It’s time to get off the books!


Rehearsals ramp up for WMS production of ‘South Pacific’

“Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good.” - Terrence Mann

Beating a path up and down the lab corridor of Mount Sion Secondary School with a book in hand for a spot of rote learning is a distant memory for most men my age. But in recent weeks, for the cast and production team of Waterford Musical Society’s ‘South Pacific’, Edmund Rice’s first school has been a rehearsal base for their 2019 show, which runs at the Theatre Royal from April 30th to May 4th. The electric blue covered vocal book distributed to the show’s principal performers has been well thumbed over the past month, be it in Mount Sion, the back room of The Munster Bar or in the comfort of one’s home.

But as opening night draws ever closer, the time to leave the book to one side, and breathe life and character into the lines each cast member is responsible for, has arrived. Well, just about! Some actors have a stunning propensity to learn their dialogue in double quick time. To those who are so blessed, I am utterly envious. Learning lines has never been something which has come easily to me, which is contradicted by how quickly I can pick up the words of a song. So there’s never been an easy way for me to learn 10 or 110 lines of dialogue. For me, since my first stage appearance in Portlaw Scór na nÓg almost 30 years ago, I’ve had to pace up and down with dialogue in hand, reading, and then re-reading and then re-reading again. But once those words sink in, there’s a sense of relief and pleasure when the book is finally put down. Yet even when the dialogue has found its place in one’s muscle memory, one cannot wallow in it. You cannot take what you’ve learned and what you have to perform for granted.

Every time you’re on the stage, as the many excellent directors I’ve worked for have told me, you’ve got to sell what you’ve learned to each and every punter sitting in the auditorium. You must deliver your dialogue and sing your songs every time that curtain draws as if it’s the first time those words have parted from your lips – each and every time. One of the great strengths of musical theatre is how non-discriminatory it is when it comes to the age profile of participants, and that inclusivity is what makes it such an engaging and entertaining past time.

And in that respect, ‘South Pacific’ is no exception, with actors, in some cases almost six decades apart in age, all busying themselves with their respective roles, and it’s been a pleasure to see all of us so determined to get it right. There are no small parts. There are no lesser roles. Theatre work might well demand a huge individual demand from those cast in the leading parts, but it’s no walk in the park for chorus line dancers and singers either. We’re all in it together. The keen eye in the audience will be taking in the facial expressions of the dancer in the second line as well as what the actor out front is busying themselves with. And that’s why the individual commitment of every performance is every scintilla as significant to a show’s success as the collective will required to make a good show a great show.
Said Alexander Pope: “Act well your part, there all the honour lies.” The corridors of Mount Sion, three hectic nights a week, is currently brimming with such sentiment.

‘South Pacific’ runs at the Theatre Royal from Tuesday, April 30th to Saturday, May 4th.
For bookings call 051-874402 or visit www.theatreroyal.ie

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