Necessity is the mother of invention. So said Plato and numerous leaders since, especially those trying to find creative solutions to win whatever war they might be fighting. As entertainers we have plenty of battles of our own and our creativity is often the thing that gets us through.
As a Sinatra guy, My Way has been my go-to encore, pretty much since I started singing. It ticks all the boxes: it’s emotive, dramatic and very popular. Too popular, as it happens. On a recent cruise four different acts closed their show with My Way! Can you imagine? Everyone was doing it their way and the audience was sick of hearing about it. So I was politely asked if I could find a different closer. At first I was very reluctant. No way! I need it! But then I remembered a few times in the past when I was sure I couldn’t do without a certain song or a joke, only to be proved wrong.
Years ago, What Kind Of Fool Am I? was a key fixture in my show. It was the big dramatic belter that set me up for the finale. It was also a pain in the arse to rehearse (tempo changes) and hard on my voice (it’s high), but it was worth it. On one cruise I was told I had to cut ten minutes off my show, so it had to go. I was not a happy bunny. I was worried my show just wouldn’t work without it. As it happened the show still got a great reaction and I realised I didn’t really need it after all. I’ve hardly ever sung it since.
So after scouring my repertoire for something new, I replaced My Way with another big ballad, and guess what? It worked a treat, I still got a standing ovation, and everyone was happy.
It takes years to perfect a show and when we’ve got it, we don’t want to mess with it. Why would we? But the truth is that there are endless different ways to make a show work, we just get too comfortable and risk averse to try anything new. Next time, when you’re forced to make a change, embrace it as an opportunity. You may well find a better way. Adversity really is the mother of creativity, and lucky for us, creativity is what we do.