Liv Smith: Seven Musicals in Seven Years
Liv reflects on her participation in seven (yes, seven!) musicals in Stafford Grammar School. If you haven’t got your tickets yet, hurry up – they’re nearly gone!
“From my very first solo on stage in the prep school as the Pirate Queen, I became mesmerised with the idea of performing. The prestigious Stafford Grammar School Musical had always been a hot topic between us dramatic preppies and to get into the cast was considered an honour.
I distinctly remember my first audition for Les Misérables back in 2012. In front of Mr Jones and Mr Lamplough I sang ‘Castle on a Cloud’, actions included, having been umming and ahing about whether to go in for the majority of the lunch hour. I was a nervous wreck and I struggled through the song that was meant to be performed by a sweet little girl (which it was, eventually, by Jenny Kendall not a freakishly tall Year 7!). Thankfully, I made it in as a member of chorus X, unnamed. For the majority of the musical I played a street urchin as the minimum age requirement for a prostitute was Year 9. I will never forget the feeling of being on stage, surrounded by my peers, marching to ‘One Day More’. My first musical at SGS was a success. Not only had I been part of something exciting, I had interacted with new, older, people. Watching the more senior pupils carry the chorus made me want to work as hard as I could to support them, with the hope that one day, I would be in the roles they were.
From Les Mis, my roles in the musicals gradually got bigger. In West Side Story, I was cast as a named member of the chorus, Margherita, and then in Into the Woods I was cast as Jack’s mother. Now hopefully it wasn’t solely based on this, but my height helped me look a lot older than the other girls my age, and is probably why, as a Year 9, I was able to be the mother of a Lower 6th boy.
It wasn’t until Fame however, Mr Jones’ last ever musical with us, that I felt like I really contributed everything I had to offer. Cast in the role of Miss Sherman, whose character description is ‘mature adult’, I remember singing my solo ‘These Are My Children’ in front of the whole cast for the first time. I have never received so many comments of amazement as to where I had been hiding the bluesy belt that came out of me that day. One comment that stuck with me was from Mr Darley, who was asked by a parent where they’d hired me from, thinking I was a seasoned pro. It was one of the best shows ever done at SGS, and every cast member looks back on Fame as the musical where all the years came together.
It was from here that I really found my place in the musicals. Little Shop of Horrors was next to come, and I was singing alongside girls I had looked up to for years, as Ronette. This musical was the last to feature anyone older than I was in the cast. Those Year 13s were gone and now it was my time to lead from the front alongside other experienced cast members.
When it was announced that Sister Act was going to be the school musical in 2018, I knew I had to be Deloris. It was the perfect role for me (a diva!) who could belt out any song coming her way and loved the spotlight. Ignoring all the comments made about me not having to act one bit, it truly was the best experience I have ever had on stage in my life. Being the lead role and having to know the musical inside out was a lot of pressure and there were definitely tears along the way (I am a crier), but I could perform the whole musical as a one-man show to this day. It was an absolute honour to be part of it and stepping through that glitter curtain for four performances is a feeling I will never forget.
Now there’s just one more to go for me. In the audition, I felt just as nervous as I had done all those years ago. From Wednesday 13th to Friday 15th of March I will be performing as Violet, the lead in 9 to 5, in my last ever SGS musical alongside an amazing performer and friend, Jenny Kendall (playing Judy), and Nina Fitton (Doralee). Nina is so talented, I am certain she will be the heart of the two musicals that she has left to be part of at SGS.
What I love about performing at SGS is working alongside people I see every day, from all year groups, interacting with them when I otherwise wouldn’t, and putting on a show for all the people who come and support us. I hope the musicals continue to inspire pupils to go beyond their comfort zone, to commit themselves, and for a week in March, become someone else.
All that’s left to do is to say thank you. Thank you to Mr Lamplough, for seven years of support and a level of trust and respect that is rare to find between teacher and student. Thank you to Mr Jones, for helping me to grow in confidence and character. Thank you to Mrs Fletcher for always being a positive inspiration; we miss you! Finally, thank you to Miss Smith. Without you Sister Act would not have been the dream that it was and 9 to 5 would not be happening. Your commitment is the reason I can perform in seven out of seven musicals; something very few people can say.
To everyone reading this: hope to see you there for the grand finale!
Liv Smith “