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Neil White’s tour blog  
All Change in the Abbey as the team welcome new Mother Abbess Marilyn Hill Smith...

Our Sound of Music UK tour company manager Neil White’s latest blog, written last week, spills the beans behind the scenes from Edinburgh.


After my last blog I had quite a few sarcastic messages asking if we do any work as it looked like our stay here was full of parties and visits to chip shops – so here is a very work orientated blog – and for once no references to food..

We are now nearing the end of our fantastic time here in Edinburgh, and last Monday our new Mother Abbess Marilyn arrived to start rehearsals. It must be really terrifying to join such an established company on tour but Marilyn has fitted in splendidly and the rehearsals have been going great. It really does make a change to rehearse the Mother Abbess scenes as most of our rehearsals normally involve children and endless repetitions of Do Re Mi…

Our lovely Associate Director Anna Linstrum is with us to rehearse Marilyn into the show and in the last week we have visits from Jeremy Sams (Director) and Rob Jones (Designer). Even though we all strive to do the same show every night and to maintain everything as if it was new – it is always lovely when creatives come to see us and are really happy with the show. It really is a credit to our touring team who work really hard to keep the show looking fresh.

On the subject of touring team our resident director Gavin is not with in Edinburgh at the moment as he is out in Japan overseeing their production of The Sound of Music, and from all reports is having a great time especially having 5 teams of children to rehearse!!

This week we have got final staging rehearsals with Marilyn before her dress rehearsal next Friday and then her first performance will be the opening night in Belfast.

This also means that this is Maggie’s last week and by the time you read this she will have had a surprise leaving party – keeping a secret in any theatre company is a really hard task and she is blissfully unaware!

We have also had more rehearsals for our swing children – and our last swing Emily went on last Friday.

With the distance from their home towns with the venues we are playing at the moment, the logistics of getting the children backwards and forwards are really complicated – Louise (the production assistant) in our London office has the unenviable task of booking all the travel and also with the risk or weather disruptions to transport this means the children will also stay over during the weekend – so our Chaperones have had to plan Sunday outings for them all.

Last weekend the Edinburgh Dungeon very kindly invited us as guests and we had a terrifying and very amusing couple of hours. However absolutely terrified the children were, I think was made up by me being picked on by the resident actors in the Dungeon and they loved seeing me being really embarrassed in the court room, being picked on by the torturer and generally used as a source of fun throughout the attraction, not to mention being made to go on a really frightening drop ride. Then there was fun of the dungeon gift shop – with all the tricks they sell.

Edinburgh has been a really fantastic venue and I think we are all really going to miss it – but we have the really Beautiful Grand Opera House and Belfast to look forward to next.

The sound department has let me down with there blog but I have a surprise blog from our New Mother Abbess Marilyn Hill Smith.

Neil x



Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a dream of appearing in a musical. When I was seventeen, (going on eighteen!) I joined the Guildhall School of Music. It was the first General Musicianship class of the Associateship course, and our tutor invited each student to formally introduce him/herself to the group, explaining where he/she hoped to specialize. Some wanted an operatic career, others yearned for the discipline of Early Music, yet others desired recitals of Lieder and oratorio. My turn came: “I’m Marilyn and I want to do musicals!” There was a barely audible gasp, followed by an astonished “Really???”

Well, some forty years on, I am delighted to report that my ambition is rewarded – I am playing Mother Abbess. In the meantime, I’ve been extremely lucky and had an exciting, busy and successful career and have had the joy of participating in just about every other facet of vocal music: opera, operetta, Gilbert & Sullivan, oratorio, early music, Lieder and French song, Music Hall, pantomime and even a short flirtation with jazz! Variety has certainly been the spice of life! Of course, I’ve sung songs from musical theatre in concert for as long as I can remember. But now, at last, here I am in one of the greatest musicals of all time.

And what a joy it is – apart from the great story and wonderful score of The Sound of Music, I have been overwhelmed by the fantastic colleagues who have welcomed me so warmly. At a surprise party after my third day of rehearsal, members of the cast I had not yet met, along with members of the crew and orchestra, came to introduce themselves and wish me luck and happiness in the company. It really is a dream come true. Let’s face it: the Mother Abbess is a great role for an “older” lady, and I get to sing the glorious “Climb every mountain”, and share the stage with the most delightful colleagues one could wish for. What more could one desire…..?

Thank you to everyone who has made me feel so welcome.

Marilyn x

For more information and to buy tickets, visit the official Sound of Music UK tour website.

Posted on: 1st March 2010

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