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Let there be music!

October 7, 2019

A good rehearsal yesterday. (Fortunately the rehearsal venue has a generator, so the show went on despite the twelve hour planned power outage for system upgrades.) It was the first rehearsal we dedicated to the songs in the show.

A couple of the songs are easy. There’s only one person on stage singing or one singing and another one listening. Not true with most of the songs. Multiple singers, multiple people on stage. Where are they all standing? What are they doing? Yikes.

I was very lucky when I directed my first panto. At that time there was an incredibly talented young woman with a background in musical theatre living on the island. She played the heroine in that and the next two pantos. I more or less turned the directing of the musical numbers over to her. Then she moved off the island. I know. Selfish or what?

So this time around I’m on my own.

One thing is clear. We’re not going to be having any super well-choreographed numbers this year. (I still get tingles down my spine when I think about Don’t Stop Me Now, the act one finale in Robin Hood and His Merry Men. Talk about show stoppers. Oh, well.) But we’ll do what we can.

First up, the intro number, sung to the tune of the Muppet Show theme song. Five goes through and, blimey, it looks great. In fact I already know it’s going to be great. Well, that’s encouraging.

Then, because absolutely everyone is involved in it and for some it is the only song in which they’re involved, time to tackle the finale: All You Need Is Love. Yes, I know, super cheesy. That’s why I added a line for the emperor of France, who, at the end of the song, steps forward and says, “Now zat is cheesy” before everyone takes their bows.

But before we can get to that point, a great deal of time is needed to figure out where to position everyone. Okay. Thieves together stage right, with royals behind them.. Good guys together stage left, with Spanish Inquisition behind them. (Ha! That’s right. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.) Sultan, princess and villain in the middle, leaving room for the audience to see the trumpet-playing monster when he emerges to play the intro to the song. Okay, that looks alright.

By the end of the show there are three pairs of lovers. My original plan was to have each individual pair singing one of the three verses. First time through two things strike me immediately. One, the song’s too long. Two, none of the individual pairs has strong enough voices to carry the song on their own. So, chop the third verse and get all three sets of lovers singing the two remaining verses. Okay, that’s much better.

Next up: the heroine singing Hopelessly Devoted to You. The actress playing Margiana has never done a musical number in her life, but was willing to give it a go. She’s been working with a professional singer on the island. Uh, oh, I think, when she first starts singing, but then, just as I was about to lean over to Charlie, our sound guy, and say “I think we’re going to need to mic her up”, she starts belting out the second verse. All right then.

Next up: Ali Baba, before he realises he’s actually in love with Margiana, celebrating his engagement to Princess Jelli Behbi by singing Royal (as in Uptown) Girl. Again, multiple people on stage when the curtains in front of the small actual stage at the community hall open. Where to position them? How to get them moving on to the larger stage we build on risers at the front? What very basic moves can they all be doing whilst singing the background Oh, oh, oh, ohs and Ah, ah, ah, ahs? We walk through it. Yeah, okay, looks alright. Let’s try it with the music. Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. Sounds terrible. And Ali Baba knows it. The music, he says, is in the wrong key for him. Well, something’s certainly wrong. Fortunately the key can be adjusted by our music director. I, on the other hand, am incapable of unlocking the mystery of keys.

I am really not the best person to be in charge of musical numbers. If asked, I would tell you honestly that I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.

Many, many years ago, for reasons lost in the mists of time, my then boyfriend John and I were trying to sing the Ramones song I Want To Be Sedated to someone else. As we were singing I was somehow aware that John kept changing things up a bit, so endeavoured to adjust. Eventually he just stopped singing, looked at me and said, “What key are you singing in? I’ve changed key five times.” I just laughed. Key? I don’t need no stinking key. I wouldn’t know one from any other. Oh, well.

A few years later, for reasons again lost in the mists of time, my friend Lynda (a professional singer) and I sang a rousing rendition together at a party of Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz song. When we’d finished, she looked at me and said. “You’ve found your song.” Yes, it’s true. There is one song and one song only that I can actually sing without people jumping out windows to escape the sound. So, if anyone ever threatens me with an axe and tells me I have to sing a song or they will chop my leg off, I do have a song I can sing.

Anyway…

Four songs down and five to go at the next rehearsal. Things are progressing well – so well that I tell the cast I am cancelling next Sunday’s rehearsal. Cheers all round, because next Sunday is Thanksgiving weekend. Actually that isn’t the reason. Between two of my lead actors being involved in the studio tour and many more informing me they will be away spending Thanksgiving with kids and grandkids, there are barely enough actors left to rehearse anything. Bloody breeders. No commitment. Which is exactly what I say when I announce the cancellation. They all laugh. Think I’m joking, do they? Okay, I am. Well, sort of.

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