Thursday, August 15, 2013

Things Theatrical

After all the weeks of house changes that created enough turmoil and of which there is still plenty of evidence; all last week the house was in even bigger chaos with the addition of putting together and rehearsing “Champagne Charlie” for last Sunday evening at the old school – a sort of dress rehearsal before the whole kit and caboodle is packed up this week and shipped to the UK to be ready for the performance on September 27th at Wilson’s Music Hall, and there’s a lot to ship out. It’s hard to credit now but when the show was first performed everything could be transported in a Mini. I was asked how many musical numbers there are and the answer is 22 with 15 changes and part changes of costume. Each costume is an exact replica of one that Leybourne would have worn when performing, as illustrated on the covers of his sheet music. I see Stuart Yeomans and Judy North have put some photos on Facebook. The performance of course was without lighting or any specials effects and before it started Douglas delivered a little speech in Greek informing our Cretan friends as to what it was all about. We also had some old programmes from previous productions and a note in Greek was slipped inside. This didn’t stop the Greeks from yapping, especially one woman whose voice really carried. But that’s the Cretans for you. They simply can’t stop nattering. They’re at it the whole time even in church. Maybe, as happened in Germany with the kids talking now and again through “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” they were telling each other what was going on. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
The only scenery is a large ornate screen behind which the costume changes take place. The shortest is 8 seconds, the longest 1.43.
My original credit was “Written & Directed by” and the changes are covered by interjections from the pianist with various bits of information pushing the story along; letters, newspaper articles, announcements, etcetera. The band at Wilton’s, as with previous performances, will consist of pianist, trombone and cornet to give that plaintiff Victorian brass band sound. But Sunday of course there was no pianist so I stepped in to perform his bits. The music was recorded.
Some friends had indicated they would like to see it, or in Victorian parlance, “hear it,” so we let the word spread and were delighted to have an audience of over fifty, Cretan and Ex-pats, with many faces we had never seen before.
Every window was wide open but despite the midsummer heat everyone gave all the appearance of enjoying themselves, joining with gusto in singing the chorus when invited. Easy peasy with famous and well-known songs like “The Man On The Flying Trapeze,”  “Champagne Charlie,” and “Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me A Bow-wow,” but even the less familiar ones or even totally unknown went down with enthusiasm and the show was a great success. How Chris managed to keep up the energy in that sweltering heat amazed me and I was delighted to find he was in such good voice. I was always of the impression that the voice degenerates with advancing age but his singing was stronger than ever. It was all very well doing a two hour one-man show back in ’84 but almost thirty years on it seemed a bit rash to take it out of mothballs. So Wilton’s will be the very last performance and if you happen to be in London on the 27th September with the evening free, think about it. I promise you, it’s great fun. And while I’m talking theatre I am still looking for a composer to work on an opera.
Still on matters theatrical I read with sadness on Facebook that the Wayside Theatre in Middletown, Virginia is to close after 52 years. Why the sadness? Well I did one summer season at The Wayside – 1985 – and still have the fondest memories of what was one of the happiest theatre experiences of a long life with a wonderful company. As I commented on Facebook, the highlight was probably playing the slave Pseudolus in “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To The Forum,” But the last production of the season also carries happy memories; the privilege and sheer joy playing opposite Anne Lyndrup, a beautiful and consummate actress, in Coward’s “Private Lives.” To quote from Champagne Charlie, “Oh, they were good days, good days, how could they last?” Only in memory. Some photographs, some programmes, some newspaper reviews, some friends still in touch, and memories.