Have you considered that vocal work can include Cirque du Soleil?
Nicola Dawn, currently on an Arena Tour of Saltimbanco, shares with vocalists what it is like to sing in this unique company…
Did you ever think you might end up singing with Cirque du Soleil?
I actually think it was inevitable for me to end up doing this. When I first started my career I always loved to be involved in new musicals so I had the opportunity to put my own stamp on the performance and make it live in ‘my way’. I was drawn to Cirque because of their fresh and active approach to performance and integration of the individual artist’s abilities. Unfortunately, this has become quite rare in Musical Theatre today.
What are the disciplines that help you to stay on top of your voice when touring?
I have lots of warm drinks and don’t over do it warming up. I don’t drink alcohol the night before a performance. But my main goal is to be my best every show and give 150%. This gives me a level of commitment that means I’m supporting properly when I sing. The problems start when you don’t support.
You’ve worked extensively within film, television and stage – how has your Cirque work uniquely challenged you?
There is a freedom within my performance at Cirque that I wouldn’t be allowed to have in other genres of the industry….unless you’re a huge star. Cirque encourages artists to experiment and bring something new to each and every performance. But freedom can be a paradox: it’s great to have it, but it’s a big challenge to control it as an individual. You can feel very exposed and vulnerable if you don’t make clear decisions and choices in your work. It’s learning to deal with that level of vulnerability that is my personal challenge.
Do Cirque’s singers work with coaches? Just in rehearsal or during the run?
Yes, we work with coaches when we are first introduced to a new project or show. We can also request to see a coach to get their input if we feel we need it during a long run. When a new singer is integrated into a long running show the coach will teach her the role at HQ and then accompany her/him for the first few weeks on tour to make sure all is smooth and harmonious.
What kind of microphone do you typically use: handheld, headset, or lav or headworn?
We use a headset, which hooks over the ears and comes round the cheek.
How do you monitor your sound?
We use in ear monitors and we have a monitor engineer overseeing our mix from song to song. No sound is directed at the stage.
When you rehearse are you able to listen to recordings of what you’ve done to improve, or just feedback from people listening?
We can request that a recording is done of the show either from the sound board for the show mix or from the monitor board for our in-ear mixes. They also film every show for reference for all the artists, Artistic team and Stage Management team.
As you look to the future, what avenues do you see for your voice beyond Cirque du Soleil?
I’ve recently recorded an album with my husband who is a producer; this is available on itunes and selling well. Further down the line I think I might like to get involved in the casting process at Cirque. It’s a fascinating part of the industry for me, working out how to get the most from your “auditionees” and getting a glimpse of the amazing talent that is out there around the globe.
Nicola Dawn began her career in Musical Theatre as an actress/singer; she’s performed lead roles in London’s West End in productions of Copacabana, Fame, The Sound of Music, Aspects of Love, Taboo, When Harry met Barry and The Thing About Men. She’s worked for various Rep Theatres across the UK and has done her fair share of commercials! She has also supplied vocals for several films and TV series. In 2006, Nicola also made an appearance on the ITV1 talent contest The X Factor as a member of the close harmony group finalists, The Unconventionals, with Louis Walsh as their mentor. She is currently a featured vocalist with Cirque du Soleil in their production of Saltimbanco.