Archive for the ‘ Musicals ’ Category

A week in the Tower – Day 5


Day 5 could have gone better for me.  An awful lot better.  During the afternoon, I read over my notes from the various run-throughs and performances over the last 10 days, and sang through ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ numerous times, as I know that’s the number I find most challenging vocally.  It stays very low and my character is supposed to be nervous while singing it, a combination which can mean that I descend into incomprehensibility if I don’t concentrate.

Notes were at five o’clock, preceded for unknown reasons by a game of catch that soon became violent.  Much laughter was shared by the company, and I proved that I have no sense of aim whatsoever.  I know people who hate notes during a run, but the whole point of them is to make sure that the show gets better and better, as there’s always room for improvement.  They can also be encouraging – if someone does something particularly good, that will be picked up on and praised.  As long as everyone involved knows that the purpose is notes is for good and not for ill, then all is well – I certainly have had many notes over the years which improved my performance, generally suggesting things I’d never have thought of myself or catching errors or problems I hadn’t noticed.

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A week in the Tower – Day 4


Day 4 in Folkestone’s Tower Theatre began a little late, as traffic was seriously snarled up around Canterbury.  But once we were all gathered, we began with notes – what went wrong and what went right on All Shook Up‘s opening night.  There were many positives, and also several scenes that needed attention, largely the complicated scenes at the end of each act.  So we sorted out our props and costumes in leisurely fashion while each of these scenes was worked on the stage, sometimes with the intention of increasing the pace, sometimes to make the story clearer and once, for me, because I wasn’t milking a joke enough.  We spent some time rehearsing some gasps of astonishment and also ran the curtain call several more times as we’d experienced some traffic problems with this on the opening night.

Unlike the previous day, backstage talk was varied and unpredictable.  The bat had figured prominently in conversations leading up to the opening night, but since it hadn’t made an appearance, we mostly assumed it had moved on elsewhere.  A second bat-free night seems to have confirmed this theory.  This takes away a level of unpredictability and excitement from the experience, but it does make it more likely that the audience will pay attention to us rather than to the wildlife.

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A week in the Tower – Day 3


So, opening night.  The moment of truth.  That was the end point of Day 3.  First, though, we had a day in the Tower to get through.  Starting once again at the top of the show, we ran through in costume, stopping to deal with technical issues (mostly scene changes, tightening up the choreography of the arrival and departure of the tables, chairs, statues and so on) and to fix some scenes that hadn’t been working as well as they should.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to work on my insanely quick costume change, but we did stop to work on a moment which had been causing significant anxiety for a while – a kiss between myself and another character.  It had been stressing both of us out, but the moment was reblocked to make more sense in context.  A weight off everyone’s mind, I think.

After our lunch break, which happened a few scenes into our work, the cast sorted out the curtain call in the theatre foyer while the crew finished off some more tasks on stage – getting some scenery items up into the flies, fixing flats and so on.  Throughout the day, they were busy with finishing touches on paint jobs and securing the last few props we needed.  Hard-working doesn’t even begin to describe the crew and technical team for this show!

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A week in the Tower – Day 2


Day 2 in the Tower was both encouraging and dispiriting.  We have a great show on our hands.  But I have a *lot* of work still to do, with less than 24 hours before the opening (sold out!) performance begins.

Most of the day was spent staggering through the show, working largely on set changes and on spacing in some of the dance routines that hadn’t been covered the previous day.  During act one, the set changes come thick and fast, requiring each and every member of both cast and crew to have their heads well and truly screwed on.  Careful choreography was required for getting our various props and set pieces on and off in time and each change was rehearsed over and over again.  My main responsibilities in terms of set changes have turned out to be some oil drums and a round table, but I also get to spend some quality time with a bar stool, a bus stop sign and a statue of the goddess Venus.

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A week in the Tower – Day 1


Day 1 of the week in the Tower began at 11.30am, arriving in the dressing room and hanging up the small collection of shirts and trousers which makes up my set of costumes for the show.  In all, I get through one t-shirt, three shirts, four pairs of trousers, two jackets, a waistcoat, a tie, a bow tie, a hat, a pair of boots and two pairs of shoes.  This requires quite a bit of organisation!  It transpired that the technical team had been there until 6am, somehow surviving on a break of about five hours.  Naturally very tired, they still continued to work hard throughout the day, which was mightily impressive.

As there were still some stage-related issues to be sorted, the cast had an extended lunch break, with our hard work beginning in the afternoon with several hours of spacing.  This meant going over and over the big dance routines, checking each and every new formation to ensure that we were all in exactly the right place in relation to the set and to each other.  For the first number, I was not required, so helped the stage crew put up some safety rails on a raised portion of the stage, but I was soon kept busy on spacing for several hours.

After a shorter meal break, we had our mics fitted and checked, and all sound issues were explained to us – exactly when each mic would come on and when it would be switched off, so that we would know when we can talk backstage and when we can’t.  Then began a stagger through of the show, stopping to deal with issues of traffic, set changes and so forth.  We didn’t make it all the way through, which is fairly normal.  The stage crew have a lot to deal with and will need a lot of help from the cast, which is fine with me.  A detailed list of which actors need to help with each set change will appear this morning.  It also became apparent that the sound guy really has his work cut out for him balancing our vocals with the amazing band.  I’m sure this is more than possible.

Today we’ll be in from 10 to 10 to work through the remaining set changes and traffic issues as well as to polish up the staging issues which we’ve not had a chance to look at.  The show is starting to gel together as a complete entity, and by the end of the day all aspects – sound, lights, set, costumes and people – should form a coherent whole.

Getting All Shook Up


Once again, I’m on countdown to show week.  In one week, I’ll be at the Tower Theatre, Folkestone, for the start of technical rehearsals for All Shook Up.  This show is an insane comedy inspired by Shakespeare (largely Twelfth Night, but with dashes of the others thrown in for fun), with a score consisting of two dozen numbers from Elvis Presley’s vast repertoire.  ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and many more songs are merrily whirling around in my head, several freshly laundered shirts are waiting to be ironed before our first dress runs, and soon more than half of my waking hours will be devoted to the show, spent in the company of the good people of Lights Up Productions.

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A final toast to midnight


My involvement in When Midnight Strikes is now over, and I have a few hours to turn around and get ready for the Pajama Game show week.  I will certainly miss the show and miss the cast and crew, who were really wonderful to work with – a truly supportive ensemble where we were all equals.  In a show like that, with a cast of 12, often all on stage at the same time, working together as a team was even more important than it always is in theatre, and this team really did bond well during rehearsals.  During the final few rehearsals and the performances, it was fascinating and rewarding to see little touches in each person’s performance which cemented their character and made their relationships with others on stage more believable.  For various reasons, I was often offstage and could observe what was happening in the background of the scenes, seeing another level of drama play out.

I shall miss playing Christopher West, so different to my usual sorts of roles, though it will be quit a relief in a way as well – he wasn’t the nicest man to have under my skin, and he certainly got in there somehow.  I will most certainly miss his second-act solo, which was an absolute pleasure to sing.  The song, ‘Like Father, Like Son’ takes in the whole of the character’s life and partially explains some of his actions and attitudes.  Christopher is a very complex character, and I feel I was only just starting to inhabit the whole role by the final performance.  The show’s composer, Charles Miller, came to see the show last night, and it was great to get to meet him.  I didn’t really know what to say (I have never been very good at meeting new people) and have no idea how much sense I managed to make when I talked to him.  I was fascinated to learn that Christopher is based on a real person and the party is based on a real party.  I did wonder, but didn’t ask, whether ‘Christopher’ and the others know that a show has been based around them and what they’d think of seeing themselves on the stage.

I was exceptionally nervous doing this show, due to it being so far outside my normal performing comfort zone, but it was an amazing experience which I wouldn’t have missed for the world.  Beautiful music, a complex character, a show that flipped so readily between comedy and tension, a supportive company, lots of laughs and a real sense of having achieved something worthwhile together.  The only thing I won’t miss is the phrase “happy new year” – I think we’re all a little tired of that after four months of saying it over and over again.  But still, as we sang at the close of act one, “Cheers – here’s to you all!”

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Singing Librarian flashbacks: Shouting!


One of my favourite lines in The Pajama Game comes from the female chorus during one of the songs.  The leading lady has been denying that she has feelings for the factory’s new superintendent (in a musical, a sure and certain sign that she most certainly does have feelings for him) and states “When I fall in love, there’ll be no doubt about it, cuz you will know from the way that I shout it!”  The girls wait for the slightest of moments and respond “You’re shouting…”  It makes me smile every time.  And shouting has become something that my stage personae do an awful lot of.

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I can do this!


As part of my mission  to change my worldview from ‘the Singing Librarian sucks’ to something rather more positive, this post is a record of some of my achievements – apparently, I’m rather too good at downplaying them.  So in some ways, the post is more for me than it is for anyone who might happen to read it.  Normal service will be resumed shortly, potentially consisting of musings on rehearsals, an examination of why I like Cabaret and some gushing about modern theatrical composers.  But for the moment, there’s this.

I can sing.  I can act.  I may not be a dancer, but I can remember routines very well indeed.

Sometimes, talking about my hobby (which is really more than that, as I pour so much of my time and energy into it), people will ask about the roles I play and comment that I must be good to get so many good parts.  I tend to shrug this off – in the circles where I move, men who are willing and available to perform are few and far between, and even fewer of those can carry a tune.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  And the proof of the casting is in the performing.  I hate to watch myself perform, so I now turn to others for proof that this is something I am good at.

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Striking Midnight


In addition to racing with the clock in The Pajama Game, I am also rehearsing for another production which couldn’t be more different, at least as far as musical theatre goes.  The other project is a much more recent musical called When Midnight Strikes, a 12-character affair set on the night of the party of parties, as 1999 became 2000.  By Charles Miller and Kevin Hammonds, it features broad comedy and emotional drama as a disparate group of people gather to see in the new year and wonder whether the millennium bug will strike.  Although it has seen productions in London and New York, it was never a major hit, but certainly deserves attention, if only for the wonderful score which gives each of the characters a revealing solo or duet and features some tricky harmony work for the whole cast.

I auditioned for this show on my birthday (as you do) and was delighted to be offered the role of Chris, the host of the party who is soon discovered (by both his wife and the audience) to have recently ended an affair.  Needless to say, this leads first to a certain amount of tension and then to rather a lot of drama.    This is a very different part for me, playing someone who is extraordinarily unsympathetic who does little to redeem himself during the course of the evening.  Aside from a few barbed one-liners early in the show, this is a character who is not comedic – straight acting will be required for once.  During the second act, he has a song which will be a challenge and a privilege to sing.  Named ‘Like Father, Like Son’, it is a chance for some empathy with Chris as he delves into the reasons he has done the things he has done.  Part of the challenge is the chorus, where the same words occur three times, but mean something different each time they return.

The show is on for one night only at the Tower Theatre, Folkestone, and is produced by Lights Up Productions.  This is one of those occasions where I am the oldest cast member, but only just – it will make a change not to be either the baby or the old man of the show.  In a first for a show I’ve been involved with, a teaser trailer, filmed at an early rehearsal, has been uploaded to YouTube and can be seen below:

This is an exciting departure for me – a different group of performers, a different theatre, and a chance to really stretch the acting side of my performance in a small ensemble cast.  As we sing at the close of Act One, I can’t help thinking that “it’s gonna be a great year, ’cause from here on out it’s the sky!”

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