Post show blues

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Post show blues is a state of mind that the majority of theatre people have felt after a show they loved has finished its run. One feels empty, aimless, and often lonely once they’re no longer surrounded by a theatre family. It’s the inevitable crash after an incredible week or two of doing something you love and want to do forever, and the transition from being super busy all the time, to having to return to normal, often mundane life.

Having experienced post show blues several times after shows at school and university, I thought I was over it. After the last few shows I did last year, I was pretty fine, but this was very much down to specific reasons for each show (I went straight into rehearsing another show/I went straight into finishing my degree/I travelled to the Edinburgh Fringe the next day = three reasons why I didn’t really grieve for three different shows). As I mentioned previously, having a full time job not directly linked to theatre means that my opportunities to do shows have somewhat diminished, so I seized the opportunity to work through my half term holiday and play in the pit band for a youth production of Fiddler on the Roof.

The band included several old uni friends, and despite my challenging piano part which took a little while to get to grips with, and the LONGEST ACT 1 EVER, I had a great time performing the show for the week. I always love the way that everyone in pit bands bonds due to being in such close proximity with each other for such a large amount of time, and we, of course, developed our own in jokes and critiques of the writing of the show! It was also pretty cool to be working such different hours to my usual job (8am-5pm) – on matinee days I was working from 2-10:30pm, which meant I could get my much needed lie ins.

And then it ended.  I had one day to sort myself out between the show ending and returning to work, and I was already in a bad mood! Cue a 6:30am start on the Monday morning and all I wanted to do was return to my working life of the previous week. I missed the people, I missed the proper theatre and the proper pit (a novelty for me having performed in a space at the side of the stage throughout uni!), and I missed the thrill of playing a show or two every day. Don’t get me wrong, I do like my full time job, but having one solitary week of *exciting* work and then returning to the real world was always going to be a bit of a shock! It was also just a bit of a surprise to be experiencing post show blues after such a long time  having foolishly assumed that I was over it… I am not!

Thankfully I have two more shows coming up soon: a school show, and the revival of YMT’s Jabberwocky at the Other Palace. I’ve always found that having another show (or two!) to look forward to helps dull the post show blues. I guess it’s a good thing that we get so invested in shows that we miss them terribly once they’re finished, but damn they can be difficult to get over! Bring on the next one.

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Review – Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly! – Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Get Ugly - courtesy of Rebecca Pitt

It’s not often that you find a one woman show which is so hashtag relatable (sorry) to 21st century life, but Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly definitely manages it. The show mixes stand up comedy and musical theatre style songs to create a fluid show which certainly entertained many different audiences during this year’s festival.

The first thing that struck me upon entering the space was how intimate it was. At this Wednesday afternoon performance there was an audience of around 20-25 people, all facing the small stage area on which Tamar performed – although the aforementioned stage was already partially occupied by a keyboard! Tamar herself welcomed us into the room which was a nice touch – I liked the fact that the performer/audience divide was blurred before the show had even begun, and this was a trend which continued throughout the performance – I very much felt like the audience were Tamar’s new friends, which was such a nice relationship to form within the space of an hour.

The show features several clever and amusing songs about modern day life, specifically focusing on female problems and dating. I particularly enjoyed the musical take on the concept of ‘Facebook suicide’ and the song about dating featuring a male audience member playing the recorder was a hilarious touch. However, these comedic songs were juxtaposed by a heartfelt number about Tamar’s sister, which balanced out the audience’s emotions towards the end of the show.

The target audience is primarily young (single) women, which is understandable given that this is the demographic that Tamar herself falls into, meaning that there were some jokes and songs which were not particularly relevant to certain audience members – but this is surely unavoidable when the material has been written by one individual and is very much rooted in personal experience. But the fact that the show is so rooted in personal experience is definitely a good thing, as it makes it more authentic and real, contributing to the intimate feel of the piece which was apparent from the moment that the audience entered the performance space.

I got the feeling that Get Ugly is a show which changes every single day, depending on who happens to be in the audience – and that’s such a healthy and interesting way to approach a one woman show. It was certainly nice when Tamar referred to us as ‘a very nice Wednesday afternoon audience’, and it was such an awesome feeling to know that we, as a collective, were witnessing a show which would never be performed exactly as we saw it again. I suppose that’s the joy of a solo show in a small performance space – the audience and performer both get so much out of it.

Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly is such a perfect show for the Fringe. It’s interesting and constantly engaging, and I’m sure that every audience member was able to relate to and laugh about at least one 21st century first world problem! The venue, while small, is the perfect place for the show, and Tamar’s endearing, likeable and hilarious personality really shines through both her stand up comedy and her original songs. I can’t wait to see where she takes the show next.

4. Theatre MDing: what I’ve learned

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Prior to coming to uni, I didn’t really know what an MD was. I didn’t know that I’d maybe like to be one, and I certainly didn’t know that I’d go on to MD 8 shows during my three years of studying. So when I applied to be an AMD for my first show at uni (thank you, Drowsy Chaperone prod team of 2014/15), I still wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for. I’d like to think that I now know a fair bit about MDing (musical directing), so here goes:

MDing is not just one job. It is many jobs.

The title ‘MD’ means that you direct the music of the show. So you tell the cast what to sing and how to sing it, and tell the band what to play and how to play it. But there’s much more to the role than just bossing people around! Most MDs also act as rehearsal pianists before the band comes in, and the conductor for when the band are involved. This means that the MD has to carry out two completely different roles between rehearsals and shows, which is TERRIFYING. When I had to conduct a show earlier this year, I felt so thoroughly unprepared because while I knew the music inside out, I was so used to playing it on the piano, not conducting it for a 12 piece band! Other jobs include leading vocal warm ups, making cuts and adding repeats, and liaising with other prod team members. So onto the next one…

The cast recording will almost definitely not match up with the score. Sorry.

There is nothing worse than coming into a rehearsal (a bit underprepared, oops), and realising that the choreographer has worked very very hard to make up a dance to suit a certain song or dance break on a cast recording… which doesn’t match up with the score in front of you. I’ve since learned to comb through the score before rehearsals even begin, but this is such a laborious task, and even if discrepancies are spotted, the MD then has to explain how many bars are added/missing, and often disappoint the choreographer in the process. I’m aware that this makes it sound like choreographers are hard to work with – they’re not and I’ve worked with some wonderful choreographers! It’s just very annoying when this happens. Argh.

Vocal warm ups will become anthems… and sometimes they will have dance routines.

Every rehearsal starts with a vocal warm up (except one time when I forgot), and these vary from the technical scaley ones to the funny tongue twister ones. I’m not really sure where we get these warm ups from – I’m pretty sure they’re sort of spread around in little MD circles as we impart our knowledge onto one another! ANYWAY, one of my good MD friends at uni introduced a warm up called Ba Bey Bee Bo, which *somehow* got its own dance. (Note: the choreographer was not involved and no bars were added or cut).

During breaks, everyone will flock to the piano.

Now, I don’t really get this one. Picture the scene: we’ve been rehearsing for a few hours, and the director announces that it’s lunch time. The MD leaves the piano stool and BAM – 5 cast members are crowded around the keyboard, desperate to get their hands on it and play some choons. Sometimes this results in an awesome jam session, but sometimes it just results in everyone else leaving the room!

No one else really understands your job.

Whereas most people know what a director does and how they do it, and what a choreographer does and how they do it, not very many know how MDing works. This seems to create an air of suspicion around MDs themselves, and I enjoy this. Not only does one get a fair amount of street cred from being able to play the piano, sometimes people seem a bit mystified by the ability to read music. It’s good fun, and sometimes makes it easier to gloss over mistakes…!

So yes, there are a few things I’ve learned through MDing 8 different shows while at uni. I have certainly learned a lot, and that’s very much down to all the other fantastic MDs I’ve worked with while doing these shows (Becky, Joe, Gem, Andy, Izzi, Ben, Dave, Robbie <3). There’s always more to learn, and I definitely hope to do more MDing in the future, but I’ll always check whether the cast recording matches up with the score first. (Disclaimer: it probably won’t).

My watchable and listenable dissertation

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During my final year at university, I’ve been bombarded with questions about my degree, and also what on earth I intend to do once it’s finished. My answer to the latter tends to be a mumbled ‘I’m not sure yet… I have a few ideas… it’s too early to start looking really’ until my interrogator realises that enquiring about a third year’s future plans is not a particularly good idea. However, the other most frequently asked question is about my dissertation, which is usually met with looks of surprise once I announce that I’m not actually required to do one, and instead explain that I’ll be playing a 45 minute long piano recital. Trust me, it’s a pretty good conversation starter, and hopefully it’s a pretty good blog starter too.

Music is a rather unique degree subject – final year students are required to take one double module, which can be either a dissertation, a large composition, or a 45 minute performance recital. Seeing as many music students’ main strengths lie in the practical aspects of music rather than the academic study of it, it makes sense to offer alternatives to a dissertation. I chose my repertoire in September, selecting pieces by Beethoven, Brahms and Ravel, and consequently practised them for eight months until my recital in May. That sounds like a long time, and it really was! There were times when I felt thoroughly bored of my pieces, but then I’d consider a new concept which could totally revamp my performance. It felt like my entire year was leading up to recital day.

However, performing my own recital wasn’t the only responsibility I had that day. My friend and I agreed to page turn for each other’s recitals, and his was at 2pm, a few hours before my own at 6:30. Now, the role of the page turner is hugely underrated. All you have to do is sit beside the pianist and turn the pages of their music that they are unable to turn themselves, due to their hands being understandably preoccupied. But the knowledge that you could sabotage someone else’s performance through vacantly forgetting to turn a page at the correct time is SO UNBELIEVABLY STRESSFUL. Anyway, I paid full attention to this recital meaning that it thankfully went very smoothly.

So, with one task over it was time for me to start preparing for my own recital. It took place at Turner Sims Concert Hall, which is a brilliant venue, and I feel privileged every time I get to perform there. I managed to practice on the grand piano prior to my performance, which was great preparation. Unlike other instrumentalists who carry their own familiar instrument around with them to perform on, pianists have to be prepared to adapt to whatever piano is in the performance venue, which can be a challenge when you’re used to practising on a very different instrument.

Suddenly, the nerves kicked in. Half of me wanted to perform immediately to get it over with, but half of me never wanted 6:30 to arrive! Upon arrival at Turner Sims I handed the exam marshal my paperwork and paced around the green room. The most nerve-wracking bit was waiting behind the door to walk on stage, but as soon as I made my entrance, I was greeted by the view of around 25 of my friends (and my mum!) in the audience applauding me, and I was thrilled to have their support. I sat down at the piano and began to perform. I played the pieces pretty much as well as I could have done, although I started to get a bit tired during the final two – 45 minutes is a very long time to play solo for. I played the final chord with a flourish, bowed, and walked off stage with a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I’d done it! I’d performed the equivalent of a dissertation.

Performing my final piano recital was one of the most terrifying yet rewarding things I’ve ever done. It was definitely thrilling, but I’m not in a particular hurry to do it again any time soon, especially given the amount of preparation required and how much stamina I had to build up to do it. I learned so much from studying my repertoire in detail, and my recital day will definitely stick in my mind as one of the most significant days of my uni career. And, although I now have a concrete answer to ‘did you do a dissertation?’, I’ll still have to explain to anyone who asks that l have no idea what I’m going to do once I graduate.

Cast recordings and becoming obsessed with them

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As I’m frequently reminded, theatre going is an extremely expensive hobby, and consequently I spend far more time listening to cast recordings than I do attending actual shows. So that involves seeing anywhere between 1 and 5 shows in a month, compared to listening to cast recordings on every journey I go on, as well as at various points throughout every day at home.

More often than not, before attending a new show I like to familiarise myself with the songs through listening to a cast recording (and often through playing the songs from the piano vocal score too). I find that this makes me even more excited to see the show live, and to hear my new favourite songs being sung for real. This was particularly apparent when I went to see Mrs Henderson Presents, because having listened to the original West End cast recording it was incredible to hear those same actors sing the songs in real life.

My current example of this is In the Heights; the cast recording of which has become my summer soundtrack. I started listening to it merely to get to know the songs (and because I love Hamilton… more on that later) but now I’m thoroughly obsessed, and counting down the days until I see it in the West End!

On the other hand, on numerous occasions I’ve gone to see an unknown show on a whim as a last minute decision, and have come out desperate to listen to all the songs all over again. Examples of this include Phantom (when I saw it for the first time in 2012), Oklahoma, Jersey Boys, Shrek and The Bodyguard. The only issue with this is that belatedly obsessing over the music only makes me want to go back and see the show again – which with touring productions (and my student loan) isn’t always possible!

And finally, there’s the frustrating situation of being totally enthralled by a cast recording but having no chance of seeing said show for quite a while… a la Hamilton. Never have I been so invested in a cast recording as I am with this one, and I love that it’s long enough to almost entirely fill my train journey between home and university. Even listening to the Miss Saigon soundtrack makes me a little bit sad that I won’t be able to see it again for a while. Sigh.

The better known, long running shows tend to have numerous cast recordings, from different years and productions, and it can be really interesting to compare these. For example, as much as I like the Stratford recording of Matilda, I feel that the Broadway version is superior in terms of orchestrations and sound quality. I own several different recordings of Les Mis but couldn’t possibly choose a favourite – each has its own merits and downfalls – although it’s always fun to try and guess which of the 5 versions of On My Own on my iPod has started playing when it’s on shuffle.

I absolutely adore cast recordings, and they’ve got me through many long car and train journeys (funnily enough, most of said lengthy journeys are to go to the theatre!).For me, obsessively listening to the songs from a show is the best way to get excited about seeing it, but it can also be so great to revisit the music after seeing a show live. And seeing as these CDs cost considerably less than a ticket to see the actual show, sometimes I have to make do with not seeing EVERY show live in order to make this hobby a bit less of an expensive one!

Billy Elliot – My encounters with the show

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To celebrate the recent opening of the first ever UK and Ireland tour of Billy Elliot the Musical at Theatre Royal Plymouth (read about my experience of watching a dress rehearsal here), I’ve decided to have a nostalgic look back at my various encounters with this show, which is definitely one of my favourite musicals of all time!

It’s difficult to say when I was first introduced to Billy Elliot. I think I watched the film (which isn’t the musical version) when I was around 10 or 11 as I was very into dancing then, and I no doubt heard the famous song Electricity during my childhood. However, it wasn’t until a holiday in London in 2013 that I decided to go and see the show in the West End – knowing very little about it at the time. I absolutely loved the show instantly, and requested the CD and piano score for my birthday. I remember playing and singing The Letter from my new piano score on the morning of my 17th birthday, because I’d been longing to play it for so long… I think that was the first thing I did that day!

The Billy Elliot songs became my soundtrack of summer 2013, and I became obsessed with the lesser known songs from the show such as The Stars Look Down, Expressing Yourself, and Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher, although The Letter remained my favourite. This was one of the first songs that I ever sang harmonies to (which is a pretty big deal, considering the fact that I harmonise to practically every song I hear now!). I remember listening to the song on repeat on long car journeys and feeling so proud of myself once I finally nailed both Mrs Wilkinson’s and Billy’s Mum’s harmony parts.

Although my Billy Elliot obsession gradually faded after summer 2013, I still regularly played and sang the music with my friends at school during our free blocks, and then when another London trip was organised for early 2015, I decided it was time for a second viewing of the musical – especially seeing as rumours of its closure were already circulating due to the Victoria Palace Theatre’s impending refurbishments. So I saw the show for a second time in April 2015 and it was just as brilliant as the first time! The songs were so familiar, and watching The Letter Reprise probably made me the most emotional I’ve ever been while watching a musical!

It must have been mid 2015 that the UK and Ireland tour was announced, which I was immediately incredibly excited about – especially as it was going to start in Plymouth! I followed the casting announcements very closely, as well as the other venues the show would be visiting. I was so excited when Theatre Royal Plymouth invited me to the very first dress rehearsal of the brand new production, and it was such a fantastic experience. I’ve got tickets booked to see the show in Plymouth at the end of March, and then I intend on catching it at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton in early 2017 towards the end of its tour.

Billy Elliot is definitely one of my favourite musicals, and soon it will be the one that I’ve seen the most times! It’s such a brilliant story with comical and emotional moments, and I’ll always have a special link to the new touring production having seen it at such an early stage of its development. I can’t wait to see it again in a few weeks, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to catch it on tour, or at the Victoria Palace before it closes next month.

The best way to get to know a show

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We all claim to ‘know’ shows to certain extents. Whether we know them from watching the film adaptation of the stage production, or through watching the musical live on stage, when someone mentions the name of a show, we say ‘I know that show, I saw it [insert time/place/medium here]’. But how well can one really get to know a piece of musical theatre through the passive act of watching and consuming it? Sure, if you see the same show many, many times I’m certain that the staging, songs and characters become very much ingrained in your brain, but personally, I feel as though the only way to totally understand and ‘know’ a show is through performing it.

Alright, I know that not all theatre fans are performers, and many do not have a burning desire to be up on stage themselves – many theatre goers simply enjoy watching other people in the limelight. But speaking from experience, as someone who does enjoy performing (albeit in the pit band, no way would I ever go on stage!), it’s during the rehearsal process that you really get to grips with the show: the story line, themes, lessons, characters, songs, harmonies… and so much more!

The rehearsal process is usually kick started with a read through, where all the cast will sit in a circle and read through the script for the very first time! This is always so exciting, as after an intense week of auditions, call backs and casting meetings, my fellow production team members and I get to see that all the late night debates and tough decisions were worth it as the cast begin to understand their characters, and we get a first glimpse of the show we’re creating. And as the weeks go on and the songs, dances and blocking are taught, everyone rapidly gets to know a show that they may not have even heard of prior to rehearsals! So by the time show week comes around, it’s difficult to get the songs out of our heads (having spent many a night lying awake while a medley of songs from the show I was performing at the time buzzed around in my brain, this is definitely the point at which I accept the fact that I know the show a little too well!).

As I wrote here, once you know a show through having performed it there’s no going back, and the script and songs will forever remain relevant to everyday life! This has also meant that on the occasions that I’ve seen a professional production of a show I’ve performed in the past, it’s meant so much more to me that just any other musical – because I have a history with it, and because I’m always still able to quote the lines, sing the harmonies and sometimes I even still have the music from my pit band keyboard score stored in my fingers’ muscle memory.

As of April, I will have performed 10 different musicals at school and university (Joseph, Annie, Les Mis, Oliver, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Rocky Horror Show, Footloose, Company, A Chorus Line and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), and every single one means something different to me. I would love to see all of these shows performed professionally just to experience them from another perspective from the other side of the theatre – and of course to reminisce about my involvement in each of them – because in my opinion, the best way to get to know a show is to perform it.

Holding the baton

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As I’ve mentioned many times before, I often MD shows with my university’s musical theatre society, and despite the far too common assumption that the MD’s sole job is to play the piano, there are, in fact, numerous other skills which need to be mastered in order to be a successful musical director – such as conducting. The MD is responsible for leading the band/orchestra of a show – whether that’s from the keyboard or from the baton. This was one of the reasons I chose to take a module in conducting during the second year of my music degree, and the process of mastering (I’m using the term ‘mastering’ very loosely) the skill over the last term has been challenging, stressful and rewarding.

The module I’ve been studying primarily focuses on orchestral conducting, so each week every person in the class gets to stand up and conduct an orchestra comprised of other students, under the critical eye of our tutor, who then offers guidance relating to technique, musicality, and a variety of other aspects. However, we didn’t start off conducting symphonies – in fact, we began by standing in a large circle making seemingly bizarre arm movements! We started conducting Bach chorales (devoid of batons), before moving onto pieces for string quartets and chamber ensembles, and then finally progressing onto movements of symphonies and the overture to an opera.

When condensed into one sentence like that it doesn’t sound like very much, but the progress that everyone’s made is really commendable, especially considering that many of us (myself included) had never even picked up a baton before, let alone learnt any beat patterns. So the fact that we’re all now able to step up onto the podium and lead a 30 piece orchestra, however shakily, is pretty impressive – even if I did get incredibly nervous before my turn each week!

My conducting module has generated a surprising amount of interest from my friends and family. I suppose it’s an aspect of music that everyone can imagine – and more it’s accessible to the general public than some of my other modules such as Baroque opera – because everyone’s seen an eccentric man in a suit waving his arms around in front of a group of instrumentalists on the TV. I’ve had to answer a lot of questions about learning to conduct, such as how the lectures work, how it’s assessed, what kind of music we do, whether I own a baton (um, obviously), and how I practise. The latter has created a great deal of amusement when my mum happily announces that my method of practising involves disappearing up to her room to stand in front of her full length mirror, and ‘waving my arms around’, despite the absence of any other people or musical instruments. Or sound. Except sometimes a metronome.

So that’s been my conducting journey so far. Although I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the massively demanding pieces of music like symphonies, I now feel as though I am well equipped to conduct a musical theatre show… probably. I’d definitely like to conduct one before I leave university, so hopefully I’ll be able to put my newly learnt baton skills to use before I graduate! My conducting module has been highly enjoyable and it’s been so rewarding to have learnt a whole new skill in only 12 weeks of lectures, and I think I will miss it now that I’ve done my final exam, despite the nervousness I experienced before my turn each week. But then, nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and I’m so glad that I took the chance to learn how to conduct.

MDing Footloose: The End

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Footloose cast, prod team, crew and band. Photo credit: Oli Crump

Well it’s all over! After over 2 months of intense rehearsals and nights spent in my room learning the piano score, Footloose is finished. And while I slowly get over my post show blues, now seems like an appropriate time to look back on the whole experience.

At the beginning of October when we held 3 days of auditions, we had no idea who was going to come in – especially because we could only cast people who had never performed in a show with the musical theatre society before. We didn’t know whether we’d get an abundance of talent, making casting decisions very difficult, or hardly anyone who we deemed good enough to put on stage. Of course, we got a mixture of people, but we definitely managed to find a brilliant cast of new, talented students.

Intensive week came around very quickly, and myself and my co musical director put together a 7 piece band and started having band rehearsals. One of the most exciting stages of the rehearsal process was when the cast sang with the band for the first time. Having been accompanied by a solo piano for months, the music suddenly came alive and they were all so excited – it was amazing!

And suddenly, it was show week. The band and I set up in what we called the band pit, but was in actual fact a small area to the side of the stage. We had a lengthy tech run which ran into the early hours of the morning, and then a fairly successful dress run. Everyone was so pumped for our first show, and despite a few hiccups, it went very well (although this was our quietest night in terms of audience numbers… which was actually a good thing as it was probably the worst performance we did). On the next night however, we had a full house, and it took so long to get everyone into the theatre that we started the show 20 minutes later than planned! This particular audience lapped it up, and the cast’s energy increased as a result, making it an incredible performance.

The matinee was (as predicted) a quiet one, but our final show on the Saturday night was electric. Most of the cast members had family members and friends in the audience, and just the knowledge that it was the final time we’d perform Footloose was enough to make everyone power through the show to make it absolutely amazing! Once it was all over, we all alternated between squealing with excitement and being in floods of tears – which I think must be a sign of a great experience!

Being on the production team for a musical is such an insightful place to be, and it’s a brilliant feeling to know that we managed to put the whole show together ourselves – and we all felt very proud of our cast for how well they did. The weirdest thing about being on the prod team rather than on stage is the fact that once the shows are underway, we’re kind of made redundant (except for us MDs who have to keep the band in order!). But the others just get to sit back and (hopefully) watch all of our hard work pay off – which it absolutely did.

It’s safe to say that I haven’t managed to leave Footloose behind just yet, as proven by the amount of times I quote song lyrics/lines from the show in general conversation, and the fact that I’m still able to play the majority of the piano score from memory! I’m also already onto my next project: MDing How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, to be performed next spring, so it’s not like my life is devoid of musical theatre! My involvement in Footloose was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’ll cherish the memories of it forever – and I’d like to thank the whole cast, prod team, band and crew for being so great to work with on this fantastic show.

MDing Footloose: The Beginning

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As I have written previously, I really enjoy musical directing and playing in pit bands for shows, and seeing as I have just started working on a show with my university’s musical theatre society, I have decided to write a series of update posts about how the rehearsal process is going.

Footloose is the second show that I have been an MD for, but this has been the first show I’ve been involved with in which I’ve been able to witness every stage of the casting, from the first auditions, to call backs, to the complicated casting meeting, and I’ve found it so rewarding to learn how the whole process works.

Being on the audition panel is an odd place to be, especially when, like me, you feel as though you don’t know all that much more than the people auditioning! I certainly wouldn’t be able to confidently audition for a team of strangers, let alone perform on stage. So myself and the rest of the production team did our best to put the auditionees at ease. Being one of the MDs in the room, I had to carry out a range test (or range check as we took to calling it, to avoid it sounding like an exam they could fail!), and I was also expected to accompany any song that the auditionees chose to sing. Yup, any song. As they came into the room I would always breathe a sigh of relief if they weren’t carrying sheet music and had elected to use a backing track instead! I was usually able to stumble my way through the accompaniment even if I didn’t know the song, although I did thoroughly enjoy playing songs that I did know well. It’s scary knowing that if you mess up as the audition pianist it could totally throw the singer off and ruin their confidence, and in turn, their audition! I tried not to think about that too much…

The auditions were followed by a lengthy meeting between the prod team to sort out who we were calling back, for what roles, and how the day of call backs would be structured. I’d never really given this a second thought, but when you have to organise auditions yourselves, it suddenly becomes very complicated! And then once we’d done the call backs, we had a casting meeting… and now we finally have a cast!

It feels a little daunting to look ahead to the next two months during which we have to teach our cast of 22 every scene, song and dance, and perfect it all in order to put on an amazing show. I know we can do it, it just seems like a lot to do having only had two rehearsals so far! Meanwhile, I’m studying the piano score so that I can play all of the accompaniments for rehearsals, as well as learning the harmony lines which I’m sure will be ingrained in my brain for ever more, as I wrote here. So that’s where we are at the moment in the process of putting on Footloose – look out for more posts about the experience in the next couple of months!