THE CURTAIN goes up on probably the most ambitious musical theatre production ever undertaken in Tamworth tonight.
There’s a cast of 40, an orchestra of 27 and a crew of 30 behind this latest Tamworth Musical Society production of Phantom of the Opera.
It is a first in a few ways. Certainly the premiere of the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in this region and another feather in the cap of the society that has seldom played it safe and this year alone has presented a stellar production of Sound of Music to celebrate the local society’s magnificent 125th year on stage.
This production of Phantom of the Opera is director Stephen Carter’s 13th at the helm. The unlucky number will hopefully be a lucky charm for Carter and the company.
“It’s very difficult musically, because of harmony and parts timings,” Mr Carter said.
“From a staging point of view it’s also very technical; there’s lots of changes, lots of stuff happening on stage.”
And there’s an extensive back-lighting rig and big audio and 23 radio mikes on singers on stage as well as the miking of the orchestra.
“And the costuming is just huge; 40 cast with some five costumes each,” Mr Carter said.
“Yes, this would be the most expensive show ever, no question about that.”
There’s hiring costs for special motorised boats and monkeys on stage, the spectacular chandelier, the additional costs in modifying some of the stage gear and equipment to fit the Capitol Theatre’s specifications.
“We hired the set and major props from Sydney but we’ve had to adapt that to our stage,” he says.
And the costumes, hired from Newcastle, have also had to be rejigged for some cast.
And it’s been fiddly, fitting it all in, especially a chandelier that has to come crashing down during the show, and the requisite occupational and workplace safety issues that come with that.
So, just a few hours out from premiere and with the first full dress rehearsal under their belt, Carter and company are a bit stressed and a bit nervous, but that’s really par for the course, too.
Normally rehearsals go for about three months but this company has been rehearsing twice a week, out at the church hall on Werris Creek Rd, since just after Sound of Music completed its run in May. It’s been an extra month and that reflects the technical and musical difficulty.
The production is costing over $100,000 to stage here and if they can get mostly packed houses, giving them about 4500 seats, they’ll make a modest enough profit to go towards their next productions.
So, apart from the theatricals, there’s a bit of technical and financial pressure too.
This week has been particularly stressful for Carter and he admits he tries to hold his temper, doesn’t get a lot of sleep, but having a few minders around him, especially his sister Christine Booby who is in charge of costumes in this show, has kept him more level headed.
Ticket sales have been pretty good and a couple days before hand, opening night is not quite sold out and others okay, but there’s a perennial problem in audiences and early ticket sales, not just in Tamworth, but all over.
“Yes, it is perennial. We get light houses at the beginning of a run and then packed housed to the end and people miss out in the end. It’s not just a phenomenon of Tamworth, it happens everywhere; a lot book early but a lot of people wait for word of mouth.”
As happened with Sound of Music, says Carter, there was a stampede in the end for tickets once the initial reviews were so stunning and scores of theatre goers missed out.
It might well be an issue again - not least because of the majesty and global success of the Phantom theatrical runs but also of the skills and artistic excellence of the company overall.
Phantom stars Riobert McDougall, Nerida Hannah, Bill Gleeson and Catherin Hutchison among the cast. While Carter is directing, Val Godden appears again as musical director and Cherie Gates as choreographer.
There’s 12 performances between October 25 and November 9, including four matinees.