A year after I first mooted the idea of a new musical the show was all but ready to go on.
On the final night of the previous Musical I had said to the cast and my fellow director that I had an idea of a new show and I played them the final song. I already had a name for it, Charming.
I quickly outlined the idea I had and there was general consensus that I go ahead and write the show. There was an excitement in the knowledge that we were going to perform an original piece of theatre. That idea alone excited the company I was working with.
But this musical was audacious in its ideas. A basic story of a boy from the country moving to the city and bringing with him his musical tastes. It straight away presented issues of musical preferences and added to that the potential conflict between characters. Of which there was plenty.
We were very excited by the prospect that we were writing some thing that was very different, very new, and that would move our audiences.
It would move them because we planned to kill off our leading male character.
The Musical had the inevitable conflicts between the leading boy and the leading girl. At first they rejected each other but later came together, however briefly.
The death of the leading male was always a risk. How to make it believable. Originally he was to die in a fire, but reality caught up with us when two boys from our school were killed one night in a fire some six weeks before the production. Faced with abandoning the production I restructured the ending, the lead died, but by a different means.
Theatre and performance is all about risk. We took a lot of them. In the second part of the show when the school Talent Quest was on we organised to boo the lead boy off during his performance when he came on and sang his country song. We were after audience involvement and audience reaction and we got it during that scene. Many were surprised by the audaciousness of that act; there was a lot of squirming in seats in that scene.
Then in killing him off we had the lead girl present a monologue to the audience describing what happened and her relationship with him. The actor who played that role was brilliant in it. She reduced many to tears. It took weeks of rehearsal to get it right in the same way that it had taken weeks, months a whole year to get the whole show happening the way we wanted.
Always there is the fear that it will flop. But it was never a real consideration. We knew we had a good show, we knew that it was an excellent piece of theatre. We just hoped the audiences would agree.
As a writer and director there is most definitely a feeling of frightening exhilaration. Your name and reputation is on the line. The quality of your work is under scrutiny. But there was one thing I always had to counter the fear of failure and that was that I had always insisted on a huge rehearsal schedule.
We were ready, I knew we were. It was a week before, we had run a few dress rehearsals with small audiences to gauge reactions. They were all positive. Most were taken by the level of performance we were about to extract from the actors.
The lights went up.
The cast went into action.
Energy was high.
Singers sang as never before, musicians played magnificently, some audience cried at the end, some remained in disbelief at the shows conclusion, expected our leading male to return.
We played nine shows that week, our matinees were to packed houses, schools from all over the area came to see what we were up to.
The benefits to my players were enormous; the benefits to me were the increase in my knowledge of performance and the growth of my own confidence as a writer and director not to mention the massive buzz of exhilaration I received from every performance.