Well, three weeks of intensive rehearsals have flown by and my daughter has done her opening panto performance!
This year, there was none of the relative glamour of opening night. With two teams of chorus, one gets the long straw of opening night and one gets the shorter straw of a 10am schools’ performance. It’s not something you would think about, but a lot of panto performances are in the daytime for school trips (and the occasional care home trip!). For the first two weeks of panto, there are two daytime performances a day. The schools’ audience is different from the regular audience – it’s noisier, more fidgety and generally more enthusiastic. But it can get bored, it can sit and chat and ignore what’s going in front of it. It can be a bit of a challenge for everyone on stage!
So my daughter was very slightly disappointed that her first performance was to be a schools’ performance. Luckily for me, and a couple of the other chorus parents, there were a few spare seats left. So my husband and I got a seat on the very back row for my daughter’s opening performance. I would have been gutted if we couldn’t see her very first show.
My daughter had told me a lot about the panto. The story is a bit harder to follow than last year’s Cinderella, but she was really enjoying rehearsals. She’d told me she had more dances and songs than last year and, remarkably, she suspected it might be even better than last year!
No wonder she couldn’t sleep the night before… It was about midnight when she dropped off. Not ideal for a girl who needed to be at the theatre in full make-up with immaculate hair at 9am. But she woke up full of the joys of spring. And why wouldn’t she? This was the day she’d been looking forward to since the last panto ended up 2nd January.
The panto is written and directed by the same writer and director as last year. So there were similarities. But there were actually more differences. It started with a song by a lone male actor, before exploding into the opening dance number.
The best thing about sitting at the very back? You get to see the whole stage! So although my daughter was dancing on the back line, I could see her perfectly. And she was dancing very, very well, with a smile so big it looked like her face might burst. Similar to the smile on my face. I felt very emotional seeing her up there on stage. She looked so polished and professional.
After the dame (part David Walliams, part Matt Lucas, part Justin Fletcher) made his/ her first appearance, my daughter and the rest of the chorus were back with another song and dance routine. Their costumes are fabulous, they really seemed to have raised their game with them this year.
They were back again for a long scene in which they acted, with no singing and dancing at all. It was just great to see her on stage so much.
Then there was yet another dance, with another song, some more acting and, of course, another costume at the end of the first act.
I’m pleased to say that the young audience, while fidgety and noisy, were really enjoying the show and following the action. They booed at the bad guys and loved all the audience participation. There seemed to be more chance for them to get involved this year and they absolutely loved it. It must have been so rewarding for the actors and the chorus to see how much the kids were getting into the story and getting involved.
The chorus featured less in the second act, but the story hotted up, so there was no way I was going to get bored! They appeared again halfway through the act in another acting role and my daughter got to deliver her one and only line.
Towards the end of the show, the whole cast sang and danced to Can’t Stop the Feeling – the song I had predicted would be in the panto as soon as it was released earlier this year.
When my daughter was on stage, it was hard for me to look at anyone else, even the adult actors delivering their lines. No doubt I will look at everything else a bit more next time I watch. But I genuinely thought she was one of the two best dancers on stage, despite being the second youngest. In rehearsals, the choreographer actually said to the girls she wanted them all to dance with my daughter’s energy. Her moves are sharper and her smile never drops for a second. She is amazing and I’m so proud of her.
And then it was all over, apart from the finale, with the obligatory new, extra glamorous costume. Both the costumes and sets were fantastic this year.
After the show, my daughter demanded to know if it was better than last year. It was very, very good, but it’s too early to say whether it was better. I saw last year’s show six times, so I really got to know it well, and I loved it more each time I saw it. So I think I need to see this one a few more times before I can judge!
Then my daughter went back to her dressing room. Ready for her second performance of the day.