Blog from Irving Stage Company
There comes a time in the life of every musical when you suddenly, joyfully realise that yes, it is really going to happen. That is the day when the orchestra arrives for the Germanically-named sitzprobe – the first time actors and musicians come together to perform the score they have painstakingly rehearsed. For Irving Stage Company’s production of Oklahoma! this has been the week of our sitzprobe, with our full cast and 15-strong orchestra gathered at Barrow Village Hall to give the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic our all. I’m happy to say it was a rip-roaring success that left us eager to get the show in front of an audience.
Preparing for our return to our “home” at the Theatre Royal with such a juggernaut of a show has been daunting for all of us involved, but as director I have been cocooned by the support of my company and also the team at the theatre. An amateur company relies on the goodwill of so many people who live busy, professional lives with families who put up with the frequent absences, the warbling of show tunes in the shower, the dieting to get show-ready, the energy-sapping rehearsal schedule. “Amateur” belies the fact that so many of those involved in our shows are trained professionals in music, theatre and dance. My profession is journalism, so I am happy to learn from people who have put food on the table through the business of show
I’ve been with Irving for more than ten years, mostly on stage (my speciality is the comedy cameo but colleagues call it shameless scene stealing) – also marketing, selling programmes, running raffles. It’s my first time directing with Irving, and many years since university days when my youthful hubris allowed me to stage massive shows all over south west London. But I do know this show, inside out, and I love it – Oklahoma! is the place where the musical theatre we know and love today began – it’s properly important.
Let’s put on a show right here! it ain’t. It’s like a jigsaw – when you agree on a show and secure the rights, it all seems so very far away. Seeing it in the TR brochure, watching the little coloured blobs on the seating plan go grey (ie people are buying tickets!) gives you a thrill – and the work is really under way. Singthroughs, auditions, source venues, costumes, set, props … will the surrey fit through the scene dock doors?! (It will) Keeping the bigger picture in mind while the minutiae occupy every waking (and sleeping) thought is perhaps the major challenge, trying to see it all through the audience’s eyes and ears and remember what matters to you when you watch a show.
So my approach to staging Oklahoma! has been what would I want to see and hear, and most importantly of all – how would I want to feel as I leave the Theatre Royal this month? Happy, that’s all.