So we got to D Day, and team Shoreditch had a hard act to follow after an outstanding Opening Night in which the Dream Team (comprising those juveniles from all three teams who could cope with the pressures of Opening Night ) had wowed local dignitaries and a packed audience to rave reviews.
This was a great feeling to come in on, but also an added pressure. The kids were not legally allowed in the theatre until 10 am, and we kicked off at 10.15 am. They were shown a slightly adapted dance routine for the walkdown (finale) by their Dance Captain, and she also explained the presence of a new prop – a curtain, which was to cover the scene change when a ballet sequence took place, and told them how to deal with this. The children were excited and nervous, adrenalin coursing through their veins as we chaperones hurriedly caught up with any last minute changes ourselves. Caz had called me in the morning to ask if I would be happy to act as Lead Chaperone – essentially the one to make the final decisions on the day. I agreed, not really realizing the implications as such, and to be honest, although not an experienced chaperone, I had worked as a show caller/Stage Manager, depending on which arena you are in, so figured that it would be pretty much the same…
…Big mistake… The kids were fine, the chaperones were bundles of nerves by the end of the first act. There were several quick changes which entailed buttons and bows, we had lost and found socks, masks and noses (don’t ask). Sue the Wardrobe Mistress (we christened her Sewing Sue) worked miracles, her needle flashing in and out at speed. We had been running from one side of the stage to the other, passing kids through scenery doors, under the stage, props got caught on the stairs, we nearly missed 2 cues and at one point had to literally shove the kids on to the stage. By the interval, the shock of it had set in, and I (whilst trying to keep a calm exterior) was dreading the second act because this contained the aforesaid walkdown, which was new because it is only traditionally set at the Dress Rehearsal as it is considered to be bad luck beforehand.
During the interval, the producer, choreographer and dance captain came in to speak to the kids. I explained that any mistakes were actually chaperone errors. Generally though, the producer explained, every show opening was expected to have wobbles, and we were all doing really well.
The second half actually went mainly to cue, some of the principal cast cueing us in from the wings – it was literally a case of everyone pulling together. Someone who was watching the show came back and said excitedly ‘It was Brilliant!’
We had got away with it!
We had a three hour break in between shows and so Little Man and I took one of his friends home to play. They chattered animatedly in the back of the car, excited about the next show.
It was then that I began to shake...
What a difference the afternoon made – it was a second run through, our heads were in the right places, it was a fantastic show backstage, the kids were more confident, we were more confident, and the comforting presence of Caz who knew the storyline inside out was a godsend. And to top it all, the next day the critics reviews for the show came out and we had got the full 5 stars.
Things in life are sent to test you, with the understanding that it will all come good in the end. Things may be bad, they may even sometimes be sad – but ultimately, the Show Does Go On.