Sunday, 16 April 2017

From the Director: Peter Pan A Musical Adventure

Hello to you reader, I hope you are enjoying the Easter bank holiday weekend!
Today's post is all about my experience directing a youth musical production of 'Peter Pan - A Musical Adventure'.

Me pretending to be good at my job

I've been directing shows now since 2015 and let me tell you that every production brings surprises and lots of lessons to learn. Our production of Peter Pan last week was no different; from huge pieces of set (seen above), 30 wild children dressed as pirates and lost kids - the show team included, a ladder covered in green fabric for a crocodile (no, seriously) and numerous thumb-lights that gradually seemed to disappear, I was reminded of just how much hard work goes into making these shows a success, but also, that they'll never go quite to plan. 

After the MD, choreographer and I managed to blast through teaching the show in the allocated 10 rehearsals, a modest total of 40 hours, I left our last rehearsal sound of mind, hoping to pass the baton onto the cast, for them to put everything that we'd taught them together for the final show week. Of course, it's never quite that easy. If walking into the first dress rehearsal to find we had half a set wasn't surprise enough, the performance standard - or lack thereof from the cast that day was enough to make me begin to pull my hair out. Though it's a well known fact amongst the staff that the first dress rehearsal is always the worst, it's easy for the panic to set in, and wonder if the show may be about to crumble.

As director, I was still getting my head around the props and set, needing to reset scenes due to set changes / props / spacing, while the cast are trying their best to remember their lines, blocking, props, songs and dances all the while wearing a garish costume. Waiting for the cast to bring the show to life on that week is the hardest part of the job, its as if you've given them the fairy-dust and are waiting for them to fly (sorry not sorry). The only thing that gets me through that week is preparing for the worst, with scary speeches to drum into their ears because no, I will not tell them that I trust it'll be alright on the night, it'll be alright, if they put the work in! But deep down, I do trust that on the night their actors instinct will kick in and they'll make the show great. As usual, that's exactly what they did.

Though I'll never let it be said that the shows are possible without the MD and choreographer, who have become more like friends to me than colleagues. For our MD it was also the first show she'd MD'd for, but she did an absolutely cracking job, chucking in loads of beautiful harmonies, which made me super happy. You can check out her post all about the show here. It's such a pleasure to work with such a talented team, tech and production included, I can never thank them enough for putting up with me.

MD asleep on the job

While everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, it is unlikely that many know the music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, so if you ask me, the cast did an amazing job on this one. It's a totally different ball game to doing a popular show such as 'Grease' where everyone already knows all the words. It's also different for an audience because they're not really sure what to expect. Little do they know that beyond the stage and behind the scenes, the choreographer and I are running around like headless chickens, dressed as pirates, script in one hand, mic tape in the other, chasing children to where they need to be and handing them foam swords, all to ensure the show runs as smoothly as possible - off stage at least...

After all the madness we get a bit of a break until auditions roll around in May for the next show, if you or anyone you know is aged 8-21 and interested in performing, please check out the production company's website to see if there are any auditions near you!


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