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NEW!! Joseph behind the scenes!  
Episode 3 of our exclusive rehearsal blog with John Alistair...

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday split into our harmony groups, learning the music for the show and then getting back with the whole company to see what it sounded like. I think it was terrific. They are really hard working days as you are concentrating so hard on the score and singing for nine hours or so. Of course we are all used to singing, but these long days are tough but we have got to nail these arrangements because, once we are into our dance rehearsals, time for music will be at a premium.

By Thursday I had got it into my head that Azure Lloyd Webber was the chap who wrote the music for this show and Lilac, Lemon, and Violet are just three of our amazing dancers. Whereas Joseph’s Dreamcoat was now Red and Andrew and Green and David and Tamlyn and Emma and Pip….you get the picture, my head was full of stuff! This ‘stuff’ was/is sinking in, but confusion has been manifesting itself daily and, in addition to this, today (well, this evening actually), was to be our first company excursion into realms of dance. A day full of singing did not prepare me for the evening ahead but I confidently tightened my dance jock, pulled my leg warmers up, took a large cool swig of fresh mineral water from one of the many water fountains placed around our rehearsal facility, and skipped confidently up to Studio 4 for the warm up. 20 minutes later hot and gasping for breath I staggered downstairs to change my clothes as I was already, unsurprisingly, sweating like an idiot. So much so that I looked like I had been under a shower with my clothes on. That was just the warm up!

Anthony Van Laast and Nicola Treherne took time out to explain the show, this production’s roots, and their intention to be true to Steven Pimlott’s original production. Then before we could say “Who’s it gonna be, Lewis, Keith or Lee?” we were off. We started with a couple of super fast moves from the final number of the show, the one that is stupidly fast, and then, with those moves in the bag (NOT!) we moved swiftly onto “Go, Go, Go, Joseph”. I realised very quickly what dancers can really do. It takes just one or two explanations of a section of a dance routine and then they are off, hands here, hips there, head flicking everywhere; all in time and looking marvellous and then there is me at the back.

Yes I had gone through this routine with Brenda many times on my own but, hey, in spite of all of that preparation work, my limited knowledge, a little sprinkling of dancing hundreds and thousands, the skimpy dance gear and figures to die for as an added distraction – all these things – mean that I am suddenly falling in a nightmare, unsure if the bottom of the black pit will wake me up in any kind of sanctuary. I tripped Verity (or was it Chocolate) at one point and, at another moment, managed to catch Crimson, sorry Lucy, in the face with my fist. I tripped myself with a loose shoe lace and slipped clumsily on a puddle of my own sweat, but all that carnage aside I think I did rather well!

At one point Brenda asked me, in a silent kind of mouthing action, if that was what she had shown me. I nodded yes and then before I knew it the head of a female dancer, who I now know as Louise, but at the time thought was Mark, had flicked round and was questioning whether I had had special rehearsals…I had been rumbled! Not only had my secret been revealed but it had taken all of about 10 minutes!!! Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad, but my dancing on its own would never have been plausible evidence of any special rehearsals and it was just a slight misjudgement that had given the game away…shucks! Aching all over and too tired to change out of my ‘Leroy from Fame’ gear, I wearily minced home and simply slept like a baby!

Pip, our Dance Captain, was charged with kicking each day off to a regimental start. A decent aerobic workout to rouse the troops, a long stretch out to ease those tight tendons and muscles and a bit of spit and polish to clean yesterday’s cobwebs off of our old dance shoes and finally over to Dan for a vocal warm up. I guess our wake up session lasts around 40 minutes. Then every day we are taught a new step in the  “MegaMix”. We also go over the steps learnt yesterday and gradually we build up the routine. We all develop sections of the show and then, as the days and nights go on, we glue all those bits together.

Nicola worked us really hard. Everyday I took in several changes of clothing and needed all of them. One time on Wednesday I was sat on a break in Studio 2 watching the girls learn and rehearse the Hoedown Dance for my song, “One More Angel in Heaven”. It was so exciting. The sad thing for me is that the general public never get to see this level of work in the flesh. They see the finished article, which believe me will be absolutely fantastic, but they can never appreciate how difficult these things are to put together and how breathtakingly hard the dancers work. I hope I am doing them justice in this diary but somehow I fear not. As a member of the paying public of course you would expect it to be nothing but brilliant, that’s what you pay your money for, but you see the dance routine just once.

What I’m seeing is the girls putting the routine together bit by bit, messing up a move here and there, clashing with another dancer occasionally and then starting at the top again each time it doesn’t work out. Eventually the routine works in all its movement and they manage to go from start to finish with few hitches. Relieved and exhausted, they have barely time to catch their breath when they are once again starting from the top for another run through and more refinements to be made. This process is repeated time and time again until eventually they are given a break. Once it’s in good shape they go downstairs to the hellhole of studio 1. It smells terrible, has no openable windows and just an extractor fan that runs so loud you can’t hear each other speak. When you get thirty odd cast, Swings, Stage Management and Creatives in there it’s not nice. Throw the full Hoedown routine into the recipe, then do it again and again and, you guessed it, again for good measure, the atmosphere is disgusting; you only have to look at the face on anybody walking into the room to realise what you are festering in.

The routine, however, was looking good and my efforts, although nowhere near the perfection needed, had enough of a glimmer of hope in them to keep me buoyant! Also the Danglys came fully into the picture.

The Danglys? Aren’t they in Lord of the Rings? I hear you say! No, Adam, Mark, Fiona and I class ourselves as the weakest dancers in the Company and therefore proudly wear the title of the Danglys. It’s a very, very special club for those that have to make extra effort in the dances and who sweat a hundredfold more than the others. However, this Hoedown afternoon really was hard work. I know this as even the female dancers were physically sweating. Normally they just have an elegant glow about their bodies but not today, they were sweating like the lads so you knew it was hard work!!! Go! Go! Go! Girls!

John Alastair
June 2007

Posted on: 18th June 2007

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