I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I first learned about this role from a Director/Actor friend of mine named Tracey Power. She had contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being considered for the role of Don Lockwood.
Don Lockwood was famously created by Gene Kelly.
I said to Tracey that I would love to do this role and would be really excited to work with her again, but I said “I really don’t think I have the tapping chops to pull it off”. I have tapped before in my career, and have taken a few classes, but nowhere near the level of a master like Gene Kelly. In my wildest dreams, I would be able to work hard and kick ass as Don, but that, I figured, would be all it would be, a dream. Tracey however had other ideas. She asked me to put down what I knew and send in an audition video. I chose the title song and my wife choreographed a dance routine for me to learn. The songs of Singin In The Rain are all in my baritone wheel well, and the character seemed to fit me like a glove as well. The biggest hurdle was going to be the dance.
I sent my audition video into Tracey and I thought, well here goes. Meanwhile I was talking to my wife Krista, who is an advanced tap dancer, and she was being very encouraging. Krista was saying to me “look if you land this role, you will have to work your ass off and I will help you, we will tap every day and you can do it!” Now neither KJ or I were disillusioned into thinking I could somehow learn to be an advanced tap dancer in 4 months, but as long as i was honest about my ability to Tracey, and Tracey still wanted me , than I would work to be the best I could be.
I had received one more request from Tracey asking for a video of me tapping as fast as I could. At this point I thought for sure there was no way I could do it. I was having doubts as well, thinking if I got this role who am I kidding I can’t be Gene Kelly. Again my beautiful wife said to me “Just send it in, Tracey knows what she’s doing. She will see your ability. You are not fooling anyone…this video shows how much you can, or can’t tap, and she will see your ability and cast you if she wants.”
I hadn’t heard for a while, and in the meantime my grandmother had died. So I flew to Vancouver to be with the family. I was worried about my grandfather most of all. He is a romantic soul, and she was the love of his life. After the funeral I was over spending some time with my Dad, and I got an email. This time it was not from Tracey, but from the musical Director Steven Greenfield. He wanted me to sing Broadway Melody. It is the song with the most range, so I suppose he wanted to make sure the tone and my range could handle the role. I only had my iPhone with me so I learned the song, and just hand-held the phone, singing into it with as much enthusiasm as I could muster given the circumstances.
I guess he liked it.
I got the message from Tracey a few days later and I landed the role. Now I was excited and determined and terrified. I immediately started taking lessons at our local dance school. When I say I took lessons I really mean it. There I was at Doris Sitter School of Dance in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, in a class of 10 year olds, learning. Getting my butt kicked I might add. These kids are fierce and much better than I was. They eventually got used to me and I became a project for them to reassure me and to teach me the sounds that I was missing. The thing is, you can’t fake tap. That’s why you don’t see it on So You Think You Can Dance, you either have the sounds or you don’t. So I practiced and practiced. I had privates from my wife in our kitchen, at the studio, anywhere I could learn.
In the middle of all this I did a whole other show. Fiddler on The Roof. Songs, choreo, lines, blocking, shows, the whole thing. After rehearsals and before shows I would come to the spare rehearsal hall and tap. It was hard work. In fact I was working a little too hard.
I had worked my body so consistently, that my right knee finally just gave out. I was unable to walk on it, let alone tap. I was panicked.
When I returned home from Fiddler I went to see as many healing modalities as I could think of. Sports Therapy twice a week, Massage, Chiropractic, I bought pain killers, anti-inflammatory , braces, wraps, and even a pair of core shorts. I eventually went to an Acupuncturist. All of these things slowly started to mend me. It was frightening to feel so incapable, and worried that people would think that I just couldn’t do it and had to give up.
I arrived onto Vancouver Island after doing a documentary film and a Playwrights Festival as well as renting my home to a doctor from South Africa , with a heart full of worry. I was injured and had to take things slower that I had wanted. I had been working already on the music and the script, and I was pretty much off book so I could devote almost all my energy into creating the world and learning the choreography.
My wife became the Dance Captain, and so she was able to really help me learn things quickly after rehearsals, and or during some spare time. It’s funny though because being the lead in a show generally means I am in practically every scene and number so spare time doesn’t really exist. I am sure the cast was impressed with my determination and hard work, but also a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. My Cosmo Brown, Jon Purvis, and my Kathy Seldon, Rachel Harrison, were amazingly supportive and willing to go over things a million times so I could get it. I tell you all, the cast really rallied behind me.
Needless to say, I did do it. Miraculously, amazingly, the show opened, and though I had to spend the first couple of weeks on pain killers, my dream had come true. The show as a hit.
I have to say that being able to sing and dance for real, as Don Lockwood in Singin In The Rain, is the most amazing feeling of accomplishment I’ve had in a long time. I feel so fortunate to have such genuine joy playing this role.