Guest Blog by Mark Epperson, Featured Singer, Allure of the Seas
I had no idea when I walked into the orchestra conductor’s office in the fall of 1986 that an uncomfortable situation would be the catalyst that led to playing Billy Flynn in Chicago: The Musical on Allure of the Seas in 2012 and 2013. I was a trumpet player all through high school so when I got to college at Colorado State University the natural thing to do was audition for the University Orchestra. I hadn’t practiced all summer, but to this day I vividly remember the professor’s words at the conclusion of my audition. “Perhaps you should try out for one of the choirs.”
I went down the hall and auditioned for the University Singers and made it into the bass section. This was pretty exciting for me since I had never thought of myself as a singer. In the choir I met some great guys and we formed an Acapella group my sophomore year. And even though I graduated with a degree in Psychology and began working at a church in the youth department, I continued singing with the group most weekends.
Even while I worked my way through seminary and received my Masters of Divinity, I was singing whenever I could at church and with the group, learning to be on a stage, working my way through forgotten lyrics and keeping on with a smile. This was all good training for finally making the decision just a few years ago to leave formal ministry, move to New York and try my hand at the big show. No regrets. This has been a pretty exciting journey.
So now I am in my second contract onboard Allure of the Seas, performing in Chicago: the Musical, and loving it! Obviously there are differences working on a ship versus land. Along with Chicago, the singers perform in “Blue Planet” which takes people through Earth’s environments with pop songs and modern dance. As well, we sing for the Crown and Anchor Society midweek. The variety of shows is really great. In many ways, it keeps everything fresh in a way not usually experienced by performers on land.
At our weekly “meet the cast” gatherings, we are often asked by guests how we remember all our lines and lyrics, and of course we don’t always. My first brain freeze happened on our cast’s opening night. Billy asked his famous questions of the band, “Is everybody here? Is everybody ready? Hit it!” I then stepped down stage to center, enjoying a double spot light…and I completely forgot the first line of the song, opting to hum the first phrase!
Fortunately for me, the attention of the audience was understandably and appropriately fixated on the six lovely ladies who had just introduced me. I recovered quickly and finished out opening night feeling pretty good on the whole. It’s live theater and frankly, we all live for these moments. Hopefully the next time you’re cruising and watching a show and hear some humming or see a nervous grin spread across a performer’s face, you’ll smile and remember their humanity. And if you see them around the ship, ask about the watershed moment that led them to be a performer for Royal Caribbean International. I bet they’re glad it happened. I sure am!