The production was a massive undertaking, beginning with a collaborative re-working of the script. This mainly involved removing as many of the scene changes and narrations as possible, while simultaneously trying to make the storyline easier to follow. We got it down to about two hours in the end, including the nineteen songs.
I found it incredibly interesting, working on the script. It was a long process, the story came from the books (obviously) and out of these Judy had selected what she considered to be the pivotal scenes (and scenes that included poetry that she had set to music). A massive undertaking and one that only by the end of my editing time could I appreciate how well she had done. When reading Tolkien’s beautiful language, and seeing the subtlety of the the relationships between the different characters and the rich and sophisticated development of the plot, each cut or alteration seemed a terrible loss. Every scene, every sentence chosen to be in the script represented tens of others that were equally beautiful or powerful. And permeating through it all was Tolkien’s descriptions of the most beautiful forests placed in stark contrast to the cruellest intent. I wish I had only half of his imagination and his ability to express his ideas eloquently.
All of this then had to be blocked (in the process often changing the script, again) then memorised. Then we added the music! Wonderful language combined with beautiful melodies and harmonies. Often quite difficult to sing, and certainly a challenge when also acting.
Production week! So much fun, but wow, so much intense, hard work! The greatest sustaining factor being that I was surrounded by a bunch of enthusiastic, intelligent, artistic, capable and proactive people who are all working as hard as I was!
What was particularly wonderful, was that at the last minute Clara came down from Sydney for the week to help out. She landed on her feet! Walked in and started writing running sheets, making lists of props and costumes, formulating running orders and generally organising things. She was amazing! She was our stage manager for performances, director in the dress rehearsal (allowing Kia and I to finally focus on acting and not directing) and a general organiser with everything else. She calmed us down, focused us, ran warm ups and generally kept everyone motivated and organised. We would get home at 10.45pm each night and I would go to bed exhausted, but she and Evan would sit up for another 2 hours planning out what to do the next day, from large scenes that needed work, to costume alterations, to small details like taping a light cover down. Her presence made our rehearsals more efficient and our performances of a more professional standard. An incredible gift! Thank you!
One of the greatest challenges was that as well as normal blocking, each song had to be choreographed, learned off by heart and then reorganised and sorted because of the many complications that occur when creating a production with a small group of multi-talented people. For example: ‘Who’s playing the accompaniment in Tom Bombadil? Isn’t it Katrina? No, Katrina can’t play the clarinet because she is the tree that is holding up Pippin, maybe Rohan could play the oboe? No, he’s helping Katrina. Can’t someone else hold Manuka? No, those two are the strongest. Okay. Hmm. What Judy? Oh, you want them both playing their instruments on the harmony lines? Could Gawain do one of the harmonies on the clarinet? No, he’s on stage as Sam. Um, well, if the tree dissolves early, and Judy plays the introduction and the first verse on the recorder accompanied by Jane on the cello then they may have time to come off stage, grab their instruments, put in the reeds, and be in time to play the second verse…
Meanwhile, on stage Kate (as Goldberry) is singing the first verse as a solo, but she’s singing the alto line because the tune is too high for her, the second verse now sounds fabulous with oboe and clarinet accompanying, but Dave (who is Tom Bombadil) is having difficulty singing his solo because he can’t sing high enough to do the tune either – so is singing the bass line, which is hard – and since he is still trying to hold down a job whilst all these rehearsals are happening he is still catching up with the music learning. So could all other men on stage sing with Dave please. So that’s you Theodore and… Where’s Evan Squire? Oh, he has just been a narrator so is now off stage. Evan Sanders? “I’m in the lighting box and no, I won’t sing from up here!” Okay. Rohan is playing oboe, Gawain and Will are on stage as hobbits. Hmm. Theodore it is then. Then the chorus comes around and “other hobbits why aren’t you singing” and “not you trees, you only come in after verse three”. Okay, lets do that whole song again and see if we can get it right …and so it goes…