing just about every style of dance. âI did try,' she admitted. âBut you were too obsessed with jazz and how many fouettÃ©s you could do.'
Riley smiled. âDoesn't sound like Ellie.'
âIt's called being passionate,' I defended myself, although I knew they were only teasing. âBut in this Shuffling Buffalos song, they â¦'
âQuiet while you're waiting,' Miss Caroline called to us, without taking her eyes off BethanyÂ and Brooke, the last two posÃ©ing across the room. âGood, girls! Okay let's do fan kicks: the arm goes the opposite way to the leg, keep the core strong.' She demonstrated,
before turning back to us. âRemember, long walks between kicks â the aim is to travel. Jasmine and Tove, you first.'
âI'll tell you all later,' I whispered to my friends.
âCan't wait,' said Riley.
When class was finally over, I'd thought of a million more things about
that I just had to share. I bounded down the hallways of Silver Shoes to the change room, bursting with excitement.
That's when it happened.
Like a sign from the dancing gods.
On the Silver Shoes noticeboard: a flyer.
The Bayside Choral Society, with assistance from the Silver Shoes Dance School, are proud to present: Auditions for
Mary Poppins: the Musical.
Can you sing, dance, tap and act? We want you! Children welcome!
There was more written underneath, but that was all I needed to see.
Because the important thing was:
It was time for my musical theatre debut.