Nearly 2 weeks have past since my most recent production finished. I find myself looking back with very mixed emotions.
Firstly producing Company has been a long time wish. It is one of Sondheim's pieces that connected with me when I first saw a recording of the Donmar Warehouse Production some 20 years ago. The central character is complex, as we all are, this is what I like. Bobby is a real person, we can totally relate to him and the thought processes he goes through.
This was also my first co-production. Working with Merriman Theatre Group was great and whilst I will confess to not always remembering it was a co-prod and happily carrying on making decisions without consultation, I believe it was a successful experience for both sides!!!
The group of actors that we assembled was also a joy. Sondheim’s music is never an easy sing, there are complex harmonies and at times 7 lines all doing totally different things at the same time. After an hour of our first rehearsal the sound produced from the cast was just superb. It wasn’t perfect but it showed what this group of performers could do after just one hour, meaning the next few weeks were going to be very exciting.
The week of the production arrived and (thankfully) audience sales had picked up (as a producer there is nothing more stressful than everyone buying tickets at the last minute!!) I was feeling suitably proud and emotional at this production and we headed to the last night far too fast.
A lot of the time in amateur theatre we do not have understudies. There are many reasons for this and for a week we have faith that things will work out ok. Unfortunately there are occasions where things don’t go quite as planned.
During Act 1 of the final show our leading man was taken ill. This is something he had started fighting during the week but his body refused to let him continue. The show was stopped and decisions needed to be made.
It was a situation you hear of others dealing with, in fact I have been in a production years ago when one of the principals literally “broke his leg” during the curtain call. This time I found myself in the position of addressing the audience and working with the production team and cast to bring around a solution.
It became clear that “Bobby” could not continue in the show and reluctantly the decision was made to replace him with another member of the cast with the script.
Addressing an audience midway through a show is a very surreal experience, explaining the situation is one thing, telling them we are continuing with a replacement is not an easy speech to make. However there was no need to fear, the audience embraced the situation and the warmth coming back was quite something.
It felt a very human response, in the face of adversity everyone rally’s round. The audience, cast, production team, theatre staff, all as one worked and supported each other. The standing ovation was a mix of respect for our Bobby stand in and for carrying on and delivering a high standard production that they enjoyed.
I have never been in such quite a strange head space by the end of a show but will admit to a very emotional end sat in the lighting box full of pride and relief!!
The old adage of the “Show Must Go On” has often been used and you often wonder why must it go on? I am glad we could carry on and also happy to report our original Bobby is recovering well. So my final musical production ended in a more dramatic way than planned, but life is made up of stories and I know this one will keep us going for some time to come.
I am now 5 weeks away from my next production “A View From The Bridge”, thankfully all ills seem to be happening during rehearsal process so production week may go to plan!!! This is live theatre though and as I have learnt, anything can happen!!!