29 November, 2007

A bad night in the theatre...

What DOES a bad night consist of?

A ticket to a West End show costs £55-60, well over a hundred dollars. I think for that amount of money, you should be guaranteed a flawless performance with the entire original company. (In fact, I think for that amount of money, you should get to go home with the ensemble member of your choice, but that's ... not up for discussion...) The fact is, however, that you're not guaranteed much, other than a hopefully-not-too-uncomfortable amount of legroom, and in London, you don't even get a free program. 

The Leading Man might be off, a piece of scenery might get stuck, lighting cues might get missed, Fruma Sarah may not fly, the principal (or in our case, ONLY) violinist might get stuck in a scooter accident on his way to the theater. You still spent over 50 quid, but you are not getting what you paid for.

That being said, most of the shows that I do, and most of the shows I attend, go off without a hitch (or at least, without a hitch that I notice), but this post is about the inevitable night when things go very, very wrong.

* * *

In the run of Fiddler the following things have gone terribly wrong:

1. horrendous lighting cue mic ups, resulting in the wedding being lit by the the dream lighting state. Bad.

2. The revolve BROKE. No plan B. Show cancelled.

3. As a result of there only being ONE understudy for the three leading daughters, we had to cancel two saturday performances due to myself and Tzeitel being unable to perform (Franny was bedridden, I had an allergic reaction to a face lotion I put on my eyes: see picture, above...)

4. Fyedka (the new kid on the block, 21-year-old Welschman Michael) responds to Chava
Fyedka: Would you like to borrow this book? It's very good.
Chava: No, thank you.
Fyedka: Why? because I am JEWISH? [stunned horror on everyone's face. Michael has just ruined this entire plotline in one foul swoop.] Um... do you feel about...[scrambles] non-jews, they way... they feel about YOU?
Chava: [Exhasperated Natasha voice] I don't think we should be talking this way.
Fyedka: You're quite right. [totally humiliated expression.]

5. Chava basically forgot to put her microphone on... it was funny...

6. We had to begin a performance without THE FIDDLER (who, if you do not know, plays the very first line of the show as an unaccompanied solo... so that was great...). We had to put a capo on the cello and press on. It was already 7:45.

7. Understudy Tevye and 3rd conductor both on for the first time... it was a real low.

8. Another beautiful Fyedka Foil was the following:
Fyedka: We cannot stay amound people who do such things to others.
Chava: We wanted you to know that. Goodbye Papa.... mama....
Fyedka: Yes we are also leaving. [Michael TOTALLY BLANKS... and then makes it up...badly...] Some go.... because of others.... Us.... [points dramatically... perhaps to make up for the severity of the blunder] by...you....

I mean, Oh my God.

But nothing quite compared to WiW; the five magical times the electronic background video stalled, and eventually turned into a Microsoft™ screen, with moving mouse arrow and eeeeeeverything... Fantastic.

* * *

As I said, most of the time, it all goes smoothly. Actors are amazing at covering themselves; even when things are completely insane, most actors won't show it, they'll just start instinctively modifying what they're doing to solve the problems. Musicians are equally brilliant at adjusting on the spot; jumping, or adding beats, or transposing on a dime if something starts to go off. AND, if I may say so, it is to all-of-those-people-exposed-on-the-stage-every-night's credit, that most audiences have no idea how much goes wrong during even an unexceptional, normal performance. Enjoy.

PS) Any other good stories out there?


  1. Alexandra, I think your readers would pay the 50 just to see you sing your part on a bare stage.

    That Microsoft screen must have gotten quite a groan from the audience.

  2. oh oh oh!
    Everytime I have come to Fiddler I have gotten to see Henry the Hoover's cameo at the beginning of act 2.
    They never seem to time the curtain going up very well, there's always some poor stage hand with Henry, vacuuming the feathers!!
    yay for Henry the Hoover!

  3. Hmmmm...lessee...I seem to remember one time, during our high school's production of "Annie", the mikes were especially bad. So, even us musicians in the orchestra pit were unable to hear each part accurately, because the mikes kept on going in...and out. The ONLY time the mikes worked fairly well was during the "Tomorrow" solo with our "Annie". The only problem was (and this was the only time during the ENTIRE run of the show I'd heard her do this) she started cracking the final lines of the song and landing some notes that made the mikes squeal in feedback. Thankfully, she made the last note- but not before the sound systems made one last (and loud) screech before the lights went out for a scene change.



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