Back in July 2016, I auditioned for and successfully got the role of The Spirit Of The Ring in Dreams ‘n’ Wishes‘s pantomime “Aladdin & the Lost Christmas.” I wasn’t 100% well at the time but was pretty sure I’d be okay.
I wasn’t okay.
About 6 weeks into rehearsals (and approximately three days after the great big huge photoshoot for said panto) I had to admit to myself that I just wasn’t well enough to do the show. It was unfair on me to keep pushing myself, unfair on the production team to have them keep crossing their fingers for an improvement, unfair on the cast to have to keep acting to an empty space… the show deserved a full time, devoted Spirit. It later got one in the form of the absolutely divinely wonderful Leanne Lyndsey White, who continues to amaze me and I would do anything for her.
Not wanting to lose out on seeing the panto family, I moved to the role of Assistant Director; ordinarily, this would be taking notes, reminding people of positions, prompting, etc. Me being me, I moved over the line into actual directing as I liked to do so. John (director) didn’t seem to mind this, so I carried on and it seemed to work quite well. Our daughter’s rehearsals were going well – she was one of the ‘Littlies’ this year and so got to be a dancing panda and reindeer, plus sing a bit on stage, so I was in proud mum mode. Alex was going to be doing backstage on the shows that Lara was in, this having all been set up when I was still in the show of course, so it continued to be a family event for us.
I went on to the lactose and gluten free diet as instructed by the nutritionist (see previous post) and my health dramatically improved. I felt fine – better than I had done for a really long time.
Time shifted, the show grew slicker and I grew prouder, tinged with a little bit of sadness that I would be missing out on being a physical part of it come showtime.
And into the get in week.
Mon/Tue get in
Wed Tech rehearsal
Thu Dress rehearsal
Fri Dress rehearsal
Sat Two shows, then fourteen more.
I had a call from John at 4.20pm on the Tuesday. He’d had a call too. Our beautiful, talented Princess Jasmine had regrettably had to pull out of the show. And so it was on me to be Princess Jasmine.
Princess. The most un-Amylike role in any pantomime is the Princess role. The graceful part with the chocolate box song. With the hair, and the face, and the slender figure, and the… just not me. I’m the idiot that runs around like a loon, throwing herself into custard pies, faking slapstick injuries, the one with the silly hair and rouged nose, cracking jokes and whipping the audience up. Seriously? Me? Is there no-one else? But how? I just… I… the show… the costumes… it…
So I did it.
With my brilliant daughter willing me to learn the lines, and the songs, and the dances, I spent 5 hours cramming. Having directed for the past six weeks definitely helped – I knew where I needed to be on stage, who to talk to, roughly how the harmonies sounded. I recorded all my scenes on Garageband and played them over and over and over and over. In the car, at home, on my lunch break. I ran through the dance routines over and over, imagining where the rest of the cast were in my living room.
I went to work the next day in a dreamlike state having fried my brain the night prior. I calmly explained to my manager that yes, I was looking forward to the show, and actually I was going to be in it now, and I might be a bit distracted today as my head is full of lib, and sorry. Kind words came in from the cast and our wonderful Jasmine via Messenger. Straight on to the theatre for the tech rehearsal. I had my director hat on so didn’t have much time to think about being Jasmine. An opportunity for a night of cramming gone, familiarity with the staging won. On to the dress rehearsal on the Thursday night. Somehow, just somehow, the costumes fitted. Me. The size 14. Something to do with empire lines. My ‘Elsa’ shoes went with every outfit. Me, the woman with such little jewellery, happened to have a different necklace for each outfit, perfect for the overall look (and yes, I did wear my Jasmine cosplay’s necklace for one of them). Somehow, the words came out right, and instant relationships between my new character and the others seemed to gel. I flubbed my way through dancing in the finale, realising after the first 8 bars that I knew the dance from over on stage right as the Spirit Of The Ring, but had no idea what the Princess did in the centre of the stage. For that night, a lot of singing to the audience and marveling at all the lovely people dancing around me. And we did the same again on the Friday night.
And then we were on.
And it was brilliant.
And for the first, and probably the last time, I got to be a panto princess.
And we all lived happily ever after.
And as for next year? Well, there’s news about that too…