Tuesday, December 13

A Life on the wicked stage





My wife and I performed in many Musicals and Reviews. The first photo was taken of me rehearsing as Lieutenant Daniel Gilmarton for “Calamity Jane" seen here in a scene with Calamity.

Next we are both together in the Musical operetta “The New Moon” my wife as a Flower girl enticing “Alexander” on her left and me as the landlord on her right. I recall it was quite stressful with our youngest of 3 only 2 combined with long dress rehearsals which didn't finish till midnight. The show was mainly an amateur production but the producer had sunk a lot of money into the show with elaborate sets, a fully paid orchestra and engaged the services of a well known professional for the role of the leading man. So he needed to sell a lot of tickets which fortunately came to fruition but not without a lot of real life drama I will elaborate on later.     

In the Gilbert & Sullivan production of “The Gondoliers” I was “The Grand Inquisitor” (character in the black costume) and next you see us both performing the song and dance number entitled “We’re a couple of Swells”.

“The New Moon”, was probably the most memorable, considering its beautiful music by Sigmund Romberg, creative staging and because of added  drama during the performance. Songs include "Marianne", "The Girl on the Prow", "Georgeous Alexander", "Softly as in the Morning Sunrise", "Stout Hearted Men", "One Kiss", "Wanting You", "Funny little Sailer Man", "Lover Come back to Me", "Love is quite a Simple Thing", "Try her out at Dancers", "Never for You" and "Lover Come Back to Me" .

Magnificent costumes and sets were hired from the Australian Opera including genuine 16th century cutlasses. Effects were further enhanced with the use of electrical charges for realistic explosions and puffs of smoke to denote cannon fire.
 
The story begins in New Orleans in 1792, at the home of Monsieur Beaunoir, a wealthy merchant, where preparation are being made to welcome Viscount Ribaud. the "Secret Eye" of King Louis XV1 of France, who is seeking to arrest Chevalier Robert Mission for his connections with the beautiful and impetuous Marianne Beaunoir, who is betrothed to Captain George Duval, of the Brig "New Moon".
Meanwhile, Robert's faithful servant, Alexander , has succumbed to the charm of Marianne's maid Julie, Clotilde Lombaste, to reclaim him. Using Marianne as an unwitting decoy, Ribaud contrives to capture Robert, but hoping to help him escape, Marianne professes her love for Duval so that she can sale with them in the "New Moon " to Paris. Aided by the opportune ariival of his friend,  Phillipe, Robert overthrows Duval's authority and leads the crew, woman-hater, bos'un Besac, and the passengers, to found the free Republican colony of the Isle of Pines. One year later, knowing the ships of the French Navy are approaching the island, Ribaud reunites Marianne with Robert and stirs the people to revolt, but his plans are thwarted when the ships prove to be  envoys come to propose the inclusion of the settlement in the newly - formed Republic of France.                                   
As you see from the plot it was a long production and we were on stage for nearly 3 hours.

The first real life drama occurred on opening Night as the men marched on to the stage. It was the custom on all opening nights to wish everyone metaphorically to “break a leg” but one chap performing in his very first show did that, within a few seconds of his first appearance in front of his friends and family, to stunned disbelief.

I remember there was an almighty crack; as he first twisted and broke his leg while marching out boldly onto the stage for the first time. An ambulance man administered oxygen to him back stage to help alleviate the terrible pain prior to his hurried stretcher removal to hospital. The show continued on after a short break.
 
The second drama occurred on the final night and involved the pirates. At that time it had proved difficult to find volunteers to act as pirates since they were only required for a few minutes on stage each night for what was nearly a 3 hour show. The local Cricket club came to the rescue with the required man power in exchange for our donation and slab of beer for each pirate. Except for the over zealous use at times of the cutlasses it worked well except for the grand finale on the Saturday evening as the boys then had decided to pay a trick on us, much to the fury of the Producer. They entered from the opposite side of the stage as was intended, to the amusement of a capacity audience as we appeared frozen in time as they crept up behind us.

In the confusion the Stage Manager panicked and let off some additional charges and pulled down the sails with the ropes onto the stage as the intended scene became a chaotic smoke filled confusion. Fortunately the audience concluded this must be an intended twist to insert local comedy to the traditional storyline.

After hastily pulling down the curtain amidst all of the turmoil and mayhem we regrouped and carried on as if nothing untoward had happened.

6 comments:

susan said...

How wonderfully delightful it is to see these pictures of you and your wife in your musical performances. I know what efforts go into making a successful production of any kind but the rewards are great too. It looks as though you both had a lot of fun along the way.

What an awful thing to have happened to that one poor actor when he actually did break his leg. Thank goodness there was someone there to help imeediately. As for the naughty cricket club doing their best to disrupt the final performance I wondr if they didn't stop by the pub on their way to the theatre. Thank goodness it all worked out okay in the end.

All the best
and to your family on the holidays!

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Fortunately on hand during all the performances as a precaution there was an ambulance officer back stage, who immediately administered oxygen and pain killers. The ambulance was called and arrived only a few minutes later. It was particularly distressing for the poor chap as this was his very first time on stage and I recall he was very excited just beforehand telling me most of his family and a lot of friends have all come to see him. So all they saw of him was what I would judge to be 10 or 20 seconds.
In relation to the Cricket Club on that day they had won the premiership and no doubt the plot was hatched over far too many celebratory beers at the pub beforehand. What was also disconcerting was their use of the genuine steel bladed 16th century cutlasses which potentially could have inflicted a lot of damage in the hand of an overly merry cricketer.
Best wishes for Christmas to you and yours.

Mercutio said...

Hello, Lindsay.

That first photo of you has always been my favorite picture of you, ever since I first saw it, long ago. You look good in uniform.

I had never heard of "New Moon," but it sounds very interesting.
Thank you for the recap.

Recently, I did a review of a production of Macbeth, and I was permitted into a rehearsal for the fight director. That night, they were doing the final sword fight before the death of Macbeth. The one fellow wore a Star Wars t-shirt, while Macbeth had a blue polo shirt. Very different form what the audience would see, I suspect.
Not my best piece of writing, but far from my worst. The whole thing made me very interested in seeing the play, but there were a number of other things that called my attention.
Still, one day . . .

I like it that you know so many show tunes.
I envy you that.
About the only ones I know are of the Andrew Lloyd Webber genre.
In all fairness, I would point out that the original soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar featured Ian Gillan, which makes it practically mandatory, in my book.

I listened to quite a few Australian bands, to pick out a few things for my nephew. What I discovered was that Australia is practically brimming over with extraordinary vocalists, but it is fairly rare to find a band that can consistently write good songs-- very different from the States, where good songs are the norm, and everyone sings like crap.
Actually, I recently heard Olivia Newton-John on some radio station playing two-in-a-row, and was very impressed with how expressive her voice was. Extraordinary.

Excellent news, old fellow:
I've made contact with my old record label, and the owner expressed interest in my Lincoln documentary. It seems the label has expanded over the past 15+ years to include a number of imprints, and they have already done a handful of documentaries on the careers of various bands. It looks like they might be expanding soon.
I offered him the soundtrack and distribution, and it appears very favorable at present. The latter would mean a great deal to the success of the film.
I feel like I'm in love.
Me & my old label are getting back together.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Mercutio,
Your interesting comment concerning the review of the production of Macbeth, and the attire of the actors reminded me of a time when I was receiving vocal training. My teacher was a tenor in the Australian Opera and he used to get tickets for us at a nominal price to all of the opera’s dress rehearsals. They were every bit as good as the performances and we never encountered any interruptions. It was also very relaxing with relatively few people present and you often found yourself sitting next to either an opera buff or the stars at the time. One time a few seats up was the late Joan Sutherland with husband Richard Bonynge.
They had come to check out the competition, namely English Soprano the late Rita Hunter whose wonderful voice has enabled audiences to set aside her outsize stature. Next to the short tenor in the love scenes Rita appeared comical, but in those days such things were conveniently overlooked.
The interesting thing about opera’s and operetta (e.g. New Moon) is that many of the arias became the equivalent of today’s modern day hits such as Andrew Lloyd Webber. Verdi for instance dared not show the aria “La donna e mobile” from Rigoletto until two days before the first performance, because it was so singable. He was afraid everyone would know the tune beforehand to spoil the performance on the night as he aimed to delight his audience with such a show stopper just as does Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sure enough after the opening night it became an instant hit, so that soon all the Gondoliers in Venice were singing it. I also think it is good to hear popular stars such as Ian Gillan pair up with Pavarotti, singing alternate verses to “Nessun Dorma". Although Gillan does appears to be a little red in the face after singing the high notes, it is an interesting contrast.
Great news on getting back with the old label and implications for future success of the film. Best wishes.

susan said...

All best wishes for the New Year to you and your wife and family. There's probably not much chance of experiencing a quiet and serene one, but we can always hope.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks and best wishes to you and yours. No doubt there will continue to be the ever changing economic and structural circumstances; beliefs, attitudes, conflicts, fads, population shifts and so forth with not much chance of serenity. But I think that has always has been the case. I’m not so sure this era is any worse than any other and if anything there certainly does exists more checks and balances. It has always been a melting pot of a kind of work in progress, the good and the bad. But I agree it would be nice if we could learn a bit more by studying historical knowledge and guard against continually repeating all of the same past woes, presented in a different guise.