Putting on a good show

IT may actually come as a surprise to many that Nabilah Hamid did not in fact, enjoy watching musicals whilst growing up. Despite that, she enjoyed performing at a young age and dabbled in several performances during her high school and college years.

Upon graduating from college, she took a break to decide if she wanted to pursue writing or the performing arts. As fate would have had it, she got a call-back for a show choir the same day she took on an offer for a writing position in a magazine. For the following six months, Nabilah took on a double life: writing during the day, and rehearsing for her show choir by night.

"I was happy doing it because I wanted to find out where I stood, whether I had any potential to grow as a performer," she said.

What pushed you to leave writing and pursue performing arts full time?

It was a difficult decision to make, because I enjoyed writing. But at the same time, because of the nature of the job that is so irregular (working hours), there's a lot of ad hoc things that would get in the way of my rehearsals. I got into my very first production in 2014.

Before I took on the musical, I spoke to my boss and I asked her if it was okay for me to take on this musical. She agreed to it, but there was a particular month where there were three big events, entertainment-related. I was the lifestyle writer at the time, so I had to attend at least one.

Luckily, the director understood enough for me to skip a practice. But that incident made me realise that it was going to be an issue if I were to continue leading double lives. I made the decision to leave because I had the full support of my husband. He was okay with me pursuing what I wanted to do. Having that support really helped. I'm very thankful that my spouse agrees to it and is behind me 100%.

What about your family, were they supportive?

They were worried at the beginning. When I would come home late after rehearsals, my father would ask me, "What are you doing? Why are you rehearsing so hard for?" I told him that it was what I wanted to do. This is what I feel passionate about. So when I made the decision to leave my full- time job, they asked what I was going to do.

I timed it nicely enough that by the time I resigned, I had a few months to plan my wedding. They thought that after my wedding I'd get a new job, but I didn't. My mother is a tiger mum, so it's very difficult for her to express love openly. But she came to one of my shows for the first time last year, when I performed in Shakespeare Goes Bollywood. She loved it! I figured it was a good way to ease her into it because she loves Bollywood.

Was it a difficult journey for you considering you didn't have a background in performing arts?

Definitely. A lot of the performers that I know here already had some kind of background in it. Even if they don't dance, they might have had piano lessons growing up so they read music better.

For me, I had to start reading the musical notes from scratch. I had to make sure that I was at least on par with everyone else. That's where learning on the job is really important because that's an attitude that I've been brought up with: always learn on the go.

Always be on your toes and just be ready for anything. I think that's helped me a lot, so when it comes to doing shows, as soon as they give you a note about something, you have to be ready to take it in and apply it immediately.

What plans do you have in terms of your career?

With FAME, it's my first big lead role. I'm very grateful to get the role of Carmen. I've been trying to change how people see me. It's difficult to be taken seriously sometimes. When you're doing music theatre, people in the industry tend to think you're more "fluffy" for some reason. They feel that maybe you can't do serious acting like straight plays, and the like.

I wanted to show that I'm capable of doing more, so I hope that with this show, I've proven not just to myself but to others that I'm capable of doing more. I am willing to learn and put in work to really put up a good show.

One of the reasons why I like doing what I do is getting that satisfaction when someone says, "You did such a great job."

And then, you'll know that you took them away from everything that's stressing them out from their lives at that point, and you just made them happy. That satisfaction alone is amazing.