10 March 2010

This ain't some corny old ballet...

I had a bit of a laugh last night - back in Seattle, a show that had been playing every night for five weeks would be very nearly ready to close. Here, five weeks has only gotten us to Opening Night - and what an Opening Night it was!!!

I woke up yesterday morning with the telltale signs that Celia had oh-so-graciously given her cold to me (grumble): headache, bodyache, snuffly nose, and a throat so sore I could hardly bear to swallow. "Tough luck, body!" I told it, "Tonight is opening, and there's no WAY I'm letting myself be sick!" I gulped down two dayquill, and began packing up my bag with heels, make-up, jewelry, and the super gorgeous gown I found at John Lewis just for the occasion. (Which is still hanging on the back of my wardrobe, smiling at me this lovely morning (afternoon), despite the sad little marks of candy floss on the skirt - more on that later)

It was a 7PM show, so we were called to the theatre at 6:15. I arrived at 5:45, to find the theatre an absolute SWARM of activity - at least four runners were running around the theatre, dropping off flowers, chocolates, balloons, gift boxes, bags, etc to all the various dressing rooms, and ours was literally STUFFED to the brim - both sinks in our room were filled with bouquets, potted plants were all over the floor, mirrors and wall space were covered in cards, Niamh's agent had sent over a magnum of champagne, packed in it's own metal carrying case the size of video equipment carrying cases! The costumes had all been laundered, ironed, steamed, starched, and were looking lovely and brand new - I had only to bring my presets to their required locations (dodging the runners and the cast bouncing around like five year olds at 4AM on Christmas morning), and receive my bag of swag from Wardrobe (cards from the Lord [as he's referred to, which always makes me laugh and feel like crossing myself], a gorgeous fleece jacket with the logo and opening night information embroidered on, fancy soaps, chocolates, truffles...); there were boxes of chocolates and thank you cards everywhere, and a general air of pure excitement. 
The show was scheduled to go up at 7PM, but those dang celebrities just kept milling about the auditorium, I guess! (hee) Sitting downstairs in the substage corridor, we began to take bets on how many times they would be forced to play the "Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats. Tonight's performance of "Love Never Dies" will begin shortly" (final count was 6 - I was off by only one!). The show ran pretty smoothly - Ramin and Sierra kept playing Chicken with the orchestra, trying to see which one would run out of breath to hold the final note of their signature songs longer (with the audience bursting into applause LONG before either gave up!), all the quick changes went lightning fast (as they'd been rehearsed to within an inch of their lives, and the actors were all absolutely pepped up with adrenaline), the audience ADORED it (giving us even more time for changes, as the applause just wouldn't stop at times!), and our only "hitch" (that I encountered) was the Adelphi's resident ghost making his presence known by stealing a leather glove right out from under fellow dresser Beannie's nose (while helping the Horseman with his change [let's just say his costume is fantastically amazing, requires a ton of straps and harnesses, and makes him seem a bit "aHEAD" of the crowd], she set both his gloves on the changing room table, got him into the harness, then went in for the gloves to find only one still there. We went over that room on hands and feet with torches (flashlights), and it has seriously completely disappeared. I kept expecting to hear that evil little snicker from the first Phantom show... 

(We've encountered this guy before: we were warned upon moving in that he has a tendency to move costume pieces around and such, and we've already lost a specific prosthetic glove from that same quick change room. Up in my dressing room, we also had a wine glass fly across the room and shatter on the floor - amusingly enough, just as Janet had mentioned getting a bottle for after the show that night)

Although I have a pretty busy first act (I probably have about 6 minutes of just standing around, waiting for the next change time -in total- in the whole of the first act!), I do have a bit more free time in the second (by which, of course, I mean about 5 minutes between getting everyone ready for The Concert and The Nightmare, and then about 10 minutes after my last change and the end of the curtain call) I quickly redid my make-up, threw my hair into a little 1950's "bump", and had zipped up the back of the dress just as Adam came in, ready to pull the wigs off my ladies, who arrived moments later. Their first reaction: "Oh my! Are we in the presence of royalty?!" ;) I call it my Audrey Hepburn/Grace Kelly dress, though I actually had five different people in the course of the night say that I looked "royal" (having typed that, I realize of course that Grace WAS royalty, but you get what I mean...)

I hung all the final costumes back up in heels and dress, met Janet's family and Annette's partner, then headed down to Wardrobe and headed out the door with them, where we found a whole line of traditional British red double-decker buses waiting to whisk us to the venue! We clamboured up to the top floor, then watched and giggled as the bus took us across London Bridge (looking across the Thames as the lights of the city reflected on the river, and the lights of Tower Bridge made everything look like a picture postcard); we then started down the road past the London Dungeon, the Southbank, then- wait, what?- we were going back across Tower Bridge... Hmm... we never did really find out why we'd taken the scenic route, but we soon arrived at Old Billingsgate Market; long ago, the Fish Market of London (in its handy location right on the river), now, a glorious building of old architecture and a glorious venue for high-end events. Approaching the front door, you peer across the Thames at Tower Bridge and this lovely city, then approach the building itself, with sweeping spotlights (some of them spelling out "Love Never Dies" right on the facade), period-costumed stiltwalkers, plaster elephants, and several people requiring your magic ticket to enter... 
Upon walking inside, you checked your coat and bag at the side, then wandered into an amalgam of Coney Island and Blackpool Pier (they'd obviously gone for Coney Island, but I still got a giggle at vendors with "Candy Floss" (cotton candy) and signs advertising various attractions for 2/4d. You could get your photo taken with your head in the holes, showing you at the beach; you could test your strength at the old fashioned "hit the mallet and see how high you can get it to shoot up" game (obviously, the technical title that), play a whole slew of carnival games that *weren't* rigged in the carnie's favour (throw the hoops over the bowling pins, knock a coconut off a bar, catch a plastic ducky with a ring in its mouth using a fishing pole), a man was wandering around in period costume who would cut out your sillouhette while you waited, there was a palmist who would read your fortune, a dance floor with a really good DJ, a whole area of comfortable beach chairs laid out, and another with large pillows spread around the floor, three bars (on the lower level alone!) with free-flowing champagne, white and red wine, cocktails and spirits (and countless waiters wandering around with bottles to top you up while you weren't looking!!), and the food! 

The first thing we noticed when we wandered in was the candy floss booth - massive puffs of bright pink cotton candy, fresh and just as sticky as you'd remember; the booth also had candy apples, all wrapped up in plastic to keep your fingers tidy. Next to that was the ice cream station - set up on old fashioned bicycle carts, with several flavours of ice cream, old fashioned sugar cones, and a whole station of flake bars, sprinkles, and every topping imaginable. Over there was the popcorn booth, with both sweet (toffee) and salt popcorn in old fashioned boxes. Over there a soft pretzel cart, fresh baked and piping hot. Over there bratwurst hot dogs in baskets, with old wooden barrels next to them, filled with ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, anything you might need to cure a sugar headache with some good old fashioned fat. And, once you've gotten rid of the sugar headache, how about the four chocolate fountains, surrounded by rotating platforms with bowls of strawberries, pineapple, marshmallows, mini doughnuts... (And yes, the candy floss operator told me to come back at the end of the evening for a bag, so I could take some home!)

I managed to hook a duck on the first time (which won me a lollipop!), and got two rings over the pins - couldn't knock the coconut off, though. I had my sillouhette cut out, met the families and friends of my actors and fellow crew (I got quite a laugh from being on 3 1/2" heels - suddenly, the guys seemed so short... [hee] - as we were leaving the dressing room at the beginning of the evening, I remarked on the fact that I was suddenly looking Adam straight in the eyes - he narrowed his and jokingly responded, "Hmm... I'm not sure I like you like this..." hee) I saw Michael Ball, spied Graham Norton across the room, and sneaked a shot of Gerard Butler, as I was entirely too nervous to go up and say hello (though, apparently, he was extremely friendly and was letting people get photos all evening - he tried his hand at the Strong Man game, though, and couldn't make it past 40 - eep!). Apparently, Michael Caine did make it to the after-party, but I sadly never saw him. The Lord Lloyd Webber was whisked away pretty early on for "VIP guests" / press, and a lot of British celebrities were there who I now only recognize after looking up why they're famous (didn't quite know who they were at the time - whoops!). 

After a dazzling sugar high, we had a rockout session to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" on the dance floor (hey, we're a costume shop full of Gleeks - we can't *not* get out there for that), then danced/talked/hung out until they actually signalled the end of the evening with the Countdown theme! (ha!) We'd been talking ever since receiving our tickets about the mysterious last ticket on the roll: "Redeem this ticket for a free gift" On our way out the door, we handed in this ticket to receive a large, mysterious black box. I picked up my coat and bag, staggered out into the night air (seriously, it's really, REALLY dangerous to have waiters topping up your champagne glass every few minutes), and found my way to the taxi rank, where I may have inadvertently jumped the queue (there wasn't really a line, and most people were just standing around awkwardly), told him "West Norwood", and found myself right at my front door just a few minutes later (huzzah for a night NOT taking the train!) - I had been sober enough to give him directions to my place and give a tip, as well as not break my neck on the stairs, yet I did have a bit of a difficulty getting the key right side up into the lock ;) and was entirely happily to fall into bed once I'd cleaned the mascara off my eyes and noticed with sadness that I'd gotten some candy floss on the skirt of my dress. (Good thing I also work at a dry cleaning shop, eh?)

I opened up the gift box, and found it to be a gorgeous black velvet jewellery box; the top drawer contained a chocolate bar wrapped in the show's logo, the bottom drawer contained a wrapped box, which contained a velvet bag containing a gold keyring, shaped like a theatre ticket, inscribed with the opening night date and logo for Love Never Dies. (Quite timely, as my keyring just broke the other day!) I pulled up the photos off my camera and realized, with a bit of a start, that I'd left it on "flash restricted" all night, instead of for only one picture! (eep!) To be fair, my old camera died a few weeks ago (RIP - I think I got it back in 2005 or so; it's been with me for quite a few adventures, but it was big, bulky, went through batteries almost instantly, and a few weeks back the lens cover broke, refusing to close when off and falls down on its own when on [so only half of the photo isn't of the lens cover] ), so I'm still getting used to this new one; to its credit, though, the pictures came out quite well, considering I wouldn't allow it to use any kind of flash, it was odd lighting, smoke machines were in various corners, and I probably wasn't holding the camera completely steady. 

In any case, I had a lovely sleep (the clock was nearing 3AM when I turned out the light) and woke in the early afternoon; my cold has mostly dissipated (my nose is neither full nor dripping, but I am aware of my sinuses, my throat is pretty much fine, my head is clear, and my body is just tired from the usual running of the stairs), but I still ventured to the kitchen simply to grab a handful of snacky foods (oranges, Rice Krispies, crisps, a sandwich) before returning to bed and going online to catch up with The Office. It's nearing 4PM, so I should start to think about getting up soon - we have another show tonight (they can't all be openings, sadly) ;) so I'll have to head out to the rail station around 6. 

In any case, I'll leave you with this: Love Never Dies: Opening Night (yeah!!)

(EDIT: I don't know why, but my internet connection is running stupidly slow, and it's taking absolutely forever to upload photos - I'll insert them as soon as I can, but you'll have to make due with the text for now!)


  1. omg so jealous! How glam! I heard about your opening on BBC world service too! (BBC world service= big time, btw)

  2. loved your account of memorable moments!! What a delightful evening. Send out some more of the play reviews as you find them. Love, Mums

  3. Bonnie- you are incredible, what a fantastic adventure you are on! I am still dying to see a photo of you in your gown...I shall try to be patient...but it's not my forte ;0)
    Congratulations my dear Sister!!

  4. Cool stuff sister. Clearly the best part of the show is the costumes!