As we approach the opening night of Oliver! produced in association with Colchester Operatic Society, Adam Woodhouse, who plays the role of Fagin, has kindly agreed to give us an exclusive look into the rehearsal process from his point of view, via a series of ‘reviewing the situation’ blog posts. In Part 1, we find out how Adam got involved with the Colchester Operatic Society, how it helped his professional acting career, and how rehearsals have been going so far!
“I’m a blog virgin, so I hope you enjoy my cobbled together attempt at dealing with modern technology! Before I talk about playing Fagin in this wonderful new production of Oliver!, please let me take you back to my theatrical beginnings as I indulge in a brief trip down memory lane, which I hope should help you understand where I am today and why I’m writing this.
My first experience of Musical Theatre was in 1984 (can that really be 35 years ago?!) when my next door neighbour, Karen, asked me to come along to the pre-audition workshops of Colchester Operatic Society Second Edition (CO2’s) first ever production, Grease, because she didn’t want to go by herself. I was delighted to be cast from the auditions and am proud to say that I’m still close friends with many of that original company. After performing in several subsequent COS and CO2 shows, my dear friend Sally Fisher (our wonderful Mrs Sowerberry) persuaded me to audition for drama schools (she even filled out the forms for me!) as she could see how much I enjoyed performing and thought I had the potential to ‘make it’ as a professional actor. I was extremely lucky to be offered a place at every drama school I auditioned for, and decided to train at Laine Theatre Arts.
After my training, I was fortunate enough to embark on a successful, 25-year career as a performer all over the world. One of the shows I performed in was the 1999/2000 Cameron Mackintosh production of Oliver! at the Leicester Haymarket, where I appeared as Mr Sowerberry and other ensemble roles. As my career progressed, I started directing and choreographing various projects, which has led me full-circle to directing and choreographing several COS and CO2 shows over the last 7 years, where I hope I impart my experience and expertise into their great productions at the Mercury Theatre.
So, circle complete, I was at the Oliver! auditions as a reader – someone who says the other lines when potential principal cast members are auditioning. My job done, I went home, walked my dogs, put my feet up and poured myself a large, well-earned ‘cup of tea’. You can imagine my surprise when I was then contacted by the Mercury’s Creative Team, asking if I’d consider playing the role of Fagin. My first thought was ‘certainly not!’ as it has been several years since I’ve performed on stage – I’ve grown accustomed to being on the other side of the table! However, after giving it a lot of thought and doing some research on the Creative Team, as you can tell, I clearly decided that it was a no-brainer, and a project I was very keen to be involved in.
We are now starting our summer break and I’m delighted to say that rehearsals are going really well. The Creative Team know exactly what they want from the company and everyone is working extremely hard to produce what I know is going to be a magnificent production.
My ‘gang’ are a supremely talented bunch of kids who are a joy and so much fun to work with. Special mention to Archie and Joss (Oliver and Dodger), who are perfect in their roles – it’s rare to meet actors their age who have no self-consciousness when working with adults and are fully committed to their characters. I’m really looking forward to sharing the stage with them for every performance.
The rehearsal process itself is always hard work. It can be great fun or, at times, not so much – more often than not, depending on who’s directing you. The Creative Team which we have for Oliver! know exactly what they are doing, and have made every moment of rehearsals worthwhile and enjoyable for everyone involved. Our Director, Ryan McBryde, has a real knack for getting actors to understand the meaning behind their lines, and is very flexible in allowing them to interpret their characters accordingly. I’m thoroughly enjoying working with him and watching him work with others. Charlie, our Choreographer and Assistant Director keeps us all on our toes with her choreography, which fits the style of the show so perfectly. It’s always great to be challenged when it comes to singing and dancing at the same time, and she is pushing us all to attain the highest standard possible – I can’t lie, there have been several times when I’ve been so out of breath while dancing her routines that I struggle to get my words out! Note to self: remember to breathe! Though I haven’t worked extensively with Greg, the Musical Director, yet, having seen a couple of his shows over the years, I can’t wait to hear what he brings, musically, to this production. In the meantime, we’ve had the help of Neil (Assistant MD) who, while adding to the creative input of the team, shows great patience when helping us with our notes and rhythms.
It’s safe to say that I’m very excited about this production of Oliver!. The venue looks to be amazing and, having seen the set plans and costumes for the show, I’m sure that it is going to be visually spectacular. Along with our 13-piece orchestra, expert direction and choreography, this is a show that Colchester audiences will be remembering and talking about for many years to come.
Thank you for reading my first blog – I hope I’ve not bored you rigid! I’m off on holiday now, script in hand, ready for line learning on the beach. I’ll be blogging again in September, when technical work in the venue is in full swing, and I shall continue ‘Reviewing the Situation’!”