Thursday, 26 February 2009

Adieu, ADieu to Yieu and Yieu and Yieu

This one was rejected from the really useful website - but I guess it IS a tad irreverent...

Well, to paraphrase Oscar Hammerstein, our days in the hills have come to an end. Well almost, as 21st February sees “The Sound Of Music” take it’s final bows at the London Palladium after a successful run of over two years. One of the world’s most beloved musicals, it was hardly a surprise that Andrew Lloyd Webber had a hit on his hands. Let’s face it when it opened it was more than a hit – it was a phenomenon.

Of all the shows in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s catalogue nobody would have ever expected “The Sound Of Music” to be the one that broke new ground. However, with the inspired idea of casting by television (which now almost seems passé) Andrew and his good friend Auntie Beeb managed to not only find the people’s Maria but create the people’s musical. Of course many inches of news print have been given to “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?” and the subsequent stage production but I thought I would share a few of my own personal memories of the show with you.

It’s around three years ago that we first heard “The Sound Of Music” was coming to the Palladium. It’s fair to say we were all a little wary of the reality-show idea, but never-the-less we looked forward to seeing a big old fashioned musical in this big old fashioned theatre. In preparation there were many things we could have done but we decided to take our lead from the spirit of the film. Firstly we all had confidence in sunshine - that goes without saying! Secondly- and most importantly - we had to design a new uniform. The solution seemed easy and we set to work making a sparkling new outfit from the old curtains. A simple task one would think, however the old curtains were actually Venetian blinds and they chafed somewhat so that idea was abandoned. OK, OK so I made all that up but there have been a few other memorable moments. Honest!

One of the first memorable events was more akin to “Gypsy” than “The Sound Of Music” as hundreds of “stage-mothers” and their off spring descended on the theatre for open auditions. Of course instead of cries of “sing out Louise!” coming from the front stalls it was “Sing out Liesl”, and rather than “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” everything was coming up “Edelweiss”. Luckily a splendid group of Von Trapp children were cast in no time and they were all soon in rehearsal learning their do re mi’s and trilling about their favourite things. However, there were a couple of the stage mother’s who were not amongst our favourite things but the less said about that the better!

When it came to our Maria I think most of us felt, from day one, that Connie Fisher had what it takes to play Frau Von Trapp nee Rainer so it was no great surprise when she won the show and opened a few months later to rave reviews. However not everyone was a Connie fan. On more than one occasion we have been visited by a lady aged something between 55 and 70 who we would hear approaching from a distance. Yes, we could hear her, as she walked down Argyll Street, singing “The Sound Of Music” at the top of her voice. By the time she walked down the corridor this had often segued into “My Favourite Things” and she would enter with a twirl and, sometimes, a curtsey. All sweetness and light! Then the venom would be unleashed on our Maria’s. Connie, Aiofhe, Sophie, Summer and Gemma, none of them were safe. It would seem that our visitor felt that only she could ever be the true Maria and nobody else could live up to her performance of the role. It has to be said that in some ways I agree. She was definitely a lot to live up to!

It’s true that you can’t please all of the people all of the time but I always felt that Connie really did inhabit the role of Maria and, more importantly, (as I have previously revealed) she liked my home made cake. However, not everyone quite grasped her name. Many customers tried to buy tickets to see Connie Francis and on more than one occasion Carrie Fisher. An interesting concept I am sure you will agree. Somehow I can’t quite imagine Maria singing “Lipstick On Your Collar” to comfort the Von Trapp children during a thunder storm. Then, of course there is the image of her confronting the nazis with a light sabre and telling Georg “may the force be with you”.

We also have an occasional name problem with current Maria, Summer Strallen. We have often told a customer her name for them to repeat back “some Australian?” with a bewildered look on their face. Then again we did have “some Australian” in the cast for a year, the lovely Simon Burke as the captain. Simon has now sadly moved on but has kept busy with upcoming TV work and also appearances at Sydney Opera House and very soon at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Of course Summer’s casting in the show also had a TV connection as she came to us fresh from “Hollyoaks” where her character (also called Summer) won the role of Maria. A curious case of life imitating art which saw our disabled entrance transformed into the Palladium stage door and a memorable acting performance from the lord himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Summer proved a more than worthy successor and also made it a family affair with her Uncle Paul (Grunert – married to Bonnie Langford) playing Uncle Max.

Now, I can’t sign off without mentioning our many, many nuns.
From day one those amazing high notes of Lesley Garrett and Maggie Preece have thrilled our audiences as they beseeched them to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” at least until they found their dream…
Early in the previews I stepped into the theatre and was somewhat shocked to be faced with a dozen of the sisterhood clasping glasses of gin. Of course they weren’t really on the bottle, they were merely making a stage exit and clutching the votive candle holders they have at the beginning of the show. It’s much more fun to think of them as tipsy nuns though!
Then of course there is “the mysterious case of the incredible shrinking nuns”…which I will leave to your imagination other than saying we now have the most glamorous sisters this side of the Vatican!

Anyway, enough of this nunsense! Our Von Trapps, Nuns and assorted Nazi’s are leaving the Palladium in just a few weeks before launching on a national tour. However the Palladium is not to be a nun free zone as we are trading in our Austrian sisters for Americans with the opening of “Sister Act”. But, for now, all that remains is to say So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, and a last goodbye….

No comments: