Vocal warm up.
Physical warm up.
Get in costume.
Check make up.
The House is hot.
Five minutes to places.
On with the Show!
At last, the night the entire cast and crew have been thinking about through all these months of rehearsals. Opening night is here! However, before we can even hit the stage, there is so much that needs to take place.
1. We arrive a minimum of 90 minutes before the show. Some keeners have already been there for an hour or more, but everyone (cast, crew and orchestra) must arrive and sign in at this point.
2. If a special hairstyle is required, it’s attended to now. Each performer was given instructions for their hair (including facial hair) prior to the show by our hair designer Karen. Some cast members required significant work to their hair to have it look appropriate to the time period.
3. Next up, make up. Many of the cast were experienced performers, which meant that they were also comfortable applying their own make up. For a few of the main characters there were extra make up requirements and they spent time with our two make up artists, Reed and Stephanie, to get the proper look for their part. It was always amazing to me to see the young and vibrant Sheri become an older, grey, wrinkled version of Aunt Eller.
After a bit of practice, I was able to apply my foundation and powder, but couldn’t ever quite take to doing my own eyeliner or blush. Ladies, I fully understand why it takes so long to do make up now and will never complain about it again. :)
4. About 45 minutes before the show, “mic check” was called. Every performer had a wireless microphone that was controlled by our sound technician. Each one had to have the batteries checked and/or replaced, make sure it was turned on, fastened securely, and then working on stage. I went through a number of microphones the first few performances as one had a bad connection and one broke in the middle of the show. Although my third microphone was the lucky one and worked the rest of the shows, it was also a good reminder to project my voice loudly when speaking and singing.
During mic check, many of the cast would entertain the rest of the cast with snippets of songs from other shows, rousing speeches, or bits of humour. It was always interesting to see what each person came up with.
5. After mic check, we all went for our vocal warm up into a small storage room that had a piano in it. We couldn’t all fit in it, and many of us spilled out into the hallway. Our musical director Nicola would warm us up by having us sing some musical scales, tongue twisters (try singing the words “Little Wonder” more and more quickly, while staying in tune and in time with everyone else) or a verse or two of a song in the show that we needed to brush up our harmonies on.
One fun anecdote that was related to us later by the crew happened on the Preview night. We had a large crowd and many audience members had arrived at the theatre early. As we were warming up and singing a few verses, a crowd started to gather outside the door closest to where we were singing and they all stopped speaking to listen. I guess they wanted a preview of the Preview!
6. After vocal warm ups (and sometimes during mic check), most cast members would do a physical warm up of moving, stretching, and practicing some dance moves. It helped to get the blood flowing, and made sure that our muscles were limber and ready to go for the three-hour show. This was also the time that actors would check that their props were in place backstage and in working order.
7. With warm ups done, people would gather in the Green Room for a snack, a chat with a cast, crew or orchestra member, or to play games and complete puzzles. Others would finish putting their costumes on and relax in the dressing rooms. Still others would visit or pace the hallways trying to focus. Everyone had different techniques for getting ready for the show and to eliminate any nervousness.
8. An announcement would come over the backstage speakers from Amber, the stage manager. The House is hot! Audience members were filing in to the theatre, and any excess noise backstage should be curtailed.
9. Amber’s next announcement was “five minutes to places”. Cast members would do one final check of their make up and be “approved” by Reed or Stephanie, and then it was time for Places! Quietly, through the double doors between the off-stage area and the stage, people would find their place. Many would greet our backstage help (silently of course), and get ready to go on stage.
10. An announcement would play, the music from the orchestra would swell, and then before you knew it, Morgan was singing about what a beautiful morning it was and the musical was underway. On with the Show…this is it!
- Michael Berger