Joseph Rehearsal Blog – Episode 1.
So…well errr…hi, I’m John Alastair and I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with what is going on with Joseph. I don’t really have any plans or format for what I am going to be writing in this diary but I do hope that you’ll enjoy reading some of the stories from inside of this wonderful production; during the rehearsal process and possibly through the run too (we’ll see about that). All I can promise you is an honest account of how things are through my eyes. I hope you cry along with me at the pain of those dance rehearsals, be there for me when I am low and feeling shattered, and laugh with me when the times are good. We are going to have an absolute ball on this show and I hope that you’ll have as good a time reading this as I am sure to have writing it. My background? Not all that much to say really. To be brief, I left the Fire Service in 2001 at the age of 33 after 12 years as a Fire-fighter, I went to Drama School for a year and now nearly five years down the line I find myself playing Brother Reuben in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. If only it had been that easy…however it does feel a little like my very own personal “Any Dream Will Do”! I am sure I’ll find time to fill you in on more details later on but for now lets try and think of something interesting to say!
16th May 2007
Well here we are, well here I am, it’s been quite a long build up and full rehearsals haven’t even started, yet I am feeling not only stiff of limb, muscle and joint but just as worried as I was before today. Today? Rehearsals started for me today and another one on Friday just to give me a little helping hand with the choreography before the main rehearsals start in just over a week’s time. The heroine today was Brenda who somehow managed to keep herself sane, free from the giggles and very nice to me all day. It’s enviable the way she can just mark through a routine and still make it look great…dancers do that! Their hips seem instinctively to move the right way when they take a little step to the left or to the right; their arms flow effortlessly in circles or in poses and they always make incredibly good use of the dance mirrors in the studios. And then there’s me! Am I the only person in the world who struggles in front of a mirror? My right seems to be the mirror’s left or is that the mirror’s right? I am not really sure, quite aside from the fact that in the mirrors I look like a 6’3” lump of something goofing his way through the amazingly fast routines. All the time there is the wonderful figure of Brenda easing through the dance, watching me carefully, smiling encouragingly and offering help and instruction when all goes wrong. But you see as well as seeing her in the mirror, I can see her from the corner of my eye, and somehow the two pictures differ; of course they don’t really but to me they seem to! OK so dancing is not my strongest discipline, that’s why I am having a couple of “kickstart” rehearsals and I am determined to use the mirrors because that what dancers do!
I am not entirely new to all this. I spent two years in the West End in Mamma Mia! and certainly in my first year I did do a fair bit of dancing and loved it! It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that it takes me a little longer to pick things up and fortunately for me, I now have Brenda on video to look at every day during my own rehearsal at home. Move the sofa, the chair, the Afghan rug and something called an ironing board, yep I have no idea about that one either, and there is a miraculous transformation into a dance studio. Luckily I have a rather nice retro mirror above the fireplace to practice my ‘looking’ with! God know what the neighbours must think but hopefully it’s “…oh it’s just that acting, singing bloke next door puffing and panting! Just turn the telly up a bit could you dear?”
So it’s preparation, preparation, preparation! I have learnt the words to my songs…almost… and although the 29 sequential colours of Joseph’s dreamcoat are still a worry, we are definitely making ground. For your information and for a little bit of practice for me they are: red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and okra and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and blue. All heaved from the depths of my mind whilst sitting here in a Hertfordshire laundrette waiting for my washing to dry. I think Reeney behind the desk thinks I’m mad mouthing the words into my laptop…still I not sure if she’s ‘all there’ herself!
I got back home and there was a call from Katy at the Really Useful Group saying that plans have changed for Friday and I now have a costume fitting at three and another one-to-one dance call from four till seven with our heroine, Brenda. No worries for me, but secretly I suspected that the canny wardrobe department found out a) that my dance call was originally BEFORE my costume call and b) that during my dance rehearsal on Wednesday I sweated like an overworked, overweight burger-eating brickie, so they flexed their lean yet gentle muscles and put some kind of emergency action plan into effect. Well who can blame them? Having to take intimate measurements of a large, half naked, pale and exhausted fella would be bad enough, but throw a couple of gallons of sweat into the equation and…well you get the picture.
18th May 2007
So 3pm came and in I walked into the Really Useful Group Offices in London and was directed into the beautiful conservatory area. Sitting at the papered table were the wigs and wardrobe ladies. Now you expect a clipboard or two, a tape measure here and there or even the odd safety pin hanging around but just out of the corner of my eye I noticed a few reels of cling film and a load of sellotape!!! Mmmm…not really sure what to make of that! Anyway up I stood and about a million measurements were taken. They even drew around my feet on a piece of paper and added various foot circumference measurements for good…measure! I might add that I can proudly announce that I will have the largest girth of the company. Ooo get me! Make of it what you will but we still had the cling film treatment to come. Unbeknown to me, all the wigs will be made to measure, so they have to somehow make a mould of your head. Admittedly I was slightly disappointed to discover that the cling film and tape would be used to do this and not something else conjured up in my head during my previous measuring up session. Chrissie and Sally got to work, putting a stocking over my hair, wrapping cling film around my head over the stocking and then sticking big strips of tape over it, firmly following the contours of my head. Finally they kind of peeled it off and there was this huge mould of my head! I have to have wigs/hair built into my hat for Brother Reuben, my main character, a 1960’s type syrup for “Go, Go, Go Joseph” and 1930’s style one for Potipher’s court. Also a wig and facial hair for Jacob, a part I am covering. That was that…I said my goodbyes and felt pleased that, as usual, the wardrobe department were absolutely lovely.
I then whizzed straight over to Pineapple, a real professional dance studio in Covent Garden…. get that, me at Pineapple…to meet Brenda again for a few more hours of sweat and tears. I’d managed to get in a couple of hour’s rehearsal at home since our session on Wednesday and so confidence was my middle name! Now, not only is Pineapple a highly regarded dance studio but it is, unsurprisingly, drowning with fit, young and gorgeous dancers, and, unfortunately for me, every studio has a window in it! A sight those young professionals do not need or want is that of me, a confident two left footer, in one of their dance studios cutting the Joseph groove in my own early style. Every time I checked the mirror, doing my ‘looking’, some heavenly female dance goddess in a vest top and spray on hot pants was glancing in on me with ‘that kind of look’ on her face’ and it was frankly a big distraction. I mean what can a man to do…ignore them? Anyway, it took Brenda a fair while to make progress with me but progress I think we did eventually make. We got through the whole of the “Go Go Go Joseph” routine and although my sweat levels in the first hour led to three vest changes (dancers wear vests don’t they?) I was really pleased with myself; it seemed to be sinking in. Hooray! Then we started on the “Megamix” dance, the final number in the show…my jubilation was dashed to the floor…I was just terrible! Quite apart from being inhumanly fast, it is also extremely intricate – for me! So I think we got up to about half speed with some of the moves and no more than about 20% for the rest. Lord help me! ie. Lord Lloyd-Webber please sort the tempo out!
Brenda was as encouraging and confident as ever and I can’t thank her enough for this head start but with over a week off now before we get into full rehearsals I am still in a state of concern and shock. I am however itching to get going, dying to meet the rest of the cast but still losing sleep over the dancing.
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