Since the last blog I’ve been the busiest I’ve ever been. It’s been production week and the actual show of Scousers on the Rampage, so I’ve laid this week’s blog out in a diary format, to give you an insight into how being an MD on a variety show works.
Monday – Rehearsals
On Monday we spent most of the time working on the dance routines and getting them boxed off. ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ was the opening number, and it’s one of the hardest songs to sing, let alone sing and dance to – it is nicknamed in the business ‘You Can’t Stop to Breathe’. We worked on this as well as a few other numbers such as ‘Thriller’, and an original song written by one of the cast. The original song was one of the only tracks in the show using a backing track, as it was too electronic to be able to recreate in the pit with the four piece band (keys, guitar, bass and drums).
Tuesday – A Run/Maker of the Scouse
Tuesday was spent running the items that we already had for the show to try out a running order, and working on ‘Maker of the Scouse’, our biggest number, with the full company and Margi Clarke. It was a hilarious experience – Margi was brilliant, she had really mastered the character of the School Cook and the energy in the room was really high. We also had the band in rehearsals for the first time, which lifted spirits and took the show to another level. This was quite stressful for me as I had to keep the band and cast in time, but it was a great experience, too, and the rehearsal worked out well.
Wednesday – Solo Numbers
I spent most of my time on Wednesday working on the solo numbers with people, including versions of ‘Jar of Hearts’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and ‘Chasing Cars’. I spent the time today checking them all, and cutting parts of them to make the show shorter as there was so many acts. All the singers picked their own songs, choosing popular hits and songs they felt would show their voices off in the best possible way.
Thursday – The Pit and Rehearsal
On Thursday I spent the afternoon up in St Helens at the Theatre Royal seeing the pit and working out who was going to go where. As it’s my first time MDing a show from the pit (in the past I’ve been on stage or in balconies) I was super excited to see it. In the past it’s been difficult on stages and balconies, as you lose the real connection with the cast and what’s happening on stage, so to be able to be at the front seeing everything that’s happening and having eye-to-eye contact with the cast was very helpful. Then we headed back to Liverpool (fitting in a nice restaurant in between) for a rehearsal with the full cast – the show was really coming together at this point, and starting to look promising…
Friday – Final Day of Rehearsals
Friday was spent going over and over and over everything that needed to be practised. This can be – and was – a tedious process, as ‘Maker of the Scouse’ had been rehearsed 22 times by this point. It was all worth it in the end though, as I believe that it’s better to be bored in a rehearsal and have the most amazing time in the show, than to be worried during the show that you hadn’t rehearsed enough.
Saturday – A well-deserved day off.
Sunday – THE SHOW!
The band arrived at the theatre around 9am to begin setting up for the show. The sound check was one of the easier ones I’ve done, as usually drum mics can cause huge problems and drum sound checks give you a headache just from listening to them – however this one was quick and smooth thanks to our brilliant sound guy Conrad. Everything went to plan, so the sound check took about two hours, and we then a run through of all the numbers before the cast arrived to begin tech-ing at 1pm.
We began tech-ing from the top of the show, and at around 4pm it was clear that were problems with both the running order and the length of the show. It was taking too much time for people to get changed and realise they were meant to be on stage. Whilst this wasn’t really anybody’s fault, the show had to be re-jigged. I had no say in the re-writing of the running order, but after several re-jigs most things had been run, and the running order was eventually finalised at 6.50pm. I stood out on the keyboard stand at exactly 7pm with the announcement already starting. With a 1 2 3 4… we were off!
The show was a great success and went down a storm. Comedian Mickey Finn was on top form and really kept the show alive during the few minor hiccups that happened due to the running order changes. For example, when the act named Riverdance couldn’t physically get to the stage when they were announced, he came on and said “Sorry, we are just waiting for the tide to come in!” – we in the pit quite liked that one. In addition to Mickey’s great jokes, the band were brilliant and definitely lifted the atmosphere of the show.
In a few blogs time I’ll be able to post some videos from the show, and you can see what a great time we had doing it.