When we received the devastating news earlier this year that my daughter wouldn’t be able to do her usual panto, because they were going going to be working with specific dance schools,I started to look for an alternative. There were no other professional pantos around, because it seems that pretty much all of them work with dance schools. So I looked for an amateur panto instead.
I hadn’t realised, but apparently it’s quite normal to put on amateur pantos in January. I found one of those and also a Christmas show, which was performed right over the Christmas period, but wasn’t actually a panto. I got in touch with the organisers to find out more. There were pros and cons of both of them – performing over Christmas would be preferable, but doing an actual panto would also be preferable. One show was on for a much shorter time than the other, but it only had one team of kids, whereas the other show had three teams of kids – so they would probably end up with the same number of performances.
It had to be my daughter’s decision which show she went for. Although, looking at the rehearsal and performance dates and times for them, she would actually have been able to do both of them without any clashes. And she wouldn’t have had to miss any ballet classes either (it’s important not to miss many ballet classes, especially as she has her Grade 4 exam coming up).
As it happens, the actual panto had a couple of read through evenings at the end of the summer holidays, which my daughter went along to. Once she’d done that, there was no going back. She was sold on the amateur panto, rather than the Christmas show.
In a professional panto, children are just in the chorus, with maybe one child with a ‘main’ non-speaking part. At the amateur panto, there are speaking parts, chorus and dancers. The auditions were held on two separate dates.
The first audition was for the small speaking parts. She had a script to practise from (she didn’t need to learn her lines) and had to decide which part she was interested in. The audition also involved singing, which she says she can’t do. This isn’t true. She’s not a brilliant singer, but she’s good enough. She even has singing lessons, in case she decides to follow her dream of a career in the theatre. At her regular panto, the auditions are only dancing and, as an amazing dancer, she has nothing to worry about there.
How would she get on with singing and acting?
There were tears over the singing just before the audition. She definitely couldn’t sing, apparently.
There were 12 children auditioning for seven roles. The kids were aged from about 9 or 10 to about 14. They all went in and out of the rehearsal room, working in different combinations of kids with different adult actors.
At the very last minute, they did the singing. They sang A Million Dreams as a group, then all sang a line each.
‘I don’t know where it came from, but I did the best singing I’ve ever done.’
What more could you ask?
As it happens, she didn’t get a speaking part. The director told us later (as we’d already suspected), that it was all to do with size. They needed seven kids and they needed to be a good fit with the lead actor. My daughter was eighth smallest (aka fifth biggest) and she just missed out. If they’d used a bigger lead actor, the taller kids may have had a chance.
But all of the kids who’d auditioned had done really well and were all guaranteed a chorus role if they wanted it.
We asked the director what the difference was between dancer and chorus. It made sense for my daughter to audition as a dancer, but she didn’t want to find that she only had one dance and the chorus were on the stage all the time. The director told her there would be four or five dances, including a ballet and probably a tap number (I don’t write much about tap, but my daughter loves it). It was a no-brainer. She was auditioning as a dancer.
The dancer auditions were held a week after the other auditions.
There were 10 girls there and they wanted up to 12 of them. Dancers could be aged 7-16, so I was rather surprised to see that my daughter was the youngest there, and that she and her friend were considerably smaller than the other girls.
The audition only lasted 20 minutes. They just had to show they could do a few moves. Apparently one or two of the others were really good and one or two weren’t very good, with everyone else somewhere in between. But surely they would take all of them? Unless they had other people up their sleeves lined up for it?
It was two days before we got the email. My daughter is a dancer in the amateur panto. Rehearsals start next week. It’s going to be a very different experience to her usual panto, but it is something to look forward to and to focus on for the autumn and winter. I look forward to sharing it with my daughter (and no doubt I’ll be sharing some of it on my blog too!).