Long before rehearsals start, the Stage Manager appointed for the particular show meets the producer to discuss his/her ideas. Some staging can be done in a very simple manner – ‘Chicago’ at the Brentwood Theatre, for example, used scaffold poles and a few benches, relying on lighting for the main effects – whereas major musicals at the Queen’s Theatre have before now needed an articulated lorry-load of scenery to be delivered. Budgets are discussed and set once the main ideas are in place, and have to be applied rigidly to all aspects of the production; this often involves a re-think of ideas to reduce costs whilst never compromising on the quality of the show.
The Stage Manager then designs scaled plans to fit the theatre, and co-ordinates the building of scenery where this has been decided upon. These plans are then used for rehearsals, so that the cast become accustomed to entry and exit points, changes in levels, positions of scenery, balconies, tables and as far as possible the amount of space available. Just before rehearsals start, a Production Meeting takes place involving Stage Crew, Producer, Musical Director, Electrics, Sound, Props (hand-held properties) and Wardrobe to discuss the requirements for each department.
Those involved backstage, in Electrics, Sound and Props attend many of the rehearsals to learn the show, work out the sequence of scene changes, lighting and identify problem areas until finally the technical crew arrive at the theatre the weekend prior to a week’s run or very early in the morning for a one-day concert. In the case of ‘The Magnificent 7’, our 1999 concert, the entire stage was built by BOS members in an otherwise totally empty sports hall only to be dismantled again after the two shows.
For a week-long show, a day or more‘s ‘get in and fit up’ is followed by a technical run on Sunday evening to work through any technical problems. Dress rehearsal then usually follows on Monday evening, ready for opening night on Tuesday.
From opening night, the Stage Manager is in charge of the production, following the script to introduce all the relevant cues via headsets whilst often also watching a TV monitor of the action on stage.