Our Guest Blogger, Neil White, is Company Manager for The Sound of Music, which runs until 21 August. Neil has a very responsible role looking after a company of 93. Neil, who was born in Nuneaton, writes about his working week at the theatre.
Monday 19 July – I arrive at the theatre around 12 noon and normally have a chat with the lovely stage door security team – with a building as big as the Hippodrome they not only look after our security but also help point us in the direction of anything we need.
Monday is normally a quiet day on the show with no rehearsals. Most of the cast and crew go home for the weekend so I get the chance to spend a quiet afternoon in the company office backstage catching up on paperwork. It is also quiet as the children in The Sound of Music aren’t travelling back until mid afternoon but by 3pm the peace backstage is shattered as the Green Team arrive at the theatre and as ever with ours, or any children, the main priority is food .
Barry Hope (the Hip’s Technical Manager) pops in, as he does on a regular basis, to make sure we have all we need from the technical team at the theatre.
The show is always at 7pm on a Monday (to help with the number of late nights our children work in a month) so we get an early finish. Pippa, our amazing alternate Maria, always does the Monday show . It is really fantastic having two leading ladies as both performances are really different and it does keep us on our toes. As it’s an early finish the company head out of stage door to the Hippodrome’s StageSide bar across the road for a few drinks afterwards.
Tuesday 20 July – A really busy day for our understudy company, they are spending all day rehearsing with Frank, our resident director, getting ready for the ‘cover run’ on Thursday afternoon. Wardrobe are in early doing last minute alterations to the cover costumes and the children, who arrived at 9am, are busy doing tutoring .
I spend most of the day on the phone. With a tour like this you are always planning ahead, doing press for the next venue, or making sure all the theatres we are going to have all the information they need before the show gets there. There is also continual press and publicity opportunities that we have to do for the theatres we are in and Mandy Rose, the Hippodrome’s Press & PR Officer, is in constant contact making sure that we are taking advantage of every opportunity to promote the show
The Green Room (the theatre’s staff canteen) is packed at lunchtime with theatre staff and The Sound of Music cast. Having a backstage canteen is such a rare treat to have at a theatre, especially one that serves such good food as the Hippodrome’s canteen.
Connie (Fisher) arrives back from Wales for the show in the evening and we do some planning of her diary movements for the week. You would be amazed how much work has to go in to just being ‘Connie Fisher’ with press , mail, photo shoots etc. Connie is also planning her wedding at the moment – it’s a good job she has Dawn (her PA) to help her out!
Just before the show I have a panic call from a guest of the production who couldn’t find her tickets – a quick call to the lovely sales team at the theatre and tickets are calmly found.
Wednesday 21 July – A packed matinee. I normally have to be up quite early on matinee days as my phone will start ringing from 9am. Looking after a touring company of 93 makes my life quite busy, not to mention the amount of paper work it requires.
Between shows we have a group of children from ‘Rough Hay school’ for a backstage tour. They also meet Connie and some of the cast, by the time they have looked round, posed for pictures etc, there’s just time for us all to have a quick bite to eat and then show time again.
Thursday 22 July – Our cover company are doing a full run of the show in costume this afternoon so all departments are in early again – basically this week is like doing 9 shows. Wardrobe, who arrived first thing, are swapping all the costumes in dressing rooms ready for the cast to arrive. The run goes very well but I’m sure Frank will have lots of notes.
Today is also swap day for the children, so the Green Team all travel back to London and the Purple Team arrive to do the rest of the week. As ever one of the children has had a growth spurt, so Trish, our wardrobe mistress, will have to find a new set of costumes for him. (The children all have 7 costumes each and will normally go through 2 or 3 sets in 6 months).
Another busy show tonight and then after the performance Connie goes to London ready to do a photo shoot and have meetings. Most of the cast have gone to play Poker. I head out with Chris Barton who plays Rolf, and Jonny, our Dance Captain, for a few beers in The Village and later everyone ends up in the Nightingale – the club has been associated with the theatre as long as I can remember and is always a good safe place for everybody to have a good night out. The brilliant thing with working at the Hippodrome is the variety of places to eat and drink nearby – the lovely Green Room bar opposite is always good for lunch , the food and service at the Loft Lounge is amazing , plus the bars are really friendly nearby and the theatre has a traditional sweet shop next door in the National Trust back to back houses.
Friday 23 July – I spend the day finalising arrangements with Kate Warnaby, PA to the Hip’s Chief Executive, for the BBC filming that is happening , I start the payroll and also the petty cash for all departments. You would be amazed at what we have to buy each week from children’s food, to hairspray , tissues and bolts !
All is going too well today until Connie’s car gets caught in traffic on the way back to the theatre. She has to do her vocal warm up in the car before arriving just after the curtain should have gone up. The Hippodrome Customer Services staff handle everything brilliantly as usual and the show goes up a few minutes late . Our amazing sound, wigs and wardrobe team manage to get Connie into costume, wig , make-up and mic in just 4 minutes!
Saturday 24 July – Saturday is normally my ‘chained to the desk day’, I have to finish the payroll, petty cash and complete timesheets for everyone working on the show . Every night I have to send all the box office figures and reports to my office but on Saturday it goes to all the producers – so double and triple checking to make sure that everything is correct.
The 2 shows go like clockwork – the theatre is packed for both and at 10.15pm a 54 hour week is over – lots of sleep this weekend before we do it all again next week.
You can follow the show on Twitter @soundofmusicuk
The Sound of Music runs until 21 August.