With the opening of previews for “Springsteen on Broadway” this week, two conflicting reactions are battling in my mind: “Bruce the boss is back” and “Broadway?”
Okay, I'm curious.
While I have no idea the format of the one-man performance (it looks like a Bruce Springsteen concert from the reviews I’ve read), I still offer some friendly advice from one showman to another. Sure I’m nowhere near the level of the Boss, but I do have experience in a theatrical setting (local and school theater -- but still experience). Here are a few helpful guidelines for Mr. Springsteen, as well as anyone who has any interest in performing:
One of the main things that any actor/performer needs is stage presence, something in which Mr. Springsteen is well versed. He knows how to work a crowd, and he has infectious energy whenever he’s onstage. But this definition can change depending on what’s needed for the performance.
The stage presence of say Hamlet (a serious and emotionally turbulent role) would be different than say the Genie from “Aladdin” (a crazy ball of energy whose comedy and wit capture the audience with laughter). So the direction that Mr. Springsteen, or any performer for that matter, wants to take the show depends on the type of energy they bring to their performance.
Another important aspect is communication. To a certain degree, communication falls into the stage presence category, but stage presence is a type of communication in and of itself. The main goal of any show is to be entertaining, but the second most important goal is getting the message/story of the show across.
This can be accomplished through two very simple methods: diction and body language. One must be certain that every word is heard and that every person, even in the back row, can understand the word that was just said.
Facial expressions are great for capturing emotion as well, but only those closest to the stage can really see them. That’s where the importance of body language comes in handy. It’s the way one can silently get emotion across from far away without saying a word.
The final bit of advice I can offer is to enjoy what you do, again something that I believe Mr. Springsteen has no problem with. But the best way to sell a show to any kind to any audience is, for lack of a better term, looking like you care.
You have to show the audience that you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t know actually know. The more invested one looks in the performance, the more invested the audience will be.
So that’s my advice on performing in a theater setting. Mr. Springsteen probably will never read this, but hopefully my advice will prove helpful for anyone interested in taking the stage – in Olean or on Broadway.
Nicholas Youngs has played leading roles in high school productions and has had speaking roles in Olean Community Theatre plays and musicals. He also performed in "Godspell" for Bradford Little Theatre.