Staying Shiny

My life as a Uber-geek in a Bridal world

Oliver Musical - My Last Three Months

Thieves kitchen, or as it affectionately became known backstage "Hell's Kitchen"

I have been very quiet in the blog world the last few months because I have been hard at work on the musical Oliver.  It was quite the experience.  I worked as the stage manager on the show and for those of you who have no idea what that means, let me tell you it's a huge job!  I had the privledge of working with a very wonderful Director and his team who made my job just a little easier.  I thought I'd share m experience with you so you can understand the job of a stage manager a little better and maybe if you are ever involved in a stage production make sure to thank your stage manager for all they do.

I got the job with the show just a few days before rehearsals started so I had to play a little bit of catch up at the beginning.  Usually I have the script read a few times and my show script prepped to add blocking and calls to it as well as have a contact list for all cast and crew made before the first rehearsal but I didn't have much of a chance to prep on this one.  Day one consisted of passing out scripts and compiling names/phone/emails of all the cast members then after a quick sing through of the show I headed home to compile my email list of over 80 names.  It took me nearly all night but it made the daily emails much faster by only having to type in one group instead of 80 addresses.

The next few months consisted of work (my regular job) followed by rehearsal every night and then home to answer emails regarding the show.  It made my day last from 8:00 am to about 1:00 am Monday to Saturday.  While I was unable to make it to Saturday rehearsals due to my work schedule, I had some awesome assistants who made sure there was always someone there to run things as smoothly as possible. While I was quite exhausted at times, J was super supportive and we had such a great cast and crew that I was able to get through it all without any breakdowns.  Even for having such a huge cast (and so many of them related to each other as well) there were no major fights or issues to deal with.  Everyone got along pretty well with each other and even the few who had the potential to be "problem kids" turned out to be great to work with and more than willing to help in any area I asked.

Having 2 casts for a show can be a bit challenging.  It's important to have the children's roles double cast in a show like this to keep them from getting too exhausted especially with a 3 week run of the show but it poses more challenges in rehearsal.  It was a balancing act to make sure everyone got equal rehearsal time and that nothing was missed.  There were a few times that I had to deal with slightly upset parents who felt that it was too much time/too late in the day/issues with changing schedules etc. but for the most part everything was worked out quickly and the kids all seemed to enjoy themselves. It was interesting to watch each cast (Apples and Banana's) develop and see the kids growth.  At first the Banana cast was quite a bit stronger, but in the end the Apple's gave them a run for their money!  I was so proud of both.  Having 2 casts also makes for a slightly different show between the two nights.  The Oliver's were both awesome but had much different strengths on stage.  Same with the 2 kids that played the Artful Dodger.  In each cast the Oliver/Dodger pairing was a boy and girl (Apple cast had a male Oliver and female Dodger while the Banana cast had a female Oliver and male Dodger)  They seemed to really click with each other and play off each other very well.

I was so happy to have things running so smoothly that we even had the set in a week early and the cast had plenty of time to adjust to working on it!  The only problem with that was I hadn't arranged for a crew that early so I spent about a week doing a lot of the set changes myself and re-injured my shoulder again, but it was fun!
Oliver set design

Set, one week before opening
Once we got into the run of things it went amazingly well.  J was by my side in the booth running the light board every night which was great because we hadn't really seen each other in 2 months (between work and rehearsals for me and work and coaching football for him)  Unfortunately on opening night the Director's wife had a stroke part way through act one and they were rushed to hospital in Calgary.  (She made an amazing recovery but it was sad to not have them there for the full run)  There were other minor disasters here and there (illness in the cast causing one of the leads to not be able to perform one night, family members getting ill, small fights between the kids, someone calling 911 from backstage as a prank) but everyone pulled together and made it the best show possible.  

Closing night the crew even put on a spoof night for the cast (in which I played Bill Sykes and J played Nancy...mostly so he could kill me by throwing me off the back of the set) and it went over amazingly well.  It was the first time that LMT has had a spoof night and I hope we started a new tradition.  For those who don't know, spoof night is when the crew performs the show for the cast, making fun of things that have happened during the run and some of the general silliness involved in the show.  I had to pare down 10 pages of ideas the crew had come up with into a 10 minute sketch but it went pretty well for being a last minute idea.

As a stage manager, my job is to be boss, friend, sounding board, organizer, problem solver, teacher, councillor and many more things.  It was worth it!  This was one of the best shows I have had the pleasure to work on and the people I worked with really were what made it so special!  I can't wait to see what next year will bring.

Here's a few of my favorite pics from the show

Bulletin board backstage featuring the kids homework - a short story of how they became and orphan.  And Lionel Richie

Banana Cast warmup before the show.  There's me by the piano
Banana Cast warms up
Some of the Orphans "dirty" feet.  This show used a ton of stage dirt every night
Food Glorious Food
Who Will Buy - Rose seller, Strawberry seller and Milk Maid
The Sowerberry's - Oliver's escape
Consider Yourself - Oliver and Dodger Apple Cast

Awesome Stage crew setting "Hell's Kitchen"

Nancy in Oom Pah Pah

Fagin with some of his little thieves

Bill Sykes falling from the bridge after being shot

Widow Corney and Mr. Bumble - I Shall Scream

Nancy, Bet and some of the tarts in the Three Cripple bar

Doctor Grimwig - "I'll eat my head"
Bill Sykes confronts Fagin

Bill Sykes sneaking up on Nancy right before he murders her

Banana Cast - curtain call
Green room shenanigans at midnight....every night

My closing night gift - The "Tony Workhouse Award" for best Stage Manager 2011


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