Being in the spotlight is as natural for Nicky Pummeroy as breathing.
When she walks on to the stage at Mooroopna’s WestSide Performing Arts Centre on a cold winter afternoon, the place is dark and cheerless.
Nicky has spent the day mustering teenagers and answering phones at the office of a Shepparton podiatrist.
Pete the technician flicks on the spotlight and suddenly mum and phone receptionist Nicky is a Hollywood star — arms spread, head back and teeth shining.
I take my seat in the front row and wait for the show to start.
Nicky grew up in Euroa as a sports-mad netballer, swimmer, diver and gymnast.
But when she attended Ms Margaret’s School of Dance in Seymour as a pre-teen something else took hold.
‘‘She was terrifying. But I think that’s where my love of performing comes from — that, and gymnastics,’’ she says.
When she was 10 she was pulled out of the Euroa Anglican Church choir to sing a solo verse of the carol Once in Royal David’s City during a Christmas concert.
The spark of the spotlight was well and truly lit.
She went on to perform at RSL meetings and senior citizen functions and won the lead part in her Euroa High School musical Smithy when she was 14.
‘‘I remember the thrill of seeing my name when the cast list was pinned on the board at school — it was like something out of Fame or High School Musical. I was hooked,’’ she says.
Another thrill was her first stage kiss in Smithy with teenager Jeff Starkey.
‘‘All the girls said ‘you have to kiss him you know’. I did, and it was an awesome experience,’’ she says.
Jeff is now a Facebook friend.
Nicky spent two years honing her voice and performance craft at Swinburne University, after which the world, and the bright lights, beckoned.
But the flame of love burned even brighter — and she returned home to marry her childhood sweetheart Glen ‘Bear’ Pummeroy.
Perhaps Nicky’s most successful performance is her juggling act — raising three children, her marriage, work and her stage appearances.
But the Pummeroy show does not always run to script.
She remembers auditioning for her first part in a Shepparton Theatre Arts Group production of Me and My Girl 20 years ago.
It was a part she nearly missed.
‘‘I sang the main song Once You Lose Your Heart in a cockney accent and the director Kierin Murphy said ‘we’ll call you in the next two days’,’’ she says.
It was the pre-mobile phone era and Nicky spent the next five days waiting for a landline call.
‘‘I had almost given up when I met someone in the street who said Kierin’s been trying to call you. I went home and saw my phone was off the hook,’’ she says, laughing.
Of course, she got the lead role.
Nicky has sung love songs at weddings and earned the title ‘‘national anthem lady’’ at footy matches.
She has wowed audiences with her voice in STAG productions, such as Oliver, My Fair Lady, Grease, Showstoppers and A Month of Sundays.
She has co-hosted Shepparton’s Carols by Candlelight for the past four years.
She has also worked in the dark backstage to help others shine — as in last year’s STAG production of Wicked, which she helped produce.
But now, she’s getting ready for her most thrilling production so far.
Nicky’s daughter Emma, 14, has discovered the magic of theatre, just like she did all those years ago.
Emma has already appeared as a tree in the Wizard of Oz and this week she takes to the stage again in Initial Stage’s production of School of Rock.
‘‘I suppose I’m a stage mum now. It’s Emma’s turn and she’s building her own pathways,’’ she says.
On a wintry Friday afternoon, Nicky sits in the front row at an empty WestSide theatre and looks up at the stage lights.
‘‘This is a place where I’ve made lifelong friendships and where I’ve built my confidence. It’s a magical place,’’ she says.
Out of all the euphoric moments Nicky has experienced at WestSide, there is one that sticks in her mind.
As the cockney sparrow Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, it was always Nicky’s line that brought the house down.
At the famous Royal Ascot horse race, in the company of polite society Eliza gets a little excited and yells: ‘‘Come on Dover — move yer bloomin arse!’’
‘‘The whole place just erupted — that sums up the whole thing,’’ Nicky says.