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Backstage Pass Review

Who saw the show this year? It was another professional performance of all round entertainment. Singing/ dancing/ comedy sketches- it had it all. Another successful year, where the public get a fantastic evening out, all for less than a McDonalds Big Mac Meal. (There’s more ‘meat ’n veg’ in a Dramarama show too- so it’s good for the body… and the soul!).
But what about backstage? Everything looks great from the front, but no one ever gets to hear about the near disasters going on around the ears of the stage hands and the performers. There’s five minutes to go and the nerves are twitching. Richard’s telling everyone to make sure they smile- or else!

The last minute make up touches are being made. People can’t find their T-shirts/ skirts. There’s no room to swing a cat and the changing room is heaving with humidity and stressed out people. The pressure is building up and the tension is high. Richard is on stage reminding everyone to switch off their mobile phones. There’s a pause, the lights go out and then the performers in the first number walk out on stage, like lambs to the slaughter. It’s always hard for the first number to start off a show. You never know what the audience is going to be like (sometimes sophisticated, sometimes rowdy and sometimes asleep) and you are sure you going get the words wrong, never mind singing the right notes and finishing the song at ‘roughly’ the same time as Ian is playing!

The first number goes OK and the audience are clearly friendly. The performers breathe a sigh of relief and get off the stage as quickly as possible. Then the impressive stuff starts:

The curtains open to a scene in an orphanage, from the musical Annie. There’s some witty dialogue and a chance to see the real side of Hazel Beringer that normally only Fred Beringer, her husband, gets to see (a drunk Miss Hannigan, with more sass than a bottle of HP Sauce). The girls (ages ranging from five to fifty five) then launch into “It’s a Hard Knock Life”…… Wow, they never did it like that in rehearsals. Somehow, everyone was in time and it looked and sounded great! The audience had their breath taken away; and it was only the second number.

The show goes on with sketches, poems and songs. The standard of entertainment is high and there’s plenty to enjoy for everyone. But, no one sees or understands the quick changes going on. If the stage is empty and the curtain hangs for too long this is considered to be a disaster. When a performer goes on stage, it is usually at a running pace, with socks/ hats trousers and shoes trailing behind in a cloud of dust. There is a limit to the number of microphones available and they are hastily passed back and forth between scenes. Somehow, despite the chaos and the disasters, it all works out on the night!

There are a number of backdrop changes that are needed to be done quickly and quietly. That’s more than a little difficult when a rope snaps and heavy bits of timber come crashing to the floor! Then there’s the inflatable alien chair that’s deflated due to a slow puncture. It has to be re-inflated every night, in the time it takes for Fred to sing his song (how do you inflate something quietly? Did Fred notice the accompanying panting with his song?). Look around and you’ll spot the odd script taped to a table, or a menu or some other prop. What do you do when everyone’s forgetting their lines and the Star Trek sketch becomes a series of improvisations?  What you do… carry on regardless and hope every one enjoys it (I think we got away with it Jim?)

One final note: this year, more than any other, the cast, en mass, seemed to enjoy performing and be more at ease. Maybe we’re getting more confident and experienced? Whatever it was, all of the audience feedback was more than just polite- it was enthusiastic and extremely encouraging. If you’ve never seen a Dramarama production before, then you’ve missed out on both a bargain, and a great piece of family entertainment. The next show will be the Pantomime “Robin Hood”, in February.

Noleen Scudder


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