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Tuesday, February 22

Action packed weekend
The weekend was so action packed, I can only do justice to writing about some of its highlights. As usual, the order of the day involved meeting up with people and seeing or being involved with examples of the performing arts. The weekend was in two parts, the London part and the rest. While the tail end of the weekend was the definite low point, I would have to say that my experience in London was life affirming and joyous. It was hard to fit in a trip to London in between two rehearsals for South Pacific, but I did it and life wouldn't have been as rich if I hadn't.

I set off for the big smoke in plenty of time. I had a leisurely cruise down the A1 and M1, stopping the car at the location where I spent this Christmas. I even had time for tea and chat with the person whose bed I stole for Christmas (he was not around at that time, but was using his bed this weekend). Luckily, my accommodations were sorted out elsewhere; I'd intended to find time to relax in style during the hectic weekend. Well, if you can't enjoy a bit of self-indulgence, what can you enjoy?

Having finished the tea and the chatting, I headed off to my lodgings and sorted myself out. I returned to the streets of London in time to visit a shop that should be my spiritual home - Dress Circle on Monmouth Street. I'm pleased to report that I had already bought something from this shop in the past - online. Visiting this emporium of all things musicals related was quite an eye opener. I was pleased to see that some of their obscurer musicals were in my collection (everyone likes to feel that they're in on some sort of secret) but I was absolutely amazed by the sheer breadth of stuff they had. I chatted to the guy who ran the place about the final night of Jerry Springer The Opera the anticipation of which had me pacing the streets of London looking to fill in time before I could meet my companion for the evening and get into the theatre. It's the little details like the fact that one of the singers (who plays the pole dancer) is pregnant and also due to be the forthcoming On The Town (which I knew was forthcoming... because I'm a sad-act musicals anorak!) which made me feel even more like I was in on the unimportant minutiae of the world of musicals - a world I find fascinating.

Looking for more opportunities to kill some time, I went to chat to the chap holding the "Comedy Night" sign in Leicester Square. It turns out that he'd heard of me. We played a small game of Comedians Geography - "Ooh, have you seen so and so?", "This gig is a good gig.", "Did you hear about such and such a show..." and so on. This comedian was then replaced by a comedian whom I'd met and knew a bit about. If you remember me banging on about Blaized Carmey in November 2004, then you might care that this guy was in the rather surreal show I went to see on November 22nd. Anyway, we had a different game of Comedians Geography and talked about the writing and performing of comedy. I have to say that, though it was cold and I was excited about the evening to come (it was a once in a lifetime evening), chat with this affable chaps in Leicester Sq kept me in good spirits and warm.

Ultimately, it was time to go to the theatre and see the stunning tour de force that was Jerry Springer The Opera. I have to admit that this show is 50 times better than I gave it credit for when I saw it in its previews at that very same theatre. There are two reasons why this is the case. Firstly, the show I first saw was just finding its feet. The cast and technical staff hadn't found how to crank up the power of the show to make it fill the room. This was solved by the time the TV version was made and was never likely to be a problem on the night of the show's grand West-End finale. This was a cast bound to give its all... and they did. The second reason I think I underestimated the show was due to the clever way in which it was written. It's only apparent to someone familiar with the show exactly how many recurrent themes are used and how many little throw-away gems are in there for good measure. Perhaps it's a failing in the writing that it doesn't quite show up until 4th or 5th hearing. Perhaps it's an indication of the level of detail and ingenuity in the writing that one can still find undiscovered treasures when you know the show well. Either way, it didn't fail to impress. There are a few minor problems with the libretto, which seemed bigger when I first heard them. The cast knows how to make sense of every word, which minimised the impact of these glitches, and there are only about 4 of them anyway. Basically, I would be proud to have written something a 10th as good as the show we saw on Saturday.

The pole dancer (she of earlier discussion) nearly stole the show. She certainly stopped the show getting a round of applause DURING her big song while she was singing - the audience couldn't contain themselves. At the end of the show we watched as she was physically knocked back a step by the intensity of the reaction she provoked in the crowd. It was an amazing moment. The show had to wait for the audience. They would have been happy if the song had been repeated, but the cast, professional through and through and probably under orders to keep the show moving as per any performance, took the show onwards. I was so impressed by what I'd witnessed, that I turned to the person to my left and remarked - "she just stopped the show". I think that summed it up.

I've seen three different people playing the lead role in this show. While I think Michael Brandon came across as the reincarnation of Jerry Springer, David Soul gave a witty and charismatic performance which made him the deserving front man of the cast which closed the show this Saturday. There was one amusing moment (for me at least) as Mr Soul officiated at the backslapping ceremony. They'd already dragged writer Richard Thomas from the auditorium onto the stage to take a well-deserved call. David Soul said something like "Well, of course this show is all about people and so it's the people who put it on that we'd like to thank". It was something simplistic like that. I watched the reaction of the writer as he saw his work summed up hastily and inaccurately. It was quite a picture. I'm sure David Soul understands what the show is really about, the trivialisation of feelings that at the heart of these american TV shows, but he was under pressure to close the closing show.

Overall, I was left in awe of the cast and writing team of this show. I was entertained by the big hitters and also by some of the subtleties of the show. In fairness, I was giddy with delight anyway, but I laughed heartily at one bit simply because I thought it was musically quite well-thought out. A very talented cast filled the room with chords of the utmost clarity and beauty. The whole experience was like a surreal dream. I'll never forget it.

Saturday night was, indeed, a night well spent.

Talented cast?
Despite not wanting to leave the haven that was London, I tore myself away and faced the long drive back up North. I was due at the technical rehearsal of South Pacific. It's a tribute to the laws of time, space and the group I was working with that I managed to turn up an hour late and still be early for the rehearsal. While I'd come from a world of excitement, joy and a great company making beautiful music, I was back to the world of the amateur dramatics and stop-start (mainly the former) of a technical run-through. The long drive was stressful, the drudgery of the rehearsal was more so.

There's a happy ending, the dress rehearsal tonight went very well indeed.

There's a sad middle, though. Despite not being prone to performance anxiety, I woke up this morning after a performance-anxiety dream. Transparent symbols - being late for a cue, not having learned the script... Weirdly, this dream was set in the world of the last show I did, rather than this one. However, it's fair to say that it wasn't so much an exaggeration of the show as an example of how things have been looking. The whole thing came together tonight. I missed a cue, but I think I got away with it. We did one scene that we'd been given the lines for yesterday (only one each for three of us) and which we'd never done before... we made the show work. It's a more unnerving experience than other things I've done, because I've become accustomed to the way of working that is common to the other society and my own production ethic - namely detail in abundance up front. However, the show will work and it will be good. I just had to wait until the dress rehearsal to see it. I have no great love for this show, but I will give my all while on stage and try to make it entertaining.


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