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Opening Day!

January 21, 2015

Monday’s rehearsal was probably the most intense so far- we started early and continued late, but ran through the show several times- in part costume and in some cases in full costume. I did all my scenes in costume- but no make-up. I don’t need to practice that! Too late for changing that I fear!

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The ladies did all of their scenes and numbers in costume, and we used all the props. We did a microphone fitting and a sound check with Anthony, and checked musical numbers with Kate and Andy Pook on percussion- it was his first run through. The lunch table was the Book Of Records table- The longest to date, the most folk catered for. Amazing Chef! Left the Music Hall at about 6pm and headed for Canary Wharf for a bite to eat before heading homewards.

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Tuesday 20th January 2015  OPENING SHOW!

 Arrived on a freezing morning at Brick Lane at ten o’clock- and sorted some bits and pieces, and put the costumes in order ready for the presumably hectic hours to follow! This morning we did a full run through of the show, with everything in- no “topping and Tailing” to get a more accurate idea of the running time. Ideally the show should run about 45 minutes each half, with a break in the middle for the afternoon tea, cakes and sandwiches. This can be extended a little, but coaches are always ready and preheated outside to take the audience back home at set times- best not to over-run.

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The evenings are not so tightly structured, but run along the same lines with a three course meal served. By about 12.15pm we had run the show through and tightened up a few bits. The changes seemed a bit smoother, but even so it was a very fast change for the company to get into their Schoolroom costumes- this we sorted by arring who was helping and who was where at what time! That seems to be the tightest costume and scenic change. Eleanor is now moving pieces of flattage in and hope and bringing in the “Golds” (Gold curtains, or runners) and the “Reds”- the Front “Tabs” or curtains.

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That calm that I’ve talked about in other blogs descended around 1pm. You could hear the coaches starting to arrive, and the auditorium becoming a lively place- chatter, music, – but backstage it was very quiet and very calm! A lot of concentrating going on in dressing rooms and in the corridors. Scripts being checked over for the last time, props being checked and, like me, costumes put in order. The countdown begins!

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This is the first time we’ve seen all the costumes assembled- and the make-up. During the morning run a few of us only wore part costume- the things that needed to be worked in- shoes, the odd jacket. I wore the Schoolroom costume again to check there was enough space, and Lady Gaga- yes, she makes a welcome re-appearance- for the same reason. Anthony called around and made sure that the microphones were switched on, and did a test of each one- there are eleven in use at any one time- and I put make-up on for the first time since the final Sunday in Hull!

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Hats are the final item of costume to be delivered by Zara- finale hats, school hats, working hats (a working costume is the name given to your most used costume- used for scenes that do not require a special costume)- and when you look at the volume of costumes Frank Kershaw has created in a few days, it is astonishing. So good to see everything brand new, and in matching colourways. Well done Frank- I salute you!

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The debut, The very first show of “Babes In The Wood” went up at 2pm. I had a group of about twelve in from the Kenneth More Theatre Club Ilford, and the room was packed- groups from Gatwick, Crawley, Kent and Essex, and a lovely atmosphere for our first outing!

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First half flew by- I do most of my stuff in the first half- an opening spot, a number with my trusty/rusty ukulele, then the schoolroom and a quick change for Abba “Dancing Queen” to end the first part- and I made all my changes “With a little help from my friends!”. From my point of view I think I remembered everything, and certainly the Schoolroom, as predicted, was a riot! The audience loved it! Fast and funny and very “Carry On” if I may say so! Yes, Andrew did fall off the bench when he least expected it, and the house loved it! Lots of big laughs in this, and the following scene, then a very quick change into the end of act one- complete with “Gerbs”- ten second foreworks you don’t want to stand anywhere near when they go off- but very pretty.

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Andrew as Sheriff!

Act one today- 55 minutes total. As we left the stage you could see our sandwiches and cakes arriving for the 40 minute interval. You spoil us, Ambassador! I’m putting on weight in these rehearsals as it is! What a delight to tuck in- it looks like a midnight feast as most folk are in dressing gowns! Second half started with the fundraiser and parties called out, and then into a number, followed by the pheasant gag. My Ilford lot got many mentions throughout the show. I could hear them laughing a lot! At this point I have the base of a Lady Gag under a costume so it is hidden (underdressed)  to do the “Parcel” gag, during which I managed to call Vincent by his name- Vincent, not “Everard”- twice, to the great amusement of the audience!

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The Era of the Principal Boy lives on in Lottie!

After this Alan helped me into the rest of Lady Gaga’s costume, wig and glasses and straight back on for the scene that finishes the story. A quick change again into the finale- The same one as Hull in fact for me, then give or take a loud confetti bomb at the end, it was all over! Act two was I think about 40 minutes. Tomorrow Vincent is going to add a musical number to Act Two, and possibly remove the “Pheasant” gag as both Pheasant and Present are quite close to each other. From my point of view all seemed to go very well indeed- unlike last year’s opening show, I ended up with all my costumes hung up and everything back in its place. Last year I faced a mountain of discarded quick change costumes and it took me ten minutes to soprt them all out. I must be getting better at this lark!

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So- we’ve opened the show. We will all have things that we can hone- gags that could be altered, lyrics or words that need attention. I need to try not to trip up over the Trick Bench before rushing off to change as I have the bruises to show for it! I think the sight of Rusty quick changing into a fat suit cherub with light-up bits attached will possibly remain with me for a very long time! Hoorah for us- we not only have a pantomime but we have a cracking pantomime!

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