The first complete week of the Annie Get Your Gun tour is now under our belts and we're all off home for the well deserved, if somewhat surprising, holiday week that our schedule now provides. I'm particularly grateful as it feels like I've practically lived at the Opera House recently and as there's been no time to do laundry, I'm almost out of clean pants! Normally the week after tech is a little calmer, but we've still been busily beavering away. There have been further note and tech sessions to tighten the show up and finalise the trapeze routine, eight shows (including four for the press), our gala night party, the filming of our EPK, numerous interviews and even a birthday for little ole me! Cue much cake and an enormous slab of chocolate bearing an edible photo of me as Annie! (I promise I shared it). In fact I'm blaming all the opening and birthday gifts for the reason that it took five large bags to pack up my dressing room last night - after only two weeks of being in it!
Filming the EPK, or Electronic Press Kit, was particularly exciting for all the company, despite it coming at the end of another long and tiring week. We filmed several sections of the show with a camera on a crane sweeping about in front of us, and then with a steady camera roaming amongst us. It's quite an odd feeling when you're used to playing out front to your audience. We performed one of the dance routines seven times for the various camera angles. It's an exhausting routine during the show but doing it so many times in a row was particularly tiring. Fortunately our wonderful company manager Kristi was on hand with water and tissues to mop up our sweaty brows after each take!
Added into this mix was filming not only with our gorgeous leading man, Jason Donovan, but with his alternate - the equally gorgeous Jonathan Wilkes, who will be performing at various points on the tour when Jason is unavailable due to prior commitments. As such, this week Jonathan joined us to begin rehearsing as Frank Butler. It's a mammoth task as he has limited time with the company, especially as our performing schedule is pretty intense. We play eight shows in five days, plus technical and dress rehearsals with the two young local actors playing Little Jake at each venue. Jonathan is more than up to the challenge though and is already shaping up to be a thoroughly wonderful Frank. Jason and Jonathan have very different takes on Frank which I find particularly thrilling. It's a privilege to have two such wonderful leading men to play opposite.
For now though, it's a week of relaxation and recuperation... and booking more digs and travel. I feel like I've almost ignored the fact that we're visiting another seventeen venues! Cue frantic furkling through the various mammoth digs lists in the hope of finding somewhere still available to book that is relatively close to the theatre and doesn't cost more than the weekly touring allowance. Once that's completed (or I've done the next few weeks at least!) it's time to look at travel. Travel allowance is paid two weeks in advance and works on train fares but we get to make our own decisions as to how we actually travel. Some of the company are driving so that they can get home between venues, albeit it briefly, and I've already been organised enough to book some flights whilst they're cheaper in order to minimise the time of the epic journeys between London and Scotland.
Adding everything into my Tour Spreadsheet, in a vague attempt to feel more organised, the next five months seem overwhelming, exciting and terrifying in equal measure. There are many blanks still to fill in, yet it seems incredible we've already crossed off the first venue. At 5:40am on Sunday morning the Stage Management team and crew of the Manchester Opera House finished packing the final truck, sending our set, props, costumes and other paraphernalia on their merry way. In just over a week we'll be reuniting at the Sunderland Empire for the next leg of this incredible journey... which should give me just enough time to do my washing!