Back in October, I told you about the problems I was experiencing as a panto Director: primarily that I had lost all but two of Snow White’s, famously SEVEN, dwarves. In fact I had only managed to recruit five to start with! When I say ‘lost’ I don’t mean mislaid somewhere. I’m talking about people playing dwarves who, for one reason or another, had to drop out of the production.
Since then, disaster has struck not once more but twice. The first time was with about a month to go before the first performance. The second time, the disaster occurred on the night before the second (that is the last) performance. Was this production jinxed, as someone suggested? No, on the contrary, I think the production was blessed. Why? Because we overcame every problem that beset us. “The show must go on!” So, somehow, it did, and to rapturous acclaim I might add. (I’m obviously biased.)
Disaster 1: In November the show’s leading lady, who was playing Snow white’s stepmother, the Wicked Queen, had to reluctantly drop out due to illness. She was very upset, especially as she had already made herself a stunning costume (as well as one for Snow White), that now she would never wear. (At least not in this show.) Knowing how difficult it would be to recruit a new replacement, I felt that without her the production was doomed. Sadly, I consulted the rest of the cast, and was pleasantly surprised by both their reaction and their proposed solution. They suggested that someone playing a minor female role could take the part of the Wicked Queen, and that vacated part could also be filled from within the cast by someone willing to play two parts. Perfect! But who would be willing to take on a new and considerably larger (and more difficult) role, or an additional role at this stage in the production? Needless to say, I’m eternally grateful to the two cast members who volunteered, rather than see the production would up. I was able to go on holiday for a week knowing that rehearsals would continue on my return with a couple of cast changes.
More change than I realised, as it happened. While I was away, as if by magic, a new Activities Manager started work on the Management Team. Told about the panto, she turned up at an extra rehearsal (during my absence), and offered to take on the role vacated by the new Wicked Queen! This meant that no-one had to take on an additional role. Meeting her and seeing her perform in rehearsal on my return, I was well chuffed with the turn of events.
In the next few weeks the cast went from strength to strength. The tickets for both afternoon performances were sold out. Despite their nerves, and in front of a responsive panto crowd for the first time, the cast rose to the occasion and delivered a brilliant, much enjoyed and praised show. I was extremely proud of them all.
Disaster 2: Imagine then, the blow when I received a call the next morning, to inform me that a cast member was in hospital with a suspected broken ankle, following an accident! Of course, after expressing my concern for the injured actor, my first thought was about how to fill the gap. Oh s**t, I thought – I’ll have to do it myself. But, before I could say a word, the person on the other end of the phone offered to do it herself. For it was none other than the actor who had given up the role of the wicked Queen. Even with her health problems, she felt able to step in, as could not only read from the script, but also sit down while doing so. She wasn’t playing the leading lady, but she would be part of the production for one show after all. And she did a fantastic job!
So, jinxed?! Not on your life! This production was blessed with good fortune whenever we needed it. And thank goodness, because it gave the cast performing, and the audience watching, a great deal of pleasure.
(The photo is of the bouquet given to me, as Director, by the cast.)