Having informed the swings and ensured the right people are onstage,– ‘s Dance Captain and herself a swing on the show – tells us what goes on when the curtain goes up…
Pip, you wear quite a few hats – sometimes quite literally! – in ensuring the production of Joseph goes smoothly. Could you explain what being a Dance Captain entails?
Well, I need to come in early as you can see (it’s four and a half hours before the curtain is due to rise on that evening’s performance) this is because it’s my job to make sure all the roles are covered for the forthcoming show. I obviously know beforehand who is on holiday and have already made arrangements for the “swings” (watch out for our forthcoming “swing” interview with Pip to find out more about this role) to cover these absences. However regarding who will be off due to unforeseen circumstances like injury, sickness etc, I have no idea.
So how much notice do you get regarding these extra absences?
Everyone has a deadline to call in if they are not going to be on. It is 3pm on normal show days and 11.30am on matinee days. They phone David Lamb the Company Manager and then he will phone me after this cut off time and let me know who is off. I come in here to my dressing room for that phone call so I have all my covering sheets and paperwork that I need so I can immediately start work on who will be covering which role.
I am a really nice dance captain because as soon as I have received my call from David I start sending texts. I think I text between 23 to 26 members of the cast to let them know what the scenario is. So my swings know pretty much as soon as I know who they are going to be playing on the show.
So although your title is dance captain, this has much wider implications than just putting the cast through their dance paces?
Yes I am responsible for ensuring each role is covered in the show.
Is this the first show that you have been dance captain for?
Yes. But I was assistant dance captain for Evita. John Clarke who was our resident director on the beginning of Joseph was the dance captain on Evita, so I only stepped in as his cover. So all in all I have the Adelphi has been my home for over three years! (Evita previously played at the Adelphi, prior to Joseph)
What if there are more people off than there are actors to cover them?
Then we have to do what we call a “cut” show. This doesn’t mean the show is shortened, but that people have to cover more than one part at a time which can sometimes effect what the narrator does, what Joseph does, Jacob, everyone… So I have to know what all the knock on effects are of each possible changed scenario and I have to tell everyone on stage but also stage management, sound, wigs and wardrobe, etc.
What kind of percentage of shows do you have to improvise stuff for?
More often than not. I have a green file which is three inches thick of all the different scenarios that we have done. It can be crazy! Because we are allowed to have two boys and two girls on holiday at any one time there is not a lot of leeway, so you can imagine it doesn’t take much in the way of extra absences!
If an actor receives one of your texts telling them they are covering a role do they also have to come in early so you can walk them through the part etc…
Very occasionally, more so at the beginning of the run. But only last week in happened. Russell (Walker) our Butler volunteered himself from the start of the show to do anything extra which is needed, so I always pick on him now! He had to do a whole different role in Potiphar the other day so he came in early to learn the steps for that. Normally he is one of the boys around the Narrator but for this other role he had to lift Mrs Potiphar off the bed and he hasn’t done that before so he came in to learn all that. Other than that we have warm up at 6.30pm for the 7.30pm show and if we have a “cut” show we do something which we call storytime which is where I have written out the whole show and I tell everyone in the group what the changes are.
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