Today is actually very quiet until this afternoon, which is good because I had a broken night of sleep. It was one of those nights when you think you’ve slept soundly for hours, wake up and discover you’ve actually been asleep for 30 minutes.
I make coffee and decide to really schlep, so I order room service breakfast and get on with writing the blog, replying to emails and general housekeeping.
Later in the morning I go down to the Casino level and have a coffee and Danish in a lovely little café just off the main gaming floor. A few single folk are sitting around all involved in their own thoughts and worlds and not engaging with anyone else. Myself included.
I sit at a table and suddenly I am aware of some movement at the periphery of my vision. I look up and there is a little sparrow sat on the table next to mine. He hops about, then flies to my table. I grab the camera and take a couple of pictures. One of the other singletons smiles at me and says ‘You have to be quick to catch him!’ The bird then flaps off and sits on the floor, at which point one of the staff members, who had been rather sullen and surly walks over: ‘Did I see a bird in here? Hey, there his is!’ He calls to another member of staff ‘should we get someone to remove him?’ Another customer: ‘He’s cute, he’s not doing anyone any harm.’ And so it goes on. This one little sparrow has single handidly (single clawdly?) made us all communicate with each other and smile.
Eventually a security guard arrives, complete with automatic pistol, baton and probably a taser as well. He has a badge. He takes control. ‘C’mon Guy, let’s move along here.’ The sparrow doesn’t have great respect for authority and refuses to leave. You have to feel a bit for the security guard, this probably wasn’t what he had in mind when he was given the job of casino security. It’s not exactly Ocean’s 11.
The morning drifts on and it is time to pack the costume bag up and head to the Music Box Theatre. 2 complete costumes, braces, socks, cufflinks, watch. Top hat, cane and scarf. Camera bag, blog business cards. Check! Ready to go.
The Music Box
I’m met by Ben Feranda who heads up the theatre team. I worked with him last year and he is very friendly and cooperative. Also there is a 2 man stage management team along with David the Sound and Wayne the Lights.
The raw materials for my set are gathered in the centre of the stage so I move them around and do a sound check also taking the opportunity to survey the auditorium. The Music Box holds just short of 1000 people and is a magnificent facility. In fact it is very like the theatres onboard cruise ships, with state of the art equipment.
Wayne comes down with the script and we start going through the lighting cues which are anything but complicated, however he is very worried that he won’t get the desk programmed in time. The show is at 4, the doors open at 3, and it is now 2.15. He rushes up to the lighting box and starts to work.
Back stage David the Sound is bemoaning a potentially severe sound problem he has during the forthcoming burlesque show in the theatre. At one point one of the girls will be wearing a nurses costume which will be open, revealing all beneath and he is worried about where he can clip the microphone. I mention to him that possibly he has been doing the job too long if, faced with a semi naked nurse, his biggest concern is finding somewhere for the microphone!
Wayne the Lights is seriously panicking now and I go up to the lighting box to go through all of the cues with him. His fingers work the electronic console quickly, knowing exactly what he is doing. He creates all of the moods I want, and we go through the script over and over. For some reason the desk doesn’t memorise the cues, so we have to go through them again and once they are in the memory, go through again just to check. At 2.59 and 56 seconds (I kid you not), we finish.
I make my way back stage as the house doors open and chat with Ben in the wings about all sorts of things. At about 3.20 he goes to check front of house and I get into my costume. The dressing room boasts lots of mirrors, and just as I’ve got into my waistcoat I catch sight of myself and think: ‘what a good photo opportunity. I can put it in the blog tomorrow captioned: ‘Ready for the Off’. I am about to take the picture when I realise that I haven’t got my shoes on, and some clever soul will point out that I am about to perform shoeless. I go to my costume bag and find it devoid of shoes.
I have left them up in my room, on the 31st floor! I quickly get the waistcoat off, put a sweater on over the formal shirt, leave the theatre, cross the gaming floor, up in the lift, pick up the shoes, back down in the lift, cross the gaming floor and back into the theatre. 20 minutes to go.
I get into costume again, put my shoes on and take that damned picture!
Ben gives me a very short introduction and I walk out into the first lighting cue. Wayne’s off and running too.
The audience is a little quiet at first and I am aware of a couple of people leaving, obviously not their thing. I keep the story moving, focussing, concentrating, using the space available to me.
Wayne’s lighting moods work so well and the blue cold seeping up around Scrooge as Marley appears is particularly effective as is the light dimming leaving just a dim pool on Scrooge’s chair as he falls asleep.
The next cue is on: ‘…when the Church clock tolled a deep, dull, melancholy ONE!’ at which point bright light is supposed to spring up. But nothing, just the little pool on the chair. Ah, I realise what’s happened, Wayne assumed that there would be an actual sound effect. So instead of leaping from the chair I remain where I am and hope that he has looked a few lines ahead and has noticed what is coming:
‘But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible.’ Sure enough, up come the lights. Brilliant!
The show moves on and the audience become more involved and animated. Soon they are ‘Oooooohing and Aaaahing’ over the Cratchits Christmas lunch.
They are silent when Scrooge is shown the heartbroken Bob in the future and laughing as he shouts to the little boy on Christmas morning.
‘God Bless Us, Every One! And a resounding standing ovation with whoops and bravos.
In the dressing room I am changing and Wayne comes in to explain what happened with the bell tolling ‘One.’ Sure enough he was waiting for an actual audio cue and was shouting down the talk back system to stage management asking what had happened to it. I congratulated him on realising the problem and picking up the next suitable line. Apparently, on talking to the other crew members, Wayne is known to be a little highly strung. From what I saw he wants to do nothing more than a perfect job and gets frustrated when things conspire against him. They are all a really good team to work with.
I go to the foyer and sign and pose, although it’s not a long queue by any means, then go back to the dressing room to change, making doubly sure that I have packed everything this time.
Evening at the Old Homestead
Back on the 31st floor I go through the routine of hanging things up to air and then write up today’s blog as tomorrow morning I have to be on my way fairly early.
I am feeling ravenous, as I haven’t really eaten properly today, so I take myself to The Old Homestead Restaurant in the hotel, which serves steak and seafood.
At the Maitre D’s podium I ask if there is a table, or I’m happy to sit at the bar and he says that there is plenty of room at the back bar.
‘Yeah, I thought it was you! You did a show, right? Apparently it was really great. Good job! Follow me’
That gives me a nice glow.
The back bar faces into the kitchen and it is fascinating to watch the dishes being prepared at the different work stations. Just near to me a chef is preparing all of the shellfish dishes. He is an artist, building up extravagant displays on mounds of crushed ice before adding samphire, clams, lobster tails, crab and all sorts of decoration. It is astounding to watch him work.
I have a simple grilled chicken and asparagus dish which is tender and delicious.
I am back in my room by 8.30 and get into bed for an early night. I have 3 very busy days coming up as I pitch headlong into the final week of the tour, so a good night’s sleep will be more than welcome.