What goes into staging a new musical? Rehearsal Diary Week One

Tap shoes and tins: captured by our Vera, Anna Stolli, in rehearsals
Tap shoes and tins: captured by our Vera, Anna Stolli, in rehearsals

Tap shoes and tins: captured by our Vera, Anna Stolli, in rehearsals

How quickly do you get a new musical off the ground when you have two weeks to rehearse? As the Love Birds company start their second week at the Big Wheel rehearsal space in north London, production assistant Adam Niemann gives a sneak-peek into the action-packed first week.

Six days and we are already halfway through the rehearsal process. It’s a feat for any show to leap through rehearsals so quickly. Add in a few flourishing full-company dance numbers and some gorgeous jigsaw-puzzle harmonies—suddenly, assembling a show in two weeks seems an impossible task. Thankfully, the tireless cast and crew have been working their tail feathers off.

Day One (Monday):

After introductions, the cast did a read-through of the show and we all heard the characters come to life for the first time. We then heard speeches from director Stewart Nicholls, writer Robert J Sherman, producer Kat Portman Smith and social media consultant Terri Paddock—they spoke of the vision for the show, the talent of the cast in auditions, and the proper use of Twitter for amplifying awareness (are you following us yet? Why not?!). Following lunch, Stewart blocked all the scenes in the show in just under two hours. And finishing off the first day, music director Neil MacDonald taught the harmonies for the opening music to the show. One very full day!

Day Two (Tuesday):

Amidst learning many new complicated harmonies and working out the details of scenes, we spent a good chunk of the second day with the choreography for the big tap number, “Tinpanarama.” The Penguin Quartet (George Knapper, Jonny Purchase, Rafe Watts and Ryan Willis) and the Macaw Sisters (Anna Stolli, Joanna Sawyer and Ruth Betteridge) clanged together literal tin pans for the Tin Pan Alley-style showstopper. Much noise was made and much fun was had.

Day Three (Wednesday):

We spent a lot of time fine-tuning scenes on Wednesday. While running the scenes, the actors played around with the movements of birds; how does a parrot flick her head? How does a penguin walk in a clump? The actors in the Penguin Quartet also took their first stab at the barbershop harmonies in their introductory song. Some difficult stuff, but everyone was already sounding great.


Day Four (Thursday):

The quartet got a chance to do something that, surely, you only get the chance to do in a musical about penguins: dance in flippers. Though they won’t be wearing flippers for the whole show, they are wearing the silly footwear for “The Flipper Flap.” Following the flippers, the boys bounced into their Barbershop number, and Armitage (John Guerrasio) and Baalthazar (Greg Castiglioni) finished the day learning the music for their songs. Notably, Thursday was also writer Robbie’s birthday!

Day Five (Friday):

Friday was mostly spent blocking scenes with Vera, Armitage and Baalthazar. After solidifying some scene work, we moved on to block “Old Fashioned Guy” and “The Sweetest Smile,” two of the smaller more silly songs in the show. At the end of one of the big songs, a random passerby burst into applause. Our first live fan!

Day Six (Saturday):

We started the day finishing the blocking for one of the numbers before learning Love Birds’ titular theme. Mid-day, photographer Claire Billyard joined to take rehearsal pictures to document the process. She snapped shots as we ran back through all the completed numbers so far. Fittingly, the cast finished the last day of the week learning the music for the closing song.

“You’ve all done loads in a week,” Stewart summarised to the cast, “But we still have more to do.” And we’re straight back into it on Monday morning.

For more behind-the-scenes photos, videos and other snippets – including lots of insights from the cast, be sure to follow us on Twitter @lovebirdsmusic!