Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My West End cabaret experience

As a part of the 12-week Sunday intensive musical theatre course I took at the American Musical Theatre Academy of London, known just as AMTA, my course mates and I got this amazing opportunity to perform in a cabaret at Charing Cross Theatre (i.e. actually in the West End) with an ensemble and four West End soloists.

Insane About Broadway at Charing Cross Theatre
On 29th April 2012 at 19:30
Main soloists: Kenneth Avery-Clark, Mark Goldthorp, Alice Fearn, Kirsty Hoiles

Our call was at 10:30am. It really wasn't my morning: Not only did I succeed in getting lost while changing tubes at Earl's Court underground station (note to self: never change there, however desperate you are) but I also had trouble finding the theatre. It is slightly hidden from view with the entrance in an alleyway underneath an arch which read something like 'Arches Shopping' over it. In addition, it was still down on the maps under its former name: The New Players Theatre. Obviously I did successfully arrive in the end, otherwise this blog post would cut rather short. 
Charing Cross Theatre is one of those gorgeous, old-looking venues. You know when you think of the word 'theatre' as a building, you probably think of the interior as something like Charing Cross Theatre. It seats 275 people so it is decent size as well: very nice for a cabaret.

Fave! Me with Elaine and Bronwyn in Skid Row

Alice's gorgeous shoes.
Kaisla's Dorothy shoes.
We only had the theatre for the day of the cabaret so we did all the tech and finalised the blocking then. Of course we had blocked all the ensemble numbers previously but we did not actually know whether it would work on the stage we had or not (mind you, we did have to make a fair number of changes due to things like the stairs on either side of the stage not being lit enough for people to stand on them during numbers). The best you can do is keep track on all the changes. Preparing for this cabaret really made me realise what a huge responsibility each ensemble member has. A group of people put on stage together does not automatically transform into an ensemble but each person needs to put in maximum effort in order for the ensemble to function.

Alice, who had a matinee to do at Shrek the Musical (she in in the ensemble playing the Sugarplum Fairy and Gingy as well as understudying the role of Princess Fiona), rehearsed her solo numbers and duets first. I decided to sit and watch. Alice was on as Fiona when I went to see Shrek last August. She was brilliant in the part and I absolutely loved her voice. While I was sitting there listening to the rehearsal progress, the realisation that I would get to be a part of all this finally hit me. I smiled and snuggled deeper into the comfortable, cushioned seat absorbing in that special theatre atmosphere which I have grown so very fond of. It was great watching the professionals work, you can really learn a lot by doing that although sometimes they make you roll your eyes by saying how badly they did even though it sounded perfect to you. Obviously Kenneth, Mark and Kirsty also had fabulous voices (go Google them all!). I listened with particular interest to Kirsty's rendition of Somewhere That's Green from The Little Shop of Horrors as that is one of the songs I have recently learnt but have not had the chance to perform anywhere yet. 

Interval photos, with Michelle, Elaine,
Bronwyn, Claire and Rachel
Everyone shared one small dressing room which, as I am sure you can imagine, ended up hot, stuffy and crowded. I took forever getting ready as usual. Apparently I also looked too pale on stage and I was trying to figure out how to dispose of the problem without ending up looking orange. Clothing-wise I had only brought one dress with me: the only one I own which could be considered vaguely "glam" (I think I need to get some more nice dresses) and which was not extreme in terms of the colour. Some people had brought several outfits and were trying to decide which one to wear for which number.
There were five group numbers: Skid Row from The Little Shop of Horrors, 'Til We Reach That Day from RagtimeSeasons of Love from Rent, One Short Day from Wicked and In Whatever Time We Have  from Children of Eden as well as a group of six girls (Claire, Michelle, Elizabeth, Irina, Elaine and Chiara who all deserve to be mentioned by name because they did an amazing job) singing and dancing to Cellblock Tango from Chicago and most of the boys sang What You Own from Rent as a group number. Some of the students on the full-time programme at AMTA performed solo songs. Incidentally, one of them happened to be Finnish - very surreal but it was nice to chat to someone in Finnish for a change. We also had some of the full-time students doing stage management. Thanks for being such a great help! 

Mark (left), Alice, Kirsty and Kenneth in the last number:
In Whatever Time We Have
Was I nervous? Of course I was. Excited-nervous though, and only just before the show began. I am one of those people who just tends to go into calm-mode. Once I got on stage, I enjoyed being there too much to have any second thoughts. With the number of times we had rehearsed all the songs, there really was no reason to panic. Everything was in muscle memory.

Special thanks to all the people I had the privilege of meeting and working with over the 12-week course, our teachers Duncan, Ross and Alex and Kenneth and Christie for giving us this fantastic opportunity to perform :) I had such a great time on the course and on the day of the cabaret and I suppose it goes unstated that I would love to do something similar again in the future. (Such a sloppy way to end the post...)

I was on a post-show high or something... My "cousin", Lumi, was in the audience :)