In the movie Billy Elliot, the young boy says whenever he dances it’s like lightning going through him. It is the same thing for me, performing in musical theatre. Whenever I perform, it allows me to escape into the character and be someone else. And for those two hours of time while I am on stage, it is a fun escape.
I did my first show at school when I was in Year 5 when I played the Artful Dodger in Oliver! The next year I was the lead in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I began ballet lessons at five and then did jazz dance as well. I was always artistic and creative and fell into it because of a need to be active.
It was perfectly fine for me to be learning dance in our household -“ Dad was fine, and he was happy that I was doing soccer and tennis as well. I was a rather shy kid at school and performing allowed me to take the shell off, even more so when I went to high school as I was experiencing a lot of homophobia. Doing shows helped with my esteem as it allowed me some approval from my peers and helped distract me from the many times when I did not want to be there.
I was very excited in Year 10 when we did the show Bye Bye Birdie, but the next year they cancelled the school musical. I was so disappointed I went off and joined Forest Youth Theatre Company and did Jesus Christ Superstar, playing an apostle and a leper. That was my first taste of a musical society and it really changed everything.
There are so many gay men in amateur theatre and there is a network which exists, and I figure the more shows I do, the larger that network is for me. Being gay is very accepted in theatre. Straight men are fine about it, the women assume it and the other gay men are pretty open, so it is an easy place.
But what theatre allows me to do is meet gay men across a spectrum of ages. In recent years, I did Carousel with Hornsby Musical Society, and then Crazy For You and The Secret Garden at Willoughby. When I did Titanic The Musical, there was an older gay couple who had been together for almost 30 years and I saw that it was possible to be in a relationship that lasts. There were also guys in their 30s and 40s, as well as guys around my own age. I feel at last I have a larger group of people to talk to.
Willoughby did a concert earlier this year and I sang a song from the gay musical Falsettoland called What More Can I Say about a man being in love with another man. There were a few comments among the audience but overall I think everyone handled it pretty well.
Working in theatre professionally crossed my mind in the final year of high school, but since then I have been concentrating on my academic studies. I am studying psychology at Macquarie University and working on my thesis, as well as working part-time as a casual school teacher.
I am involved in the queer collective on campus, and I also enjoy coming out to Oxford Street whenever I can. I often feel like I am an outsider looking in -“ but I think most people do anyway. Being in theatre has added friendship into my life as well as the pleasure of working with music, which is possibly the greatest pleasure in life. It is also a great escape from study and the world, which at times still does tend to be homophobic.
Musical theatre is changing in style and there are much more contemporary shows coming through. There is more depth of character and the shows are more interesting in the storytelling, and that enchants me. In the coming weeks, I am back on the boards at Willoughby in a new production of Sweeney Todd, and I can’t see myself stopping doing shows any time soon.