Posts Tagged ‘ When Midnight Strikes ’

Midnight Strikes again

WMS 2013 flyer

Lightning may or may not strike twice, but midnight most certainly can. During the last two weeks of August, I revisited a show I first performed in during 2010, When Midnight Strikes. Although this production of the show was with the same company as the first (Lights Up Productions), there were many differences – only a few cast members were the same, it was performed in a different venue, and we put it together over an intensive nine days of rehearsals. For me, though, a key difference was that I was playing a different character. Quite a challenge, and quite a fascinating experience seeing the show from a different perspective.

Last time I did the show, I was worried about letting others and myself down because the role was so different to the sorts of things I usually do. This time, I was worried because the role was quite similar to my usual casting – a character who exists almost entirely for comic purposes, a function much needed in what is quite an emotional show. What worried me was knowing that the comedy needed to be funny, but my character, Edward, needed to remain real. It would be detrimental to the style of the show if he came across as a broad caricature, and given that I have played several parts recently where hamming it up was strongly encouraged, I didn’t want to give in to that temptation.

Edward is one of the outsiders at the party which the show follows. Although he was invited (unlike some of the eventual ‘guests’), he does not fit in, to the extent that even the host and hostess don’t really want to talk to him. He falls in love at first sight with another character, but is far too nervous to actually talk to her, and makes a number of social mistakes throughout the course of the evening. For me, to make him real, I had to live inside his world for the whole show and think whatever he was thinking, even if I was sitting on a chair at the back of the set. Whether he was trying to join a conversation, working out how to talk to his intended love, or wondering whether a shocking announcement was true, he was always thinking something. And although he sometimes put on a cheerful front (particularly once the alcohol had been flowing for a while), there was a profound sadness to him. He desperately wanted to fit in, but knew that he didn’t. Even when things began to go his way, in his/my mind, he couldn’t quite believe it was really happening. Most of these thoughts and feelings would have gone completely unnoticed by the audience, but they helped me a great deal.

Nine days of rehearsal was a tight schedule, but still allowed for plenty of character work alongside the technical necessities of working out who goes where and when everyone’s head should move in the ensemble numbers. We would often stop to work out what each character’s reaction to a particular moment was, and we were strongly encouraged to develop our own storylines when we weren’t directly involved with the action. As the show is set at a party, we were all on stage for much of it – what were we doing, thinking, feeling during those times when we weren’t talking or even when we weren’t aware of what was being said by other characters? The ensemble nature of the show meant that the 12 different personalities interacted in numerous (sometimes quite complex) ways, and exploring these was fascinating.

Our director and musical director were both very keen on details. There were times when we all had to breathe in a song, regardless of whether we needed to take in air. There were head movements that had to happen at exactly the same time. Certain props needed to move from one place to another at exactly the right moment. Good enough was not good enough – we were aiming higher than that. All of this (in addition to the individual details) helped bring the ensemble together as a true ensemble. By the time we arrived in the theatre, the whole team (actors, musicians, stage management etc) was a team. We were all doing this together and it was worth doing.

We know it was worth doing from the reaction we’ve had since. People really enjoyed the show, and fed back positively about everyone involved. There really wasn’t a weak link in the cast (if we’re honest, we all know that there usually is, and we always know who it was) and it is a privilege to have been involved with the production. We coped with some major challenges, both emotional and technical and put on a great piece of theatre. Personally, I know I made a far better Edward than Christopher (the role I played last time). There are still things I’d like to have done better, but this was definitely a productive use of two weeks of my annual leave. There aren’t many shows I feel the need to revisit, but I would happily have midnight strike a third time in my life.


Related posts (about When Midnight Strikes, the first time around):

You Know How To Love Me

One year ago today, I auditioned for When Midnight Strikes. This was not what most people would have done on their birthday, but most people aren’t quite as excited about performing as I am! I was not really expecting anything to come of it, but readers of this blog will know that as well as ensuring that I met some wonderful people, the show was a great learning experience for me, which I wouldn’t have missed for anything. I am so proud of what we achieved as a company and what I achieved as an individual in that show. I loved the music from the first time I heard it (why else would I have travelled to Folkestone to audition for a group of people who mostly didn’t know me?), and so I was both surprised and pleased to see that Brenda Edwards (a former X Factor contestant and a popular Mama Morton in the London production of Chicago) is releasing one of its songs as her debut single.

The song is ‘You Know How To Love Me’ and the track appears to be taken from an album featuring various theatre people singing songs by Charles Miller and Kevin Hammonds (also about to be released) called It’s Just the Beginning. In the show, this song is extraordinarily emotional, as one of the women sings to the man who has, essentially, used her. She felt that he completed her, made her whole and understood her needs. The ways in which she misses him are endless. But he is having none of it. The number absolutely blew the audience away, both because of who was singing it (and who to) and because of the hard work of the incredible lead vocalist, the musical director and the off-stage backing singers. The fact that I could not be one of those backing singers was about the only regret I had about my role. For me, due to my emotional investment in it, no rendition of the song will ever compare to what Carrie did so brilliantly in that production. But for those who do not know the song, here is Brenda Edwards’ music video for ‘You Know How To Love Me’. A little more “pop” than the theatrical version, but still an amazing song.

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!”


Related posts:

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!

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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