by Leanne Coupland
Putting on a West End show usually requires weeks of rehearsal. The whole cast and creative teams will meet on the first day and do a full read through and over the next 4 weeks or so choreography will be learnt, harmonies perfected, props bought and stage directions noted. So what if I told you that you could put on a musical in a West End Theatre in 48 hours? Many would say it can’t be done. But I assure you it can. It has. And it will happen again on the 13th October when the most talented cast will appear onstage in Singin’ in the Rain at the Adelphi Theatre as part of the 48 Hour Showtime Challenge, raising money for dementia charity, the Lewy Body Society. This will be my second time taking part in this challenge. I had the absolute joy of being part of the 2016 cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie where we raised money for mental health charity, Mind and I am so excited to be taking part in this exhilarating challenge again. So, how on earth do they pull off putting on a show in 48 hours, I hear you ask…well, here’s how it’s done.
The entire cast and creative teams meet at 6.30pm on the Friday evening. Prior to this scripts and vocal selections have been sent out so that lines and harmonies can be learnt, but that is it. At 6.59pm the countdown begins and then at 7.00pm rehearsals are in full swing. The amazing team at Showtime Challenge organise a timetable which could rival that of a military operation; the entire cast is split up into groups; we have various acting ensembles, dance ensembles, featured roles and principle cast members who rotate between each rehearsal room working with the shows director, choreographer, musical director and their associates on specific scenes and musical numbers. For Thoroughly Modern Millie I was part of one of the Female Dance Ensemble groups, learning two dance numbers: The Nuttycracker Suite, a big partnering number in Act 1 and the Entr’acte that opens Act 2. This first rehearsal goes on until roughly 10.30pm on the Friday night and then at 8.00am Saturday morning (with coffee in hand) it’s straight back to it; rehearsals resume and among the choreographed madness, we manage to squeeze in costume fittings for each member of the cast before they shuffle back off to a dance studio or music room. Then on Saturday evening, after a jam-packed day of rehearsals (and just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier), we all assemble in the hall and do our first full run-through - A dress rehearsal ahead of the big day on Sunday and a chance to piece our wonderful jigsaw together.
Fast forward to Sunday morning, arriving at London’s Adelphi Theatre, once again, with coffee in hand - (caffeine became a necessity that weekend) and all of the wonderful Showtime Challenge cast and crew were queuing outside stage door ahead of the marathon that lay ahead of us. We make our way up the winding staircases to our dressing rooms and settle in, it’s time for a quick fire and safety talk before the madness begins again. Technical rehearsals start and we utilise every inch of our time and the theatre’s space; if you weren’t needed on stage, you were going over your track somewhere in the theatre. You could find flapper girls in the foyer, people singing on the stairway and time steps being perfected in the bar; the beauty of this challenge was that everyone was helping each other. We were all pulling together to pull off this show - and with only hours to fully tech, everyone was completely committed to the cause. Not one detail was forgotten about; not only were the whole cast and creative team volunteering and working together in this challenge to put on a show and raise money for Mind, we had a fabulous team of hair and makeup that took us from tired and slightly dishevelled ensemble dancers to fully fledged flapper girls of the 20’s. And they spent the rest of their day ensuring each finger wave was in place and not a smudge of red lipstick in sight. I’ve never felt so fabulous after so little sleep in my life! As the minutes ticked by, we edged closer to our 48 hours of rehearsals being up. 7.00pm, Sunday evening…It was Showtime.
Honestly, much of it is a blur; a hazy memory of bright lights and fringe dresses. But the moments I can remember were truly magical; I’ve never known a more supportive audience and cast or an adrenaline buzz like it. There’s something both terrifying yet exhilarating about going into a performance feeling ever so slightly unsteady on your feet; I wasn’t sure how it was going to go - if I would remember all of the choreography (especially since 24 hours prior in our dress rehearsal I froze mid-number centre stage), but it went amazingly. Everyone was incredible, lifting each other up and getting through it as a team. Hitting that final count in our finale number and looking up to the balcony of the Adelphi Theatre as people rose to their feet and rapturous applause filled the theatre I was overwhelmed with a sense of total and utter joy. We did it!
Despite the mild sleep deprivation, as soon as I heard that Showtime Challenge were putting on another show I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved. The entire experience was incredible; I had so much fun and being up on that stage felt amazing, as it always does as a performer, but the sense of achievement and camaraderie amongst the cast was very special. I love the theatre community and Showtime Challenge is another example of how wonderful it is when we can come together to put on a show and raise lots of money and awareness for important causes and charities. So as soon as I could, I signed up to audition for Showtime Challenge again and I’m beyond excited to be part of the team, this time playing Roscoe’s 1st Assistant in their production of Singin’ in the Rain and raising money for the Lewy Body Society.