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Opening night

December 2, 2022

I made magic, fucking gold dust magic. As the fairy godmother says, “Harry Potter’s got nothing on me.”  Of course, I didn’t make it alone. It required a truly fantastic cast, incredibly beautiful costumes and sets, and a crew who made it all seamless – or at least as seamless as anything can be in our crappy community hall. But much of the success of any show is down to the script, which I did substantially rewrite it (including the Harry Potter line) and to the director. That’s me! So, yes, I’m claiming a lot of the credit. Magic.

Discovered whilst waiting in the queue yesterday afternoon to withdraw some cash from the credit union that internet, cable and phones are going to be fucked for another “three to five” days. Assume that mean five. Jesus.

Despite that, despite our inability to make contact with cast, crew and audience members everyone showed up and the show went on. And what a show it was!

I have a new favourite moment. Perhaps not my all-time favourite moment. I think that’s a three-way tie.

My first favourite moment was at the end of act one of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. I can’t remember what the act one finale song was originally, but I replaced it with Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ sung by Robin as he gears up to rescue Marian. When I say “sung by Robin”, it was not actually sung by Alex. I decided I wanted the full Freddy blasting, so Alex was lip syncing with a dummy mic. The number was wonderfully choreographed by Aleks (Marian), although I did contribute Will Scarlett doing air guitar to Brian May’s solo. Seeing it performed in front of an audience filled me with joy. 

It was incredibly frustrating when it turned out the new camera we’d used to film the show didn’t work. It was impossible to sync the audio and the video. So I can’t share the number here, but it is still engraved in my mind. When I got home last night I poured myself a glass of bubbly to celebrate and then danced around the house to that song, re-enacting the choreography in my head. 

Alex and Aleks were there last night, as they’d promised they would be. At intermission I grilled them to see how many of their old costumes they recognised. (Yes, some beautiful new costumes were made, but some old ones were also repurposed.) Alex recognised his Robin Hood costume on Donna as Buttons, but failed to register that he’d worn Cholera’s pink ballgown when he’d played Mary, the dame, to my pirate villain in the 2018 panto. Aleks had immediately clocked Bronwyn in her original Maid Marian costume, but did not recognise Dianne’s costume as the one she wore in The Return of Robin Hood. I don’t know where they had them hidden when we were talking (left in the car perhaps), but at the end of the show they surprised and, yes, totally delighted me by presenting me with a bouquet of flowers.

Where was I, as Buttons would ask? Oh, yes, favourite moments. Well, as I suspect I may have written about before, the second one came in Ali Baba in 2019 and this was it.

Ray had two songs, one of which he sang himself and this one, which he didn’t. It wasn’t like knowing Alex could not give me the full Freddy. Ray probably could have handled the song. It was the sax solo. After an exhaustive and unsuccessful search for an instrumental or karaoke version which did justice to the sax solo, I decided it was going to be another lip sync. This did, of course, allow Ray to concentrate on his moves. Oh, those Elvis knees! Still the funniest thing in any of the pantos I’ve directed or in which I have been otherwise involved.

And now there’s my new favourite scene.

Back in the late spring when I was working on the script and thought my mate Paul (he of the air guitar) was going to be playing Prince Charming, I got rid of the character’s two songs. With the best will in the world, Paul cannot sing. Then Paul had to drop out and I had to scramble to find another prince. Once I did and realised what a good singer Ben was I immediately went back to the script and gave him a song to sing during the search for Cinderella. The script had always called for the prince to dance with Cinders at the ball. Some waltz music and a dance. No song. But now that I had Ben… Out went the waltz music and in came him singing ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’ as they danced to it. He and Katie worked with a local choreographer and between that gown and those moves came the most romantic thing ever seen on stage on this island. The crowd went wild. As they bloody well should have done. Pure magic.

So now there are three: ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ for sheer exuberance, ‘It Must Be Love’ for comedy gold and ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’ for the unbelievable romance.

I’ve said this many times as we’ve worked on this show: The panto gods must really like me. 

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