If the sales on my internet auction are anything to go by, I should be a millionaire from it by the year 7499. I didn't mention, when I wrote about my ill-fated attempt to buy a CD from a particular ebayer that he held me in possibly less contempt than I hold the buyers of my ebay-sale of choice - Starlight Express on CD. Whenever I get notification that someone has bought this, I shout "Sucker!" very loudly at the screen. Admittedly, I then ship them a mint-condition CD and they come back and are very happy about it. My advice, don't buy it from me. I wouldn't be able to afford to sell it at a profit on ebay if it were not very easy to buy at a much cheaper price than the one I'm selling at.
Anyway, one of the comments on my feedback from the ebay auctions resonated with me. One of the buyers of Starlight Express expressed his gratitude that he'd been able to get the disc. Apparently he saw the show a few years ago and had been hankering after the CD since. Clearly he's never heard of the world's most well-known internet brand (named after a river); the CD is hardly a scarce commodity. However, the point is that people are willing to pay money to relive, or reenjoy something of a good night's entertainment they once had. I have my own copy of this CD and, though it's listenable, it hardly stands up very well on its own. I enjoyed the show when I was there to see it in all its glory and I am glad I listened to the CD afterwards. We like to be reminded of things we enjoyed experiencing. It's part of the human condition.
In some ways, I'm humbled every time someone mentions the CD of The Musical! of which numerous copies were sold or given to well-wishers. When someone, who expects to come to the show next month, asks if it's okay to sing along... well, that is an incredible compliment and words cannot express how that feels. Don't get me wrong. I'm not getting all mock-choked-up about this. I'm touched to feel that there's a possibility that I have (co)created entertainment that lingers beyond the moment it happened, but I'm also mystified by it. I can't quite believe that anyone would care that much about the bizarre things that spill out of my fevered imagination. Best, I think, to continue doing what I'm excited about and hope I can have a stab at bringing some other people along for the ride in the future.
I've written before about the responsibility involved when you write music, I'll not repeat myself. I only hope that I have the good sense not to inflict too much of my lesser ideas on an unsuspecting public. I have a horrible sinking feeling about my hugely over-prepared James Bond theme... it may never be any good. I shall have to decide quickly whether to cut my losses on that one and burn it. Or maybe I'll sell it on ebay to some mug!
I like seeing a show open (I did that with The Producers and Jerry Springer - or at least, I was there in previews for them). I'm excited about next week's trip to see a show close (Jerry again... though admittedly, there's a bit more to it than just watching a show close). When it's a show you're involved in... well, that's a whole different kettle of fish to jump into (I know that kettle stuff makes no sense, but it's a quote, so worry not).
We started preparing for Guys and Dolls back in September. I was freshly back from the Fringe and I drove to Durham to see a talk on the show. I think I was freshly enough back that I still had some hired equipment for Edinburgh in my car. Soon after the talk (within a week) I went to the first singing rehearsals. In September and October, the songs were learned. In November, we started on the floor. By a rehearsal in late December I knew enough of the show that I could have attended a full run through and played my part without needing a script in my hand. In January I rehearsed something like 16 times. Since the start of this month, I have had one day without the show.
We opened on Tuesday (having run through pretty well on Monday) and played to packed houses throughout the week. Tickets were at the late 90's in terms of their percentage sales. We did two shows today and the show is done. All that preparation for a mere week with the show. It's almost heartbreaking.
In some respects it's good to do it for only a week. You get into your stride, but you don't get to the point of grudgingly saying "Oh... here we go again". In other respects, it's a real shame to see all that work become irrelevant. Sure there are people who have had a great night. In fact, I was stopped at the petrol station this morning by a couple of people who saw the show on Thursday (and who are known to me, so they weren't quite random strangers) and who really enjoyed it. However, the disappointing thing is that all the knowledge is now of no use. I hope to do Guys and Dolls again, hopefully in a different role, but what I know of this production won't help me a great deal. Productions like ours are unique entities born out of the particular combination of director and cast. I hope that ours was a damned good version of the show (indeed, I shall be comparing it to the West End version due out a bit later this year, I hope).
The down side is the post-production withdrawal symptoms. After a week of listening for cues, you start to hear them in random things in every day life. You leave the theatre at the end of show week with the songs running round your head and having formed a routine for getting around the make-believe world via the back-stage area. My special system for pocketing dice and money so I can quickly use them will be of no use to me anymore. My silly facial expressions and accent will be of limited use in the future. My suit, which looked very fetching, has gone back to the costume makers. All in all, the party's over.
Living through a show week
It's been said that a show can be a half a stone in weight lost. Given that I have a lot of weight that I want to lose, this is no bad thing. I feel that the costumes left me a lot looser than when I got them. This may be because they stretched as I used and abused them (I wore a white shirt, waistcoat and trousers underneath my suit, shirt and tie for the whole show, bar the end when the outer layer came off and I was quickly able to pull on a white tailcoat and tap-shoes). I think I must have lost weight this week, and perhaps I'll do the same on the week of the 22nd. It's not before time.
Today I wore a shirt which I bought from Asda in December. I tried it on when I got home and it wouldn't fit. After Christmas's cycling, it fit comfortably and there was definitely a bunch of room in it today. So, I've recently been bigger and I'm currently not as big as that particular bigger. I also ain't twiggy!
Why do you lose weight in show week? Well, there's a bunch of running up and down stairs to the dressing room. There's a lot of sweating on the stage and perhaps there's nervous energy making your metabolism run faster. First and foremost, I don't really find the time to eat and my appetite has wavered. Today, for instance, I ate a couple of sandwiches at lunch-time (in the car on the way to the theatre, along with a couple of chocolate chip cookies - I reckoned it couldn't do no harm) and then had nothing other than diet coke or coffee until I returned tonight where I managed a couple of bananas and some soup. The fact that there are no late night shops open and that I have no supplies in the house contributed to this abstention from a massive calorific intake. Last night I took a late night trip to Asda for something to settle my rumbling stomach. As a rule, though, in a show week, I've found it hard to take in as many calories as go out. At the moment, I'm pretty tired and dehydrated. It's a good way to pull those reserve calories out of the flab and into use. Probably.
The energy levels this week have also been compromised by my total addiction to late night conversation or internet-use. I have been going to bed far too late and even managed to sleep for virtually no time one night. This is not incredibly wise for a show week, but I survived it unscathed. In fact, my life would probably be less enjoyable if I didn't follow my instincts and push my energy levels to their limits if I need to. I have had a really really enjoyable week. I only hope that this coming week doesn't come with the post-show blues I've experienced before. I should imagine that the rigours of the week, culminating in a busy but undoubtedly joyous weekend, will keep me in good spirits.
Stuff goes wrong in shows - that's part of the fun of live theatre. Usually it's little things, like when I forgot my hat about 90 seconds before my scene was about to start and had to run up to the dressing room to get it and then run back and then catch my breath (today's matinee). There was also the time that I accidentally dropped my dice into the middle of the floor at an inappropriate moment. I casually picked them up when I had a chance. I even nearly juggled with the dice on one occasion. These moment may or may not compromise the audience's reaction to the scene, but they're nothing spectacular.
At the matinee today, I rolled some proper dice twice and they were scripted to come up as "Snake Eyes" and they did, both times. Weird. I heard giggles from the male chorus and had to struggle to keep from laughing as I went downstage for my line. Previously in that same matinee, I nearly laughed during a line and nearly set off one of the other cast members. Nobody saw and nobody knew what I found so funny. All we had to do was run across the stage, with me at the tail end shouting "Wait a minute, I'm losing 10 g's". What was funny? Well, I'd developed a silly run. It made me laugh because I could see how ludicrous it might look and I also knew that I'd done it instinctively, rather than created it. In other words, this was Big Jule (my character) telling my body what to do... perhaps my comedic instinct was partly in there, since I discovered this movement while in front of an audience. I can't describe how my run looked except that it looked a bit like someone running energetically almost on the spot - knees pumping high - while waving their hat and moving relatively slowly across the stage. In the suit and with my huge frame, this will undoubtedly have been comical, if not actually funny to anyone but me. I enjoyed myself, that's the main thing!
we lost the leading lady in one scene, earlier in the week. She'd missed her call and was still in the dressing room. This led to the mission band having to do an unscripted run through of their song until she was found and brought in. Given that the show is usually unstressful as far as I am concerned, it was one of the few moments of stress that I encountered. I am in the dressing room for the first hour of the show, in no rush to get dressed, since I'd only my solitude and a few games of scrabble to look forward to. By the time I got to the stage, the show would be in full swing and people would not be in a mood of anticipation. My performing nerves are minimal usually, so nothing would get to me at all. Arriving in time for one's scene to see the previous scene in limbo and everyone looking worried is quite an experience. It sorted itself out and the audience enjoyed the show. No worries.
I spend a lot of money on my performing moments. Rehearsing a show costs a great deal of petrol and travelling, along with having to buy things to use or wear on stage (not the costumes, necessarily, but accessories like braces or shoes or whatever). Guys and Dolls will have personally set me back a few hundred all in. Since June, my stand-up has not quite paid for itself, losing only tens of pounds on petrol vs fees, though I still have to pay for the car to be serviced (I'm not factoring it into my accounts) and the cost of being away from home at meal times. My last gig cost me 5 pence more in petrol than my fee. To reiterate, I pay to perform. So if I'm doing it as a hobby almost, why should I fear it? I'm choosing to be up there doing my thing. There's no need to be nervous.
Not everyone feels this way. Sometimes, the pressure of a particular performance will get to me, though that hasn't happened for quite a while now. I remember one exchange between myself and my co-performer in Edinburgh:
Me: You look worried. What's up?
Him: The show.
Me: What about it? The ticket sales? The audience?
Him: We're going to go out there and perform it.
Me: I know. We've done it 10 times already. What's wrong with today's.
Him: We're going to perform a show.
Some say that if you don't get nervous then you shouldn't be doing it. I hope that's not true. My only real nerves this week have been about getting the fast change done in time. I go for heightened senses without the pit-of-stomach sense of foreboding. I'll save the pit of my stomach feelings for more positive moments, like the thrill of a kiss or the moments of optimism when something seems to click into place in one's head.
Onwards and upwards
It's time to go to bed. Then I have to be in the theatre in Whitley Bay tomorrow to start work on the next show. A week of rehearsals, interspersed with a gig, and watching two other shows should make for a great combination of new challenges and excellent company.
I feel good.