After his last few blogs were taken over by other members of The Sound of Music UK touring team, Neil White is back as a new set of children start rehearsals for the show… this blog was written shortly after the team arrived in Sunderland.
It feels like ages since I’ve done a blog and as no-one has begged me to take over this week – I’d better start typing.
It’s now our second Saturday in Sunderland and the end of a very long week. When you do a show with children in it – you always know that there will be extra rehearsals and sadly because we have reached the end of quite a few of our original touring children’s licences – its time for a children’s cast change.
Our new children started at the beginning of Milton Keynes and so for the last five weeks we seem to have had hundreds of children around the theatre, everyday the usual 6 for tutoring has increased to up to twenty and every afternoon and all day (when we can) Gavin (Children’s Director) Adam (Dance Captain) and Laura (Children’s Musical Director) have been putting the new Von Trapp’s though their paces. However much you love doing the show – long days of “Do Re Mi” do start to take its toll and our poor touring creative team do look shattered.
The difficulty with rehearsing when we are still performing the show is the stage is only available to rehearse on at limited times, as we still have to do all the work and maintenance to keep the show going. So it has been like a military operation getting children and adult cast members to various rehearsal spaces, not to mention transporting keyboards, props and the never-ending supply of food our children need.
The move to Sunderland went very well, although it was sad to say goodbye to the lovely staff at Milton Keynes who really made us feel welcome.
The Sunderland Empire is a very grand old theatre but has had some great work done backstage and has an endless supply of dressing rooms, the auditorium is really unusual and we can pack in nearly 2000. It has been a little bit of a challenge to fit the show in and we have had a few technical problems but that’s the fun of touring. One of the great things about touring to older theatres is that all of them have so many stories attached to them and the Empire is regarded as the second most haunted theatre in the UK. The ‘old’ number one dressing room is reputed to be visited by the spirit of Carry On legend Sid James. Danny, our assistant Musical Director, was thrilled to be put in this room as he is a massive Carry On fan but sadly nothing has happened so far…the theatre also boast the ghosts of music hall star Vesta Tilly and a poor ASM called Molly …but the only ghostly sighting of ASM’s have been Niall and Helen (our touring ones) looking pasty because of all the long hours recently…
It’s great to be back in the north, we have had some very vocal audiences – as you would expect in the North East everyone is really friendly. Although some of our audience seem to be a little too relaxed and it hasn’t been pleasant for our lovely orchestra to have people take their shoes off and rest their feet on the pit rail!
As soon as the show opened here we had to start to say goodbye to our ‘old’ children and we have had three very emotional last performances – not to mention lots of lovely cards and presents.
Then the fun started of all the technical and dress rehearsals for the new children – this week has felt like doing pantomime with two technical rehearsals on Monday, dress rehearsals Tuesday and Thursday, not to mention all our usual shows. All departments have been working flat-out, especially Wardrobe – they have so many costumes to prepare for the rehearsals, and then they have to swap everything back for the evening shows. By Friday I don’t think anyone knew what day it was and then everybody arrived in a great but slightly insane mood today – it took ages to clear the cast off-stage after warm up as Jane Quinn (Sister Berthe) was insisting on teaching Maggie Preece and the other nuns some pole dancing moves…
Two of our new teams of children have now opened in the show and are doing fantastically, only one more team to put in next week and then hopefully touring life will get back to some semblance of normality – whatever that is! The main thing that is keeping us going is the fact we have our first week off at the end of next week before unleashing the Von Trapp Madness on Manchester.
In other news, it’s great to have Suzanne back in the show after her injury – we have really missed her ‘Heidi Schweiger’ in the concert. Also as Sunderland is her home town (hence no references at all to Greggs etc as the ‘Lady’ nuns do tend to gang up on me!) we’re glad she is back to perform here and Zoe is also back this week – so we’re back to our full cast !
Also we have had the news this week that Connie is staying with us for Belfast, Aberdeen and Llandudno – so no peace for me until May (I can get away with saying these things as she claims never to read my blog!!) My office is next door to her dressing room in this venue and you have never heard anyone sing as much!!
Will update you all soon.
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