As’s successful run at the Adelphi Theatre in London came to an end last week, we asked Sam Burgess (Production Supervisor), Nicky Barton (Production Assistant) and (Dance Captain on the show) to recall their favourite memories from the past two years.
One of the first incidents which spring to mind to those who were there that evening must be the show whenlost his loin cloth! Nicky remembers: “He was wearing only his dance support belt and when he turned upstage to run off I think the audience had full opportunity to view his recently award winning “rear of the year”.
There was also an infamous costume mishap involving Blue Suede Shoes. Pip explains, “In Act 2 the girls go from wearing blue suede shoes for all the Pharaoh section and then have to put gold sandals on. One evening one girl forgot to change her shoes and came on with her blue shoes on. It’s a small thing and very silly but it does make you giggle a bit on stage.”
Sam laughs and hints at other wardrobe malfunctions but says only, “There are numerous others that I couldn’t possibly comment on”.
It hasn’t always gone according to plan with the set either. The revolve (the circular discs which rotate and enable sections of the set to be moved on and off stage) has had a few problems.
Pip recalls, “Occasionally the revolves have stopped, or not stopped when they should do which is even funnier, at certain points of the show. We have had one wife get revolved off with the cactus which was very funny. She was trying desperately to stay on stage, but she couldn’t! We had another funny one when the camel revolved off but then didn’t stop revolving round and then comes through bum first and it actually lifted the blue wall at the back of the set so you could just see the camel’s rear end poking through while we have been trying to do the Hoedown!”
What about the old showbiz adage about working with children and animals? There are both in Joseph, but the animals cause a few more problems than the children do. In particular, the camel made a rather auspicious start when a technical problem on the first night caused the camel to stall onstage. Has he been replaced by a younger model? Sam replies, “It is not the same camel now, no! We had to replace our camel halfway through the run because he had obviously walked SO far around the resolve, pulling Joseph behind him, that his poor legs gave up the ghost and he had to be retired”, he adds, “But they are the same hairy Ishmaelites though, sitting on top, and the replacement camel is still called Reginald!”
With regard to the children, there are 36 on stage each show who bring their own incredible energy and enthusiasm to the performance, but Pip recalls a few amusing comments. “Carmel, the lady who supplies all the kids, said to me that the kids have asked about the camel and the snake. They understand thatis the camel and that is the snake, but they asked how on earth does Russell fit into the snake costume? So they actually think that the boys are in them! The other day one of the little ones said to Carmel, you know I have looked and looked and I cannot see the strings which are holding the Apache dancers up!”
As well as the children on stage, Nicky reminds us that there have been quite a few tiny feet pattering around amongst the cast members since the show opened. “We have had quite a few babies born during the run – 4 new babies in the cast. And, backstage, our wardrobe mistress and our wig assistant have also had babies.”
Anyone who has watched Joseph can testify that it is a great ensemble show, in that all of the 11 brothers have developed their own characters and have become a real “family” unit. Sam confirms, “and , who staged this production, encouraged each cast member from day one to have their own story and character and how they interact with other characters in the show and I think that is very important and brings a whole other dimension to the show.”
Pip agrees, “Yes, it’s great. If you take your focus off Joseph and look at what is happening on the forestage with individuals there is always something to see, because they are doing something all the time.”
And obviously Adam (Pearce) and Russell (Walker) who our regular visitors will know as the Baker and Butler, have also gained their own fanbase. “They certainly make the most of their moments nightly! It is great when that happens. It is those pieces which come together to make this production of Joseph so successful because a lot of the performers have their own chance to shine”, Nicky adds.
As we learnt in our interview with Pip, the swings on Joseph have to cover many many roles, which they cope with admirably, but there have been a few mishaps. “There have been a couple of fluffed lines which always tickle you on stage. Some people don’t hold it together very well on stage!”
Pip also recalls “Ricky Rojas, our Joseph cover is also second cover for Judah. Ricky is really laid back generally, but the first time he went on for Judah he was very nervous about the Calypso – it is one of those songs where the lyrics are very similar all the way through. So I said if in doubt just sing “La la la” or “Banana”… and he did!!! He Banana’d the whole way through the song. He could not remember the words. He carried on just La’ing and Banana’ing!”
The cast have created their own unique method to deal with all the pre-show nerves and get the adrenalin pumping. Without fail before each show they take part in a pre-performance dance routine. This has developed into an established ritual onstage behind the curtain during the overture. We asked Pip how this originated. “It might have been started by Louise, our apache dancer, while we were all sitting there warming up backstage. You have upstage, then the wall, then downstage and the gauze and we all start upstage and there is a little bit in the overture that goes (hums the refrain from Stone the Crows “Greatest Man since Noah… only goes to Show-a”) and Louise used to sit and shimmy her shoulders along. Then the boys joined in and slowly they made up a full routine. They did Fosse, they did Chicago walks, and then at one point they all shimmied – they have steps for every bit of music in the overture. At one point they would Fosse walk through the swing door down to where the cherry picker lift is – Gareth did it as well. They also get the audience clapping along on the Potiphar rhythm. They always miss out the first one – they listen first and if they don’t hear anything then they clap and the audience join in.”
So, as the dance was performed for the final time and an era came to an end, how will the (almost) two years at Joseph be remembered? Sam reflects – “It has been a great show to be involved in – I always think this production has a huge twinkle in its eye – it’s a great evening out for the audience, and everyone has had such fun”.
Pip agrees, “The great thing about Joseph is that it is a really great bunch of people, and the audience have been fantastic… so supportive right from the first night to the last”.
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