Piano panic sucks, but for the collaborative pianist, it sucks even more. Because if a collaborative pianist can’t perform, nobody can perform. Those singers, that pit orchestra, are absolutely depending on you to at least plunk something out. It’s your community responsibility, as a musical theater accompanist in particular, not to panic. Much more than a soloist. If a soloist panicks, it’s embarassing; but if you panick, it can bring down the show and thus set back progress in the greatest art form in human history, musical theater.
Ah, but who hasn’t had piano panic? Whether at your 2nd grade recital or 2nd to last performance on Broadway, sooner or later, every pianist has this moment when they become profoundly self-conscious and aware of the fact that they’re playing the piano and are potentially capable of screwing up royally. That’s where all piano panic begins: when you stop being engrossed in the music, and, mentally, sort of, step back behind the bench and, shocked, see yourself playing. It’s all quite Zen. Buddhist masters have taught for millenia that the root of suffering is in self-consciousness.
Ah, but the Buddhist masters had a solution to the problem, and so do musical theater pianists. Let me teach it to you, young grasshopper.