WHERE THERE'S A WEILL THERE'S A WAY
Derby Evening Telegraph
Determination has brought Christianne Tisdale to her date with Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus, says Marion Boden.
It's Manhattan in the 80s. Wall Street, the film, is out and Christianne Tisdale is at a second interview for the job of p.a. at a hot-shot investment banking firm.
"The man who would be my boss said something entirely inappropriate," she recalls. "So I kicked him in the shin. And he turned to his colleague, saying, 'And that's why I want her to work for me'."
She recalls days of, literally, sliding across polished tables to grab faxes from the machine in the high-energy, greed is good decade. But she never gave up her love of music.
"Even though my boss said, excuse my language, "Tizzy, if you give up this singing crap, I'll train you in research and pay you $150,000 a year."
Christianne never would give up the "singing crap," even though as a graduate of Yale and then the Manhattan School of Music, she'd been unable to make performance pay.
At the age of 30, the firm she worked for dissolved, her job there along with it. At the same time she swapped from opera to music theatre and took all manner of commercials singing jobs to make a living.
And her career took off. Now she's performing in Opera North's new production of the Broadway musical, "One Touch of Venus," Kurt Weill's gloriously snazzy, jazzy music partnered with Ogden Nash's snippy, witty lyrics.
In it, Christianne can call upon her personal assistant days; she plays a spiky, New York secretary to a wealthy art collector who is obsessed with Venus, in this 1940s tale of love, suburbia, sex and artistic fads.
It's the first full scale British staging of the work, which gives the company opportunities for freshness without comparisons to famous earlier film or stage productions.
Conducted by Jim Holmes (renowned musical theatre conductor and a familiar friend to Derby audiences thanks to his work with Sinfonia ViVA), "He never lets you really relax and it's easy to get lazy with this kind of music."
So, sit up and take note she urges the audience.
"You have to listen closely. I don't think it's a sit back and let it wash over you kind of experience. The audience almost plays another role when we make them laugh and we start to interact."
For Christianne, who in other works often performs with a body mic, this is a tremendously physical experience.
"It's acoustic -- visceral. It's you and the conductor and the orchestra, and that's fantastic. It's a huge effort."
If it takes its toll on fellow performers, Christianne can bring into play another of her many strengths. She's a qualified Reiki practitioner, and has used the complementary therapy to relieve friends and colleagues of various ailments.
She's even practised on fellow performers, backstage, during performances to relieve headaches.
"It's healing hands -- what's fun is my hands get very hot, especially if they're touching a part of the body that's not feeling well."
Beyond this, her skills also include writing -- she's written an internet romance called "Sealed with a Click"; playing football and going into schools to promote literacy.
But nothing could tempt her to give up music.
"People have been known to pooh-pooh what my colleagues do, as if it doesn't contribute anything," she says. "What part of what I do doesn't contribute?"
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