Bringing a show to Barrfields Pavilion Theatre

Largs Amateur Operatic Society recently enjoyed a successful show run with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. The five performances, from 28th to 31st March, were six months in the making. However, the process began almost a year ago.
After every show there is a sense of loss as the cast and production team have 'lived' with that show for months of rehearsals! As the curtain closes on the final performance, the committee is already thinking ahead to the show for next year. How do we follow that? What will the public want to see? With the company we have, which shows could we do? Which shows are available for amateur productions? This is an annual headache! April to June is spent looking at the options.
The LAOS committee require a Producer and Musical Director on board with their choice. The performing licence is applied for in July. A successful application gives LAOS a licence, terms and conditions and guidelines regarding publicity and credits to be included. For 'Jesus Christ Superstar' we acknowledged the Really Useful Group Ltd and declared it was an amateur production by arrangement with the Musical Company Ltd. in our publicity.
Barrfields must be booked for 11 days to include the Get-in, Set building, the Technical set up, Set inspection (required for sets with structures above 2ft high), Band call, Dress Rehearsal, Show run and the Get-out. Let's not forget The After Show Party in the Winter Garden after the last show. It does make the Get-out a challenge on the Sunday morning! We secure the services of our lighting guru, Jazz Hutsby and our sound man Alan Beattie of Sono Vie. For this show, the set would be provided by Jack Murdoch, who provided the set for 'Evita'.
By the LAOS AGM in August 2017, LAOS had secured the licence for 'Jesus Christ Superstar', Producer, Irene Cameron, and Musical Director, David Edwards. The word was 'out' that our 2018 show would be 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. The voice scores were ordered, ready for rehearsals.
The rehearsals began in September at Clark Memorial Church Hall. The hall is hired on Mondays from September to March. LAOS always starts with the music. For three months it's about learning the tunes, the harmonies and the words! This is especially important in a show with no dialogue. David Edwards put everyone through their paces musically. Assisted by Colin Young, David note bashed, cajoled and encouraged everyone to give of their best vocally. It's a long process but it's well worth it in the end. We lose some folk in the process but most stay in for the long haul.
Meanwhile the ticketsource online ticket service needs to be set up for the show dates. Patrons and Friends are informed and invited to book seats early before ticketsource goes 'live'. Largs Printing Company is contacted to discuss the publicity for the upcoming show. For shows like 'Evita' and 'Jesus Christ Superstar' the logo for an amateur production is prescribed by The Really Useful Group Ltd. and no other can be used. At this stage the publicity is flyers, with posters and banners to follow. Contacting the local paper and using Facebook are other ways to publicise the show. It involves a campaign using all mediums.
In October it's time for auditions. There were nine Principal roles for 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. Not everyone wants a lead role. Many are happy in the chorus. The auditions went well, with a good turnout. Everyone had prepared well and the audition panel, consisting of the Producer, MD and three committee members, had a good choice of candidates, with the exception of the part of Jesus. The challenging high notes in some of his solos could not be reached by our male members. However, Jordan Benacci, from Greenock, fitted the bill. We were delighted to welcome Jordan to LAOS. Other newcomers to LAOS, Allan Penders and Al Black were given parts. Andy Park, David Cameron, John Scott, David McGarvey and Calum McVittie had all appeared on stage with LAOS in previous shows. Sarah Dillon has been singing with LAOS Voices for the last year but this was her first role in a LAOS production.
The search for costumes was begun but no single costumier had everything to provide 'the look' that the Producer was trying to create. This became and ongoing process, involving Irene, cast members sourcing online sites, Scottish Opera and That Looks Good, Paisley. During the show run Maggie Telfer and Pauline Green were on hand for alterations and running repairs.
Ticketsource.co.uk goes 'live' by the beginning of December. Tickets are also available through the club. This responsibility currently falls to LAOS President, Fiona Page. It's the start of months of checking e-mails and answering the LAOS phone as people want to book tickets. LAOS can keep a check on how ticket sales are going, with daily reports from Ticketsource or by going into the site directly. Updates are shared at rehearsal with the cast. The publicity is stepped up. Banners and Posters are placed in a variety of locations and the cast promote the show by word of mouth and by handing out flyers.
By January the 'sound' is great and it's time for the producer to bring the production to life with choreography. Rehearsals are stepped up. Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays! Full cast rehearsals remain a Monday but the other rehearsal times become carefully timetabled for principals , group work and specific scenes. This makes the best use of everyone's time. Working on a flat hall floor is never ideal. Using tables, chairs and the badminton lines marked on the floor help to 'set' the proposed stage space, but it's never quite the same as seeing the set on stage in Barrfields, in 3D.
Our producer, Irene, spent time at the early rehearsals watching and listening to the cast. This allows her to think of the staging and how the cast will interact with each other from scene to scene. Now the cast learn their positions, their moves and the choreography for crowd scenes and dance numbers. Slowly, week by week, the production takes shape. The MD, David, continues to work with the cast on their 'sound'.
Time is moving apace and Frazer MacPhail weaves his magic as he puts together all the information for the programme. Thanks to Lynne Cameron- Finn and Gillian McCulloch for sourcing the advertisers. Thanks to the advertisers for supporting our show. A huge thank you to Frazer for gathering all the information, finding out interesting facts about the show and its history and working with Largs Printing Company on cover and contents to produce such a wonderful programme. Well worth the £2 charge! The proof is in the reading! Our thanks to lpc for all their hard work from design to print of the banners, posters, flyers and programmes. This year we have entered the poster design and programme in the NODA competition for amateur productions.
Before we know it, it's time to move into Barrfields Pavilion Theatre. The Get-in begins with the set and lighting equipment being loaded into the theatre. Our thanks to Stuart Doolan and his men for loading the set in Glasgow and transporting it to Largs and bringing it into the auditorium. A team of volunteers helped Jack Murdoch to put it together and a small local team built the cross-shaped ramp and the actual cross. The team included Stage Manager, David Page, Deputy Stage Manager, Sandy Cunningham, Peter Walker, Andrew Braniff, John Gullick and cast members: Alistair Black, Allan Penders, Calum McVittie and John Scott.
Jazz Hutsby spent four days setting the lights and having the cabling and lights ready for the lighting effects for the production. Working with producer, Irene, Jazz then plotted the show and produced a computer controlled programme for 'Jesus Christ Superstar'.
Props are an important part of any show. The producer presents a list of the desired props. Then these are sourced or made. Our thanks to Prop Hire Scotland for the props they provided. The rest were sourced locally from cast, production team, charity shops or the internet.
Mel Renton pulled together a team for the make-up. This was no small feat this year. The body make-up for Jordan and the wigs provided very different challenges for the team. Thanks to Mel, Grace, Christine and the students from West College Scotland, Greenock Campus. You did a great job. We have photographs to prove it!
With the band on a raised platform on stage, Alan Beattie provided monitors and equipment to allow the MD to view the stage and cast and for the cast to 'see' the MD. This was in addition to the usual mics and sound equipment required for a show like this. Although Barrfields Theatre User Group (BUG) has some sound equipment available for local groups to use, for a cast of 51, more was needed.
Our thanks to Jazz and Alan, who make it possible for us to put on a very professional looking/sounding show. Lighting and sound have become far more high tech in recent years. Modern audiences expect a high standard in all aspects of a stage show.
After a double rehearsal on the Sunday, it's Band Call on Monday night. This rehearsal is primarily for our musicians who are coming together for the first time for this production. It's a rather 'bitty' rehearsal with stopping and starting as the MD finely 'tunes' the band with the voices. It gives lighting and sound time to make adjustments as required.
Tuesday night is Dress Rehearsal. The last chance to make any final tweaks!
A photographer from The Largs and Millport Weekly News takes photographs. Laura Robbie was commissioned, by LAOS, to record the Dress Rehearsal so that we had an album of photographs of the show.
And finally Opening Night is here. No more rehearsals, it's the real deal! The House lights go down and the band strikes up. The audience is seated and the cast is ready in the wings. The moment we have all been waiting for!
The seating plan LAOS uses for Barrfields Theatre has a maximum capacity of 428. Making a show a financial success is a priority and it's all about selling tickets. With show licence, rehearsal hall hire, theatre hire, set, lighting, sound, costumes, props and publicity to pay for, a half empty theatre is not economically desirable. Of course, success also means we have higher royalties to pay! Thursday, Friday and the Saturday Matinee were sell outs!
The Front of House team added to our success selling programmes and raffle tickets. Our prizes were all donated by members and local businesses. Thanks to Graham Green for overseeing this and his teams for a great job over five performances. These sales add to the financial success of the show.
Thank you so much to our regular patrons and block bookings for supporting us once again. For new audience members, we hope you enjoyed our production of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and will return to Barrfields for our 2019 show.
The success of the 2018 LAOS production was not down to the principals, the cast, the band, the production team or the backstage crew alone. It was very much a team effort. Everyone had a part to play and played it to perfection!
At this stage we have no idea what the 2019 show will be. The cast, band, production team and backstage crew are enjoying a well-earned rest.
However, if you enjoy our brand of musical entertainment, here's a date for your diary:
LAOS Voices and Ballyclare Male Choir
Clark Memorial Church
Friday 18th May 2018 at 7pm
Entry: £8 for adults, children no charge.
All Proceeds to Christian Aid
An evening of Musical entertainment, not to be missed!

Jesus Christ Superstar - March 2018

Society President Fiona Page writes about the making of Superstar,
widely regarded as one of the best ever shows to have come to Largs.