Sunday, 14 September 2014

Huff Blog 19 - AGYG

It's a Sunday afternoon and I am full of Sunday roast and curled on the sofa in a friend's London flat as I write what will be my final blog (for now) for the Huffington Post. It hasn't quite sunk in yet that the show is over - come 7:30pm on Tuesday I'll probably be feeling thoroughly lost and more than a little bereft! This week Annie Get Your Gun played its final week of the (slightly curtailed) UK Tour at the fabulous not-quite-West-End-but-still-London New Wimbledon Theatre. It has been a week of wonderful highs and heartbreaking sadness as we bid farewell to the Wild West and what has been an incredible five months as a company.

As ever this week has been somewhat hectic. Although there are no further tour venues to visit  there's still been press and events to do, including a fabulous sing-a-long event hosted in the theatre on the final day, which I took great pleasure in popping along to. Hearing fifteen total strangers singing the Berlin songs that have become so very familiar to me, was both thrilling and a little sobering. It's always interesting to hear how someone else interprets a piece of material, especially one as famous as 'There's No Business Like Showbusiness' but maybe it ultimately proved a little cathartic too. That commencement of handing Annie back over to other people now she is no longer mine, I suppose

It has still been a week of fun and frolics though with many a friend and family member in, and several industry folk too. The tour hoodies arrived and were worn with pride backstage and on Friday evening our end of tour party took place at the lovely Hot Pink Healthy Grill, across the road from the theatre. Whilst scoffing grilled halloumi and chicken skewers (and supping on many a delicious milkshake), we seated ourselves for the first (and possibly only) Annual Annie Awards! Annies - trophies made of tiny cowboys and logo decorated plinths - were handed out based on our voting forms from the past few weeks. Sexiest Cowboy or Cowgirl was won by the gorgeous Jonny Godbold, Tour Quote went to Jason Donovan and his perpetual 'Ma, Ma, MAAA' and I personally picked up the Large Lungs award for my long note in 'Anything You Can Do' which topped out at 43 seconds it seems!

Awards over, we watched a fabulous montage of videos and photos put together by Swing extraordinaire Ste Clough, which I'm sure will be sent out to everyone over the next few weeks. It was a bittersweet end to what has been an amazing job, to see so many wonderful memories all together side by side. I have made some astonishing friends on this production and forged what will hopefully be life long friendships. Although working on this production has been incredible, it is the people that have made it truly special and this team have certainly been one of the best I've ever had the opportunity of working with.

Saturday's final shows seemed to speed by unbearably fast and all too soon we were taking those final bows. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was a sobbing, snivelling heap at that moment, and I certainly wasn't the only one. As we linked arms for that final kickline you could hear the tears in our voices singing 'Showbusiness' one last time. 'There's no people like show people' we chorused, 'they smile when they are low...' Collectively we pulled our arms tightly together, collectively we dug deep and collectively we felt that smile firmly fix itself to our faces and grinned for all we were worth, tears rolling freely down our cheeks. In the wings afterwards we sobbed openly, hugging each other close, thankful for the experience.

So with a wry smile I must go 'home and hang up my gun as I ain't the champeen no more', to paraphrase Ms Oakley. I have had the most superlative and remarkable time playing this sharpshooting woman. She's taught me so much, not least about myself, reasserted my confidence and brought out a side of my voice I never knew I had. I've loved each and every minute of this show - from conquering my fear of heights, to learning how to clay pigeon shoot and even fighting through a show with food poisoning. I'm so very grateful that there is absolutely no business like show business.... so until next time, let's go on with the show. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Huff Blog 18 - AGYG

There is a tangible sense of finality in the air around the company of Annie Get Your Gun. This week we have been visiting the beautiful green and gold auditorium of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, our penultimate venue. Additionally this is also the final venue that most people will have to be 'on the road' for as next week we are in the warm embrace of London's New Wimbledon Theatre and those that can, most certainly will be commuting from home. 

Glasgow has also been one of the most distant venues that we've visited on this whistle-stop tour of the UK. With the impending Scottish referendum, it's possible that the next time any of us play this theatre it will be on entirely different grounds. The political spark throughout Glasgow during our visit has made for an interesting and thought-provoking week featuring many a lively debate and lustily thrust leaflet, but the audiences have been just as responsive as ever, if not more so. I put this down to the Scots loving a feisty lass - and Annie Oakley certainly is that!

However, as we head into our final week and our final eight shows, the past five months are beginning to take their toll. It's a truth stranger than fiction that teachers, for example, only ever get sick during holiday time. No matter how well they look after themselves through the term, fighting off every bug known to man with aplomb, they will, without fail, be stuck with a summer cold throughout the entire sunshine season, which will only clear up a few days before term restarts. It's a similar thing with theatre-folk, the week after we finish a job of any kind, we all get sick!

I put this down predominantly to the fact that you spend so long ensuring you're fit and well enough to do your job, that the minute your body gets wind of a potential break, it seizes it wholeheartedly. Following my vocal rest in Brighton, this week saw attacks of gastroenteritis, colds and severe migraine resulting in swing and understudy bible central. It wasn't until Friday evening that we had a complete show again, and much kudos must be given to everyone who made sure that the production went ahead faultlessly despite these factors. Now that we're into single digits, nobody wants to miss any more performances.

With that end in sight, and a fortuitous surprise visit from my parents, I took the opportunity to lug my ever-expanding tour suitcases home to Yorkshire before I hit London again with something more manageable for the week. It's astonishing how much you can accumulate in such a short space of time, and also how much you find you've merely dragged from place to place and not used! As I sit here writing this on iPad Mark 2 (following a literally smashing incident the other week), I am surrounded by the chaotic jumble of no less than three suitcases. My kit box on the truck now contains only my make-up bag, steamer and cards... plus some Annie Get Your Gun bunting we stole from Aylesbury (ssshhh)! Hopefully this way I can finish the production and return to the North without dragging another five tonnes behind me. I mean, even I can't buy that many pairs of shoes in a week.

Unpacking has however proved therapeutic to some degree; rediscovering things I'd forgotten that I'd picked up on our travels and learning how little you really do need to get by. The past five months have made me some wonderful memories and some even more wonderful friends, but we're not over yet - there are eight more Wild West wonders to hit the bullseye with. Packed houses beckon, filled with friends, family and familiar industry folk and then there's the end of tour party to be rocked, tour swag hoodies to be claimed and even an awards night on the not too distant horizon. It's sure to be a week of fun and frolics, and maybe a few tears but as they say - it's not over until the not-as-chubby-as-she-was-when-she-started-this-tour lady sings, right?