REVIEW: MAMMA MIA THE MUSICAL

It amazes me that in my near-30 year career of obsessing over musicals, that last night was the first time I'd seen Mama Mia on stage.

This is the one affectionately referred to by fans as "the ABBA Musical" (or the movie musical that Pierce Brosnan would rather forget). But the super-group's own Beni & Bjorn didn't write the story of the band, instead this fun-fest is set in the Greek Islands and surprisingly perfectly: is populated only with songs recorded & released by ABBA.

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Go Shorty, it's Your Birthday

It’s my birthday. So I’m exercising my right to be a tad reflective.  

I chose today to take a time out from all the career and business-related work I’ve been doing behind the scenes of late.  If you’ve ever had to start afresh before you know it’s sometimes even busier than working full time.  And I’ve been hard at it.  That’s how I roll, I’m determined and stuff.  

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HOW TO: GET YOUR MESSAGE TO THE MEDIA

Just like big things happen in our lives: births, marriages, 40th birthday parties, big things happen in your business. 

As a producer on radio I was always looking for auspicious occasions in the life of the radio station, the shows, or presenters that we could use to create great content - and most importantly events for our listener's entertainment.  

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YOU NEVER GET USED TO WAKING UP AT 330am.

..AND OTHER ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS I GET ASKED ABOUT BREAKFAST RADIO.

It might be just small talk but there are a bunch of questions I always get asked about working on breakfast radio shows.  I love my work and I love the the convos – so don’t stop asking.  But in case you’ve wondered, been too shy or even if you’re just keen to get into the game (do it!) here are a few common questions about the gig, with my answers.  Of course these answers won’t match up with all the people you listen to on radio, but after 16 years working breakfast hours, I reckon they’re be a fair indication of the norm. 

 

Do you get to choose your own music?  No.  As much as they would probably like to, no radio announcer in a commercial station is choosing their own playlist. 

Who chooses the music? The Music Director, or "MD".  For most people their favourite thing about radio is the music, so we do our best to play as much of it as possible.  During our show, the anchor plays a preselected list of songs, scheduled by our MD. There are so many reasons why we need to stick to the schedule, but I'd say the main reason is to be consistent.  At 96fm we're known for playing great gold tracks.  If we were to suddenly put on a new pop track just because one of us likes it - we wouldn't sound like 96fm. 

How do you get used to waking up at 330 each morning?   You don’t.  No one ever gets used to that.  

What time do you go to bed?  Everyone has a different approach to managing the early mornings and likes to talk up the reasons why theirs is better than say, their co-hosts’.  I used to love staying up late (10pm) with my husband and stepson, then take a nap during the day.  But lately I've struggled to day-sleep.  So, I've had to suck it up and start going to bed at 8pm. Which sucks, because not only do I spend less time with my family, I also miss some of the best stuff on TV!  Which leads me to.. 

Is watching TV part of your job?  It actually is.  I try to be across whatever my station’s target audience might be.  So if MKR is rating well with 25-54 year olds, I make sure I check it out. Then, if something worth talking about comes up on the show, I pitch a break or phone topic about it for the next day.  The nightly TV news is generally the highest rating event of the night, so I watch it, no questions asked.  Doing this means I can be confident a decent chunk of our audience will have a point of reference and be able to relate to what I’ve just said.  Being relatable is where it’s at ;)

You must be a morning person, right? I’m actually not.  I’d like to tell you I’ve embraced the early mornings and that even on the weekends I’m up by 5am getting stuff done, but it just hasn’t happened.  It’s not like I’m grumpy at work in the mornings, but I feel like I’m the slowest to get going!  Getting out of bed hurts and I’m almost always just a little bit late, but by the time we sit down for our 5am meeting and I’ve had that first coffee, I’m feeling pretty good.  I’ve also worked hard to make sure my diet supports good sleep and energy levels.  I’ve found a few simple things that have really made a difference.  Maybe that’s for another blog ;)

What if you’re just having a bad day?  Yeah, life happens, and some days are definitely been harder than others.  But you know how when you’re feeling crappy your friends can make you feel better?  Working with a breakfast radio team can have the same effect.  It sounds a bit “Pollyanna” but I’m lucky to work with people who I’ve genuinely become friends with – and they’re all funny!  We might laugh over some silly news story, or spend some time looking for the funny side of a tiff one of us has had with our partner – it doesn’t take long to get in the right headspace for the 3 hours of live radio ahead. 

How do you come up with things to talk about? Ideas come from all over the place. I already mentioned TV, but I also remind myself to get out of the house often.  Having conversations and doing everyday activities are the things that generate stories and ideas.  I keep a list of quirky things that happen in my phone so I don't forget.  

Do you work from a script?  We plan everything we say! Even though it doesn’t sound that way ;)  But, whilst we carefully plot the times we’ll speak about certain things, share our stories and even workshop parts of them before the show starts, we prefer not to use a script.  For me, it was a real breakthrough when I learned to speak on radio the same way I would with a friend.  Sure, there’s a mud map of a few points to make sure I don’t take too much time, but on the whole, I just get in the moment and tell Fitzi what happened.  Being focused on the studio (and not a script) makes it so much easier to sound natural – and to interact when someone says something hilarious on the fly.  That’s the stuff you can’t plan. 

What happens when you’re sick?  (Generally) We come to work.  I know we're not saving lives, but to justify the show sounding different because it's one person down - my co-host and I agree - you best be pretty crook.   I had a few rare days off a couple of months back – when I had a suspected case of mumps!  My neck and face had swollen up so much that I could barely swallow let alone talk, but the main reason I stayed home was the risk of infecting others, not my puffy face.  

Do you think you’ll do it forever? I can’t confidently predict that. :) When it comes to my contract with my current employer – I’ll turn up as long as they’ll have me.  Radio jobs depend on not just your relationship with your employer but also results.  An awareness that it'll come to an end one day is just part of it.  You also need to take into account the impact of working those early mornings for such a long time.  It affects your family life, friendships and health in so many ways (more stuff for another blog). Mind you, when I think about working 9-5 I realise I’d miss the flexibility I have during the week right now – I can go to an appointment, do the shopping, or meet my husband for lunch pretty much any day of the week.  I know how lucky that makes me. 

 Do you just wear your PJs to work? No. Do you?!

 

That last one always makes me laugh! And, it's just about all I can think of.  Do you have any other questions?  Maybe you work in radio too and have some different answers, or thoughts on what I've said here - let me know.  And if you're keen to get into radio yourself, (even after hearing about the 330am alarm and requirements to actually dress) get in touch.  Radio needs talented people so step right up.  I'd love to help you make your mark. 

 

There’s still time to register for the Chevron City to Surf for Activ!

Yes, I know Perth’s City to Surf is this Sunday, but I have received inside info that you’ll still be able to be a part of it if you log on now.  How do I know this?  I work on the radio: benefits.   

Before I lose you because, like me, you’re not a runner; take a look at number 1 on this short list of reasons why you should join me at the City to Surf on Sunday:

  1. You can walk.  Registrations are still open for the 4 or 12km distances and you can run or walk either. I did a mixture of running and walking to knock over the 12km in a leisurely 2 hours with a friend a couple of years ago and it was heaps of fun. 
  2. The 4km course is 100% atmosphere.  If you and the kids just want to have a little bit of morning fun, come with me on the 4km course.  You can bring prams and strollers, plus there’ll be fun entertainment along the way so you can all take a break.  Look out for giveaways from the 96fm Street Team and if you see me, come say hi! (I’ll be the one on stage at the starting line with Wildcat Damian Martin ;) ) .
  3. Have you seen the weather forecast?  At this stage, it’s going to be a stunning 23 degrees and mostly sunny – the first decent Sunday we’re had in forever.  As much as I’m loving Ozark at the moment there’s no way I’ll be losing the day to Netflix.
  4. You won’t have to run through a stuffy tunnel, or finish at a venue that stinks of horses.  Let’s face it: the other big run in town raises good cash for countless charities and it’s super fun, but there are a couple of obvious down sides.  The City to Surf course is beautiful – especially if you’re walking the 4km like me. You’ll start in leafy Floreat then meander downhill to the finish line at City Beach, enjoying a view of the Indian Ocean pretty much the whole way. 
  5. You can reward yourself afterwards.  The City to Surf course will burn some fuel no matter which course you choose to do.  Last time I did the 12km, my mates and I went straight out to celebrate.  Let’s just say a Chicken Parma never tasted so good. 
  6. Free Fro Yo.  You read that right, at the City Beach finish line 96fm and Pash Frozen Yoghurt will be rewarding participants with freebies! ‘nuff said.
  7. It’s for an incredibly worthy cause.  Further reason to enjoy your post-walk rewards.  Learn more about the great work done the Activ foundation here.

Have I convinced you?  Register now at the City to Surf website And I’ll see you there!

13 Reasons Why I Made It Through High School

Since watching the graphic final episode of Netflix’s, “13 Reasons Why” it’s been rolling around my mind.  The TV adaptation of Jay Asher’s novel is the heart-breaking and difficult to watch story of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life leaving behind thirteen tapes, each containing a different reason why she did it.

It’s affected me deeply.  One, because I have a teenager living under my roof.  And two, because the rise in mental health issues among young-people is well-documented.  I want my cherished step-son (and the world) to know: there is hope. 

Here are thirteen reasons of my own.  The battles I faced during high school - in so many ways similar to those faced by the fictional Hannah Baker - and the things that helped me cope. 

These are The 13 Reasons Why I survived high school. 

1.     My family kept it real
It can be so easy to take these people for granted, but through high school I slowly began to see myself in them.  They’d faced many of the same struggles, and if they could make it through, so could I. 

2.     My bullies gave me resilience
Surprising, but true.  A girl in my year once wrote a note to my best friend – detailing all the things that were wrong with me. My best friend didn’t stand up for me and I was forced to deal with the hurt and move on.  I learnt the lesson early: it was them, not me.

3.     My body became my friend
I hated it during most of my high school life.  I thought I was too fat, slow on the running track, and as one girl pointed out, “my thighs trembled” when I jumped in shorts. That changed. I soon learned I could take control of my health and my body without shaming myself for the way I looked.  Today I see my body as a well-cared-for vehicle that’s taken me on countless adventures, right around the world!  

4.     Losing was learning
I was no good at sport and I learnt pretty quickly what losing is!  Sure there were moments of utter hurt and devastation. I remember ugly-crying in front of the entire year 8 group when I was mocked for running so slowly. But dealing with embarrassment on the field helped me get more comfortable with failure in general. It helped to fine-tune my practice and work ethic.  A failure is a learning, and learning is education. 

5.     Poor grades kept me humble
While sport wasn’t my thing, I found class work easy, coasting through with high scores and little effort.  I did some bullying of my own in these years, sighing loudly as the sporty boys struggled when asked to read out loud during English.  I saw it as payback for my humiliation on the running track: but it was equally cruel.  Then as classmates surpassed me academically, I learned the age-old truth: hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.   

6.     Singing kept me sane
I wasn’t the best at it, but I invested in the hobby because it made me feel great.  Just the physical benefits; breathing deeply and holding the notes helped me meditate through tough times, like when my friends turned against me.  I took a deep breath and looked elsewhere.

7.     I kept the drama on stage
I joined a theatre group and found my new friends.  Live performance built a new confidence that saw me through upper school and university.  The ability to speak in front of groups, give a presentation and eventually make myself vulnerable on a radio show all came from those years on the stage.  

8.     I became my own friend
I remember feeling a little different to the other kids in drama class.  I started to treat my uniqueness as an asset and once I learned to share my real self, I began to make the friends who valued that.

9.     I filtered the feedback
Sharing who you really are with others is like laying yourself at their mercy.  It comes with both positive and negative responses.  Not everyone will like who you are, what you say or how you do it.  High school taught me to filter the feedback, use the stuff that made sense to improve, and learn to ignore anything that’s not useful.  A skill I use every day as a broadcaster. 

10.  I was just determined
Some kids developed grit on the sporting field, others in the exam rooms but for me, it was the doubters who pushed me to succeed. I’m an adult now and I still have doubters! Once, an agent told me I would need to lower my voice to work on radio.  Determined, I pressed on with my voice as it is.  I soon noticed the best in the business don’t focus on the quality of their voice, but the quality of what they have to say.

11.  Simple things kept me happy
Depleted often, I found natural, healthy ways to restore my happiness when needed.  Learning to cook a decent meal.  A hot yoga class.  Loudly singing along to my favourite music theatre soundtracks (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it).  Those little things helped.

12.  I had a dream 
I remember a friend from drama class telling me she could see me wearing a red power suit and reading the news.  I’d never seen that for myself, but it can powerful to know how other people see you.   Ten years later I was the one reading the news each hour on the radio.  Perhaps the red power suit is still in my future. 

13.  Hope gave me perspective
I had hope then and I have it now. High school was hard, but I always believed there was something good beyond the pain of exams and the cruelty of bullies.  And there is – there is life.

My thirteen reasons won’t help the likes of Hannah Baker now, but perhaps they’ll help you.