This is a Journal entry by Lbclaire

Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 1

Lbclaire

In a blatant and unrepentant copy of David P and Pimms' journals about their exploits in amateur dramatics, I'm starting up this journal entry on the latest show I'm doing with my local group: 'Half a Sixpence'. I don't know if it'll interest anyone, but if nothing else it'll allow me to grumble and moan about how badly they cast it (ie not giving me a main part smiley - winkeye), how no-one knows their lines, how people don't turn up for rehearsals etc. Hopefully it'll also contain something about having fun and enjoying myself! smiley - smiley

Half a Sixpence is based on H.G. Wells's novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul. It's one of those cheeky chappie, cockney (though we've been told it's more 'estuary English' than cockney) English musicals, with a rather thin storyline but some rolicking chorus numbers and some nice solos and duets. It was made into a film in 1967 starring Tommy Steele (scarily cheerful and now quite old rock and roll idol and musical theatre star) and Julia Foster (known to English people as the woman off the insurance commercial with Michael Winner ('Calm down dear, it's only a commercial!) and strangely enough Castaway and Animal Park presenter Ben Fogle's mother).

We've only been rehearsing for a few weeks, but as there's loads of chorus dancing and singing, rehearsals are moving along quite swiftly - much more than they did for the Mikado, our last show, where there wasn't as much for the chorus to do.

Last night we set 'Crash, Bang, Wallop' - the big chorus number and the one everyone knows (cor blimey, crash bang wallop, what a picture!). I was rather p***ed off at the beginning as I was stuck at the back on a balcony not doing any dancing at all, and I started to get paranoid about how bad my dance audition had been. Dancing is not my strong point - acting is, then singing - but I didn't think I'd done that badly. But then I was brought down onto the stage and given a little ten second bit in one of the verses, just a dumb-show thing, so I was a bit happier. I'm still concerned about how much they'll let me dance in the rest of the numbers though. I really enjoy the dancing; I don't pick it up very quickly but I practice and once I get it I'm fine.

Anyway, it seemed to go alright but there are an awful lot of people on that stage...

Then we sang through another number which is tricky for the sopranos as it's supposed to be sung by just the men, so the sopranos have to sing an octave down. Of course, half of us remembered to drop an octave but then couldn't remember the harmonies (I was in this half) and half forgot and were screeching away doing the top notes. In the last bit, everyone reverted to the tune so I gave up and joined in. There is some very hard, high stuff for the sopranos in this musical - more so than in the Mikado, which surprised me. I'm not a high soprano, I'm naturally a mezzo, so find my voice gives up on me if I have to sing lots of top Gs and As again and again, without being able to push it out.

Anyway, that's enough blathering on for the moment. I've got another rehearsal tonight, but that's for a concert we're doing in three weeks. I volunteered for it before Christmas and wish I hadn't now, as I could really do with some nights in. smiley - yawn


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 2

David B - Singing Librarian Owl

Getting the sopranos to join in with a male chorus is very mean - imagine the chaos if the men had to sing an octave up! Lots of practice and you should be fine, though!

I find with 'Half a Sixpence' that I have no sympathy for the male lead character, what with him abandoning his sweetheart and so on (although, yes, we do get the good old happy ending). He may be cheerful, but I don't like him! The songs are good fun, though.

I'm sure you'll get to do some dancing (I secretly enjoy it, as well, it's just the choreography process that I don't like) in the other numbers - there are plenty of them! How many people are in the company?

smiley - goodluck with everything. smiley - smiley


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 3

Lbclaire

Yes, I know what you mean about Kipps. He is a pretty shallow character. But the chap playing him is quite cheery and charismatic, so I daresay he'll pull it off.

Goodness only knows how many people are in it, as judging by the Mikado we won't get a full cast until the first night smiley - winkeye. There are probably around 35-40 but don't quote me on that.

There are loads of people in the group - almost enough to have a completely different cast for every production. And there's a new production team for each show, which is different to my last operatic society.

Thanks for the smiley - goodluck.

smiley - smiley


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 4

Pimms

Linking the shows - what did Tommy Steele have to do with Me and My Girl? As you say he was in the film version of HAS, and currently is starring in the London cast of Scrooge.

A totally different cast possible for every show? That must make auditions really stressful. You can certainly take pride in getting into the cast at all. I always console myself when I don't get a principal role that the director had a different vision of the person he wanted in the role which I didn't fit (not because my dancing is dire and my singing is not 100% reliable)smiley - winkeye


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 5

David B - Singing Librarian Owl

I can imagine Tommy Steele playing Bill in 'Me and My Girl'. I don't think he ever has, though. In a way, the roles of Bill and Kipps are quite similar, but Bill has much more audience sympathy, seeing as he stays true to his girl and all that. They're both lower class men who end up in high society and both roles require triple-threat performers (actor, singer and dancer).


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 6

Lbclaire

Yes, Bill is definitely more sympathetic. Kipps is a big role though - I think he's in eight numbers, and as you say, has to sing, dance and act. In fact, there was only one man who auditioned for the part (sob, why couldn't I be a man?).

Thanks for the consolation, Pimms. Luckily, everyone who wants to gets to be in the chorus - auditions are only for principal roles. In my last society, you had to audition for every show, even if you just wanted to be in the chorus, so the pressure is off here, I suppose (unless you want a principal role).

Trouble is, I've been spoilt as I hadn't done a musical since university, and I'd just been doing plays where I consistently got good parts. I think I got a bit used to it so not getting a part in my second show with this group came as a bit of a shock smiley - winkeye. Trouble is musical groups don't often cast on acting above singing and/or dancing, so I need to improve in those areas first.


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 7

Pimms

I was in a similar situation. Good parts in plays then joined a musical group and could only aspire to the ensemble smiley - sadface. But the ensemble is hard work, and I've been told my singing and dancing have both improved as a result smiley - magic.
It only took four shows to get my first role out of the ensemble smiley - erm. Think: Roy Castle "Dedication, that's what you need" smiley - biggrin I also find there is greater involvement and cameraderie in a society performing musicals - nearly all the members are involved in each show.


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 8

Lbclaire

Yes, that's true, although my drama group is very social so we're all good friends even if some of us miss a couple of plays now and again (I haven't done one since last April). In fact, not getting (or going for) principal parts in the operatic society is a good thing in a way, as it means I can do plays with my other group. Principal rehearsals for the operatic society are on Thursday nights and clash with drama rehearsals. That's why I haven't been able to do any drama since April, when I started rehearsing The Mikado.

Well done for improving your singing and dancing smiley - smiley.


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 9

ismarah - fuelled by M&Ms

ooh - the ins and outs of amateur theatrics and all the dramatics that are bound to ensue! smiley - laugh

Well, maybe that was a little overstated, but still, good idea!smiley - winkeye

Look forward to reading more.

cheerssmiley - disco ismarah


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 10

Lbclaire

Yes, there are definitely dramatics! However, I haven't seen as many so far as with my old group, where the choreographer used to swear at us and walk out every now and again... smiley - winkeye


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 11

Lbclaire

Had another rehearsal last night. We did the 'Buy Me a Banjo' song (Money to Burn). Second chorus number where I'm stuck at the back doing nowt while everyone else is dancing. I'm starting to get paranoid now smiley - sadface. There are two possibilities:

a) I'm going to be used more in forthcoming numbers so they've put me at the back for these two. smiley - smiley

b) I'm crap so they've put me at the back. smiley - wah

Ho hum. I'll just wait and see and try to make the best of it.

On another note (no pun intended), I need to find myself a little keyboard to practise with. I've got an electronic organ at my parents' house but it's too big for us to transport down here. Maybe I'll have to see if they can bring it in their trailer next time they come. Then we have to find room for it...

Oh, and I got told off last night for having my hair cut short as now it won't go up into a bun. smiley - steam


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 12

Pimms

Wig time! In Scrooge some individuals had to wear as many as four different wigs during the show to reflect the characters they portrayed.

Of course you may just be provided with a hat or bonnet as a simpler alternative.

It probably wouldn't hurt to ask the choreographer or director which dance numbers they think they can use you in - raise your profile. They may think you are happy to be at the back, and if you say nothing now they may continue to have a blind spot. Even if they are showing favoritism by using people they already know can hack it from previous shows you may be able to make your own luck by letting them know you exist. In West Side Story I got included in a bit of cartwheeling by showing I could do it (even though I took a few weeks to pick up most other set pieces)


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 13

Lbclaire

Yes, I think it'll be a wig. Hopefully it won't be as hot as the Mikado one. smiley - puff

Trouble with the dancing is that it's not necessarily the people who can hack it who end up at the front...

Cartwheeling - I've never been able to do that, I bow down at your feet! smiley - smiley


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 14

Pimms

The correct smiley of course is smiley - grovel

My cartwheel is only passable - it wouldn't win any prizes, but low talent isn't the same as no talent, and with the male company particularly the director often has to make do with what is available smiley - winkeye

In Hello Dolly the director actually roped in a few ringers (professional dancers that we paid) to do the waiter's gallop. Their jumps and splits were astonishing smiley - wow


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 15

Lbclaire

Wow - that must have been great to watch. In my old society there were a lot of very good dancers, male and female. They were often roped in from other local societies though, and this led to a bit of ill-feeling sometimes when they tended to see themselves as better than the rest of us.


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 16

Pimms

Well the dancers *were* better than us, (but only in the dancing - they weren't asked to sing or act), but they weren't pompous with it. One of them led us in our pre-show physical warm-ups which was helpful, if exhausting - how much do you need to dance and exercise to get hips as limber as theirs?


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 17

Lbclaire

Lots and lots! My sister used to be a dancer and it does take a lot of work! Of course it helps if you're supple to start with, and if you start from a young age. Unfortunately I'm not at all supple - I sometimes wonder if my joints were welded together at birth! smiley - laugh


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 18

Pimms

I remember guiltily now smiley - sadface that in my naive student days in North Wales I was once dismissive of the sister of one of my housemates visiting her who was a trained dancer. At that time I didn't feel it was much of an achievement smiley - blush. Now I am less ignorant of the skills and commitment needed. She is highly unlikely to ever read this but I wanted to smiley - grovel in an open apology.


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 19

David B - Singing Librarian Owl

Dancers are indeed amazing people. I hate them a little bit, I'm afraid, but I admire them greatly.

I don't dance. I follow choreography. More or less!


Half a Sixpence rehearsal diary

Post 20

Lbclaire

I know. I sometimes wonder where I'd be if I'd done dancing as a child instead of horse riding... Couldn't stand the idea at the time though! Now if someone had just said 'Trust me, it'll come in handy in twenty years' time...'


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