Out of Line: Unitardy for the Party
Andi Denny on the rehearsal challenges of A CHORUS LINE...
Rehearsal date: Sunday 9th December 2012
Coffees consumed (personally): Just the one. Dependency waning.
Coffees consumed (company-wide): There’s no room at the b-inn. (Seasonal joke.)
Hours spanned by rehearsal: Only seven.
Number of musical/dance numbers involved: At least five.
Injuries: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I managed to punch myself in the nose whilst doing the simplest dance move in the whole show.
Number of gold/silver glittery hats worn: About twenty-five.
I’m going into Sunday’s rehearsal with absolutely no caffeine in my system, and more food than I’d normally have before such a long rehearsal: a handful of lightly salted popcorn and three small brownies, the spoils of Saturday’s annual Postering/Flyering Day in the South Side and the obligatory trip to Giffnock Whole Foods (I did a lot of walking, and popcorn’s ‘good’ for you. My actions are ALWAYS justifiable…).
It’s no secret by now that I’m going to be wearing a unitard on stage for the entire show, which, with my physique in its current state, makes me look a bit like a business sock filled with coffee beans. The plan is to ultimately work my ass off (literally) until opening night to make sure I look the best I possibly could in it. There’s nothing wrong with me, but I wouldn't go out in it without dropping the bit of spare tyre I have left. If it all goes a bit wrong and I'm still not feeling good about it, I can put a top over it or a pair of black trousers, but it would feel amazing to go out there looking like a professional dancer.
Or maybe, as was pointed out the other day based on the colour scheme of this thing, I'll just go out there looking like a bad Beverley Crusher impersonator.
Now the thing is lying on my bed, taunting me. I've had enough. That thing is going in the bin... just as soon as I'm finished wearing it to rehearsal...
State 1. Clothing: Fully clothed over unitard. Confidence level: Standard. Point of concern: None.
There seems to be a few hangovers in the room, but if people hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. With a promo-photoshoot going on in Studio 1 and most of the principals already pretty comfy in the foyer, Marcus (il direttore) decides that our first exercises of the day can be done out here. There’s a scene towards the end of the show, which we haven’t touched until now, that sees the dancers talking about what they’ll do when they can’t dance anymore. It’s right before power-ballad ‘What I Did for Love’, and before you find out which eight of the seventeen principals will finally be cast in the eponymous Broadway chorus line. It’s a scene that addresses worry, uncertainty, ‘growing up’, being happy, the thrill of being on stage and the sweet relief some will feel when they have to do something else with their lives. It’s pretty emotionally charged, so obviously we do a whole read-through being hugely depressed and another of exceptional Disney-Channel-presenter happiness (A Balimo-Sooty-Sesame Chorus Roundabout; or A CBBChorus Line; or An Adore-us Line). Needless to say, it’s difficult to get through either style without riotous laughter. Afterwards I think to myself ‘we all needed that’ and I know, this close to Christmas with so much hard work behind us and so much hard work still to come, I’m totally right.
Getting the scene on its feet and running all the way to the final cut has some surprisingly brilliant results (I don’t want to waste anything for you, but someone who may or may not have been wearing a unitard under his outfit may or may not have cried at the end).
State 2. Clothing: Dance trousers, top half of unitard exposed. Confidence level: This doesn’t look too bad. Point of concern: Waistband high enough to cover midriff? Yes. Waistband so high the front view is slightly inappropriate? Yes.
Let’s run that twenty-minute ‘Montage’ we haven’t done for a couple of weeks!
Oh crap, what comes next?
Yep, I’ve punched myself in the nose and now it’s bleeding.
Ah, WHAT COMES NEXT?
We’re not in a line…
Wow, you can really see my–
Now I know why superheroes wear underwear over these things. I always thought it was just a tactic to help parents teach children to wear pants. 'Hey kids, underwear = super, so keep those things on next time you and Mummy are in Tesco, yeah?'
I've got three solo singing lines in the whole show – how did I manage to just sing the WRONG ONE?
*sni-* Oh, the bleeding has stopped.
Wow, that was the best they’ve ever done that!
Am I…? Yes. I am. I'm jiggling.
State 3. Clothing: Fully clothed over unitard. Confidence level: When someone’s body is described as ‘rippling’, I’m pretty sure it’s not because it looks like someone threw a rock in a pond. Point of concern: There is literally nothing I feel good about right now.
Fixing bits of montage makes me feel better. Once I put my top on. I don’t eat anything at dinnertime, but have a large coffee, as standard. So begins an eating disorder. Usually-very-flirtatious barista is not at all flirtatious today, but does tell us he’s starting to recognise the Chorus Line cast on sight and remember our names. The view of five other cast members in the queue makes me think he’s not even slightly kidding.
State 4. Clothing: T-shirt kept on over top of unitard, waist-down exposed in skin-tight black lycra-cotton blend. Confidence level: Back to good. Point of concern: Shock in everyone’s voice that my legs aren’t the ox gams everyone seems to have expected.
We spend the evening going over almost every piece of group choreography in the show. We do the Finale/One choreography through, and get a couple of difficult, quite spectacular moves right on the second try, even with a couple of people missing. We run ‘I Hope I Get It’ (the opening), which changes shape slightly as we all realise just how easily an off-day for some can affect the whole number. Many are on top of their game, as usual, but later in the pub several of us will admit just how many times we screwed up and how many mistakes we made that just weren’t things we’d normally get wrong.
Honestly, I’m not at all on the ball this evening. There are two very exposed ballet combinations we do in groups of four, and when it comes to doing ours my body can’t remember which direction the first move is in (neither way feels more comfortable than the other). Later, my arms refuse to take part in a simple move they have done literally over a hundred times by now. Bobby (my character) becomes odder and more bitchy as the rehearsal goes on and as I get more inward and frustrated with myself. I’m making him look bad, and he’s not happy about it.
By this point, though, we’re all starting to act through the dances. Two of us accidentally collide at one point and ad-lib displeased comments to each other. Looks of ‘smiling through the exhaustion’ can be seen on a few faces, the reactions to things are becoming much more naturalistic and organic, and I’m really proud when Bobby twists his ankle during a screw-up and more than one person has to ask me if I’ve hurt myself or if I’m acting.
Something is definitely clicking now, and it’s not Bobby’s ankle.
We begin one of the final pieces of choreography – a soft-shoe shuffle, during which one of the turning points of the plot occurs, and throughout which the dancers are shown to be at the end of what little energy they have left. It’s got Tap, Jazz, Broadway moves in there, and we learn it fast to get it through our heads. We’ll polish it later on, but for now we need to learn. It’s an easy enough piece, but at this stage in the game we’re not having to act tired – we just are. We keep our level of focus high enough to get through it, and when we’re finished it feels like the end is well-deserved. It may be the fastest most of us have learned anything, and it feels very good.
I couldn't be more aware of how ridiculous this outfit looks with jazz shoes on.
State 5. Clothing: As many layers as I could find, still over the unitard. Confidence level: Standard. Point of concern: How I’m going to pee with this thing on without taking all my clothes off.
We’re at the pub, and it’s not entirely the usual crowd. The chat is funny and friendly and involves a lot of talk about the rehearsal, but there’s something more subdued tonight. Even talking about things we’re individually doing wrong seems more serious but for once there’s not a hint of doubt in anyone’s voice. I’m enjoying the idea that it’s because today, performing that final scene and feeling the emotional highs and lows of the final cut, things started falling into place for our characters. There’s a real sense of security and pride in it.
Then someone says what we’ve all forgotten, and suddenly there’s a moment of slightly terrifying realisation.
“Only two rehearsals left before Christmas.”