By Sian Couture,
Director

Rehearsals for Irving Stage Company's production of The ProducersThe Producers is the 15th musical that I have directed for the Irving Stage Company. I quite often get asked questions like “where do you start?” “How long does a show take to rehearse?” “who does costumes or lighting for you?” – so I thought it might be interesting to talk about these things.  

Directing each musical is a very different experience, bear in mind that we almost always have a different directorial team, different cast, different support team, however most shows follow a similar journey. 

Once the committee have decided on a production that we feel will suit our company (we try to alternate between musicals and plays to suit our membership and to present variety to our audiences) we apply for the rights. If the rights are available then we book them along with the dates that we would like to perform (having liased with Theatre Royal’s artistic director, making sure that our choice blends with the overall future programme of productions) If rights are not available then we have to go back to the drawing board! 

We then start the conception of a production, with the directing team. For The Producers it is myself as director and Nicola Brazier as Musical director. Nicola is fairly new to this area but has already made a great impact on the local music scene. Nicola was our MD for our last production, Sister Act and is a wonderful lovely talented lady to work with. Glen Connor is our choreographer. Not only does Glen create amazing choreography, he is great fun to work with, always injecting his sense of humour at the right time!  

Alongside the directing team, we organise a support team that work tirelessly to put the production on the stage. To these people, we are truly grateful. We need set designers/builders/artists. Stage manager, backstage/get in and out crew. Marketing team, props, costumes, prompt, front of house, hair and make up. These people give their time generously and freely, without them, we simply wouldn’t have a show! 

Next we move on to the auditions! An exciting, slightly apprehensive time for the team, but, extremely nerve wracking experience for the potential cast! (I could write a book about auditions!) But, to keep this short, for this production we were very fortunate to be able to cast easily and successfully. A combination of regular stalwart members of the ISC and several newcomers.  

The Producers Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Rehearsals well underway

After that it’s into rehearsals! This is generally the most challenging part of the journey! A rehearsal run (14 weeks for this production) requires great commitment from the cast and team. The team spirit and camaraderie of being at rehearsal, supporting each other, whether in a huge demanding lead role or a one line part of the chorus is essential for a successful show. Rehearsals are hard work, they require structure, concentration and some laughter. There will always be hiccups, winter weather conditions, illnesses, personal situations to be taken into account. All in all all, this often demands a lot of flexibility and rejigging from the team to stay on track. 

Alongside rehearsals, our marketing team are busy putting wheels in motion to promote and sell the show… it is an enormous task! Our team, Camille and Christian are doing an amazing job. Poster/programme designed/press, radio coverage/communication with sponsors/photograph sessions. 

Set design for The Producers Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
An early preview of the set in progress.

When it comes to set design, we have alternated over the years of either building or hiring the set. It is usually cost dependant. For The Producers, the committee decided to have one built, one that can be flexibly reused for future plays and musicals. Our set builder Allan has made a superbly interchangeable set, as I write this, we are gathering the team to start splashing the paint on. We are also guided by our company member Liz, who over the last several years has devoted time to painting sets, sourcing props, and has been our health and safety officer during show week. 

The orchestra, is a crucial part of staging a musical production. Nicola has been sourcing players from a pool of excellent local musicians. We have a fantastic orchestra lined up. It is so exciting to hear the orchestra alongside the performers for the first time. A couple of weeks to go for us! 

Next week, I will continue with other important elements of staging a musical such as costumes, lighting and sound. I’ll follow that with the challenges, emotions and excitement of show week. 

Thank you for reading this, I hope it has answered questions for some of you.

Sian.