Archive for the ‘ Theatre ’ Category

Excited and scared


That’s how Little Red Riding Hood describes her feelings about meeting the wolf in the midst of the forest in Into the Woods – excited and scared.  I know how she feels.  Over the next two weeks, I’m performing in two different shows.  My librarianing will be drastically reduced, as I’ll be working on only five out of the ten potential working days over this period, but this is probably sensible.  I imagine I’ll need a bit of time to lie down in a darkened room.

I’m excited because shows are exciting.  I’m scared because shows are scary.

I’m excited because shows are the ultimate adrenaline rush. I’m scared because shows are exhausting, and I don’t really know whether I have enough energy reserves.

I’m excited because both shows will stretch my skills in different ways.  I’m scared because they might be stretching them further than they can go.

I’m excited because Charles Miller, composer of When Midnight Strikes, is coming to see the show.  I’m scared for exactly the same reason!

I’m excited because the dance routines in The Pajama Game are really good fun to do.  I’m scared because quite a few of my friends are real dancers, yet some of them haven’t seen me ‘dance’ – I’m not sure what they’ll make of it if they come.

I’m excited because When Midnight Strikes gives me the opportunity to portray a complex character with three dimensions with a true dramatic arc.  I’m scared because I don’t want to overplay the emotions and ruin the drama.

I’m excited because the shows both seem to be coming together well.  I’m scared because I always am at this stage in proceedings.

Above all, though, I’m excited.  Excited because performing is my passion. Excited to sing songs old and new.  Excited to jive, tango and do some comedy character-based dance. Excited to have the chance to portray two such different people.  Excited to be working alongside some good friends and some amazingly talented people who truly blow me away (there is, I hasten to add, definite overlap between these two categories). Excited to use the gifts I’ve been given to entertain. Excited to be heading back on to stage.

Well…excited and scared!

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!”

Playing with pyjamas


Being the Singing Librarian is often quite a busy thing to be, as I tend to have more than one project on the go at once.  Plus the day job, of course, which takes up plenty of time and energy itself.  At the moment, I’m rehearsing for two different shows (in some ways quite a light load for me!).  One of these is a 1950s musical which was a big hit in its day but seems relatively forgotten now, The Pajama Game.  The theme of the show (or, I suppose, the excuse for the inevitable 1950s musical love stories) is that a group of pyjama factory workers are growing increasingly disgruntled that their employer has failed to give them a seven and a half cents per hour pay rise which is rapidly becoming industry standard.  A strike is contemplated, and alternative forms of industrial action embarked upon, which makes the show somewhat timely given the recent announcement of a very long strike by British Airways employees.  But the reason for going to see the show is the music, which includes a couple of well-known standards: ‘Hey There’ (“you with the stars in your eyes…”) and ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’, plus some big toe-tapping numbers including ‘Steam Heat’. Here’s a taste from the recent Broadway revival, including my personal favourite from the score, ‘There Once Was a Man’:

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More deadly than the male?


Last night, I headed over to the Whitstable Playhouse to watch The Female of the Species, in a production by the Lindley Players.  This is a play by Joanna Murray-Smith, inspired by an incident when Germaine Greer’s home was invaded by an upset student.  As it is a very new play, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, having only vaguely heard of it.  Luckily, it proved to be very good indeed.  The script is surprisingly funny, the direction was strong and the cast interpreted their varied characters well.  Certainly £9 well spent, I thought.

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The joy of techs…


The technical rehearsal is one of the milestones of production week, a sign that if you don’t know your lines/steps/harmonies by now, it’s too darned late. It’s a run-through of the show in the show’s location (as most likely, rehearsals prior to the tech will have been held somewhere other than the theatre), which is essentially for the benefit of all the crew, the army of people dressed in black who make the show happen – lights, sound, set changes, props, wardrobe etc. A tech run is a slow old process, as it is the only chance you have to make that complicated set transformation work, or sort out the levels on the microphones or ensure that the soloist is slap bang in the middle of their spotlight. It is when the cast learn how to negotiate stairs and doors which have previously been imaginary, and when you find out just far you have to run in order to complete a quick change in your dressing room. It is when everyone gets very, very stressed, as they are either very busy or sitting around doing nothing, both of which can be equally irritating. It’s a time for getting a bit of an electric buzz as you step onto the stage, and a time for tearing your hair out because a dance number has to be re-blocked to accommodate the set.

I have enjoyed and endured many techs over the years, both on stage and backstage. Hopefully one day I’ll experience one from the other side of the footlights as a director, as well. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a perfect tech, and there’s never been one that keeps everyone happy. Sometimes, scenes have to be skipped because nothing happens in them from the tech point of view, and this can upset the actors. Sometimes, a particular technical issue can’t be fully resolved as it’s taking too much time and this puts the crew on edge. Sometimes, the atmosphere could be cut with a knife and you can sense everyone tiptoeing around each other. But for all their frustrations, techs are great – it’s the first time you get an inkling about the set, the sound and the lights, the first time you get the sense that the show is really happening very soon indeed and it’s an excellent chance to get to know the people in your dressing room or your fellow crew members a bit better. It’s the Fame tech tonight. Joy!

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Living forever and learning how to fly


Fame flyer

Fame flyer

So I’m back rehearsing with Phoenix Performing Arts.  And it’s good.  This time, the implausibly talented young performers are doing Fame, which makes my head hurt sometimes – I’m rehearsing a scene about a rehearsal, with a group of trainee actors and dancers playing a group of performing arts students…  As in West Side Story, when I doubled up as Doc and Officer Krupke, I am an imported adult, playing the drama teacher Mr Myers.  This is very much a supporting role, giving the student characters someone to react to in various scenes (indeed, someone to be cross with for quite a bit of the show), but is good fun.  Myers does not sing, so it’s another chance to concentrate on the acting side of things, and PPA always make sure that I pay proper attention to this – I do more character work with them on my minor roles than I do with anyone else on larger roles.

Working on the character side of things is interesting.  Continue reading

Wetly done indeed!


Last week, I headed to the picturesque surroundings of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury to see a play.  I have attended a number of Shakespeare productions there before, including a particularly good version of Much Ado About Nothing, and it has proved to be an atmospheric location for an evening of outdoor theatre.  The play on this occasion was Heartbreak Productions‘ adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.  Before I discuss the play, though, there is one thing I need to address.  It rained.  A lot. Continue reading

Audiences – a vital ingredient


Theatre does not exist without an audience.  Live performance of any kind is only really performance if it is being watched – if not, then it might as well be a rehearsal, a game or a private jam session.  This is not simply due to the ego of those acting, singing or dancing, but it is a result of the vital role that audiences play. 

At any theatrical performance, the audience can enhance or detract from the production on offer.  Mobile phones, flash photography and random talking can be distracting (sometimes dangerous) for the cast and irritating for fellow theatregoers.  A badly timed noise can break the spell in a tense or moving moment, puncturing the suspension of disbelief that has been built up and reminding everyone that they are, after all, watching people pretending to be other people in a small, dark, warm building with mildly uncomfortable seats. 

For the actor, the response of the audience can be vital.  Continue reading

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