It’s almost one month since the closing night of Packemin Productions “Beauty and the Beast“. Just over 3 months went into the actual rehearsal and production phases of “Beauty and the Beast”, and it’s been one of most memorable experiences of my life.
I’m no stranger to large scale productions, having been part of Hillsong Church Christmas productions for many years – either as part of the vocals team or choir, or one of the acting talent. But “Beauty” was my first `theatre’ production, and I wanted to learn as much as I could from as many people as I could.
The first thing that I noticed was the difference between having a completed script and music, as compared to being in the midst of a work in progress. Arrangements were already dotted, parts already allocated, lines already written and all of it to be adhered to. This was backed up with a musical director who knew exactly what he wanted before hitting the rehearsal space, alongside a choreographer who also knew exactly what she wanted, and coordinated by a director and production team who also knew what they wanted. And that’s the benefit of a pre-written show – the framework is already there – it’s` just‘ a matter of putting the muscle, tendons, sinews and skin over the top of it. Added into this mix is the cast, all of whom have auditioned with a solo vocal piece and a group dance audition, and have beaten out another 250-ish hopefuls for their place, and you have the formula for a core of people who want to be there.
Packemin Productions have done a remarkable job at creating, and maintaining, the culture of the `Packemin family’. As a newbie, I was a little nervous about how I was going to integrate, and find my feet. From the very first rehearsal, I felt included and welcomed and, dare I say it, needed by the rest of the cast. Rehearsals quickly became my ‘other’ family – a time of working with talented people, sharing stories from our respective lives. Laughing together as we developed our characters. And shedding tears together, when one of the cast/crew passed away not long into the rehearsal process, and then seeing all the production team and cast wearing and walking through their grief and loss. The sense of family and community was definitely assisted by the private Facebook groups allowing sharing of comments, jokes, requests and chit-chat even outside of the rehearsal rooms.
I had the privilege of being in the “Main male cast” dressing room, and the pleasure of assisting Scott Irwin (Beast) and Adam Scicluna (Cogsworth) in their costume changes. While “what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room“, I will say that Scott and Adam are two of the most genuine, humble and down-to-earth people I’ve had the honour of working alongside, freely willing to encourage and pass-on their hard-won experience from the “School of Hard Knocks”. In addition to Scott and Adam, I have learnt so much from all these guys – Luke Lamond, Patrick Lee, Jim Mitchell, Levi Gardner, Andrew Tucker, Michael Johnson, Boshko Maksimovic, Mark Power, Danny Folpp, and David Collins. Oh, and Kamahl – I learnt lots from you too.
On the Friday night before we closed on Saturday, I was warned by Luke Lamond to expect the onset of “PSD” or Post-show depression. I knew what PSD felt like – I just didn’t know it had a name, let alone a definition. From the Urban Dictionary: Post Show Depression “The feeling after a musical is over and you realize you have no life. After putting months into making a show perfect it is all over. It is a feeling of emptiness and sadness. Usually during the finale is when this begins. It can continue from then till weeks or months after the shows finished. You get little pangs when you see something that reminds you of the musical or when your sitting at home on a night when you would usually be performing or rehearsing. This depression is generally shared by most of the cast and the last show and cast party generally involves a lot of hugging, crying and beautiful parting words. When you run into one of your show family after this depression it usually involves a lot of hugging and crying and comes back for another couple of days. The only way to fully recover is to go head on into another project and remember all the good memories. It is a bittersweet feeling. It is only really understood by fellow theatre dorks.”
I came down pretty hard with PSD, even though I knew it was on it’s way. Maybe because I’d worked so long on this production. Maybe because it was my first theatre production. Maybe because of all the wonderful people I’d met. I know that I’ve loved every moment being part of Beauty and the Beast, and that I’ve been well and truly bitten by the theatre bug. So while this `look back’ has been a little emotional, it’s my closure, my farewell to a friend, the filing of the chart music for another day.
So where to from here? Get ready for the audition for “Phantom of the Opera” *smile*