The final run-through in the rehearsal room is always a crucial moment in any rehearsal process. Devoid of set, lighting, costume and full band, it's an opportunity for the story (so far) to be told in its most unadorned and clutter-free form. And Darling of the Day has at its heart a warmly unconventional love story and a gallery of appealing characters. I think it's a fascinating work: full of wit and feeling, unafraid to take narrative risks.
Today marks our move from a church hall rehearsal room (which has often been "visited" by passers-by looking for playgroups, Zumba classes and public telephones) to the theatre as we start to assemble the visual aspects of the show. Long before rehearsals began, the choreographer Matt Flint and I went on a research day to Putney where much of the piece (based on Arnold Bennett's Buried Alive) is set. We passed the house where Alice and "Henry" live, sneaking a look at the garden where the second act picnic is set, the riverside where Henry paints his picture of Putney Bridge and decided that The Bricklayers Arms might offer the best replica of the pub where the rousing "Not on your Nellie" is sung. Patricia Routledge (Broadway's original Alice) recalls Jule Styne bringing the sheet music in for this showstopper, putting his hat on the piano and saying, "I wrote ya an eleven o'clock number." It's quite a song.
We've spent a busy four weeks rehearsing and fine-tuning a piece which has had very little production life since that 1968 premiere. The fourteen-strong company are kept on their toes, some playing as many as five different characters over the course of the evening - in the same way that the brilliant cast of Bells are Ringing did a couple of years ago.
I'm really looking forward to seeing how an audience reacts to this very British piece and I hope
that the months of planning and research come together. We've been extremely lucky to have the support of the various writers' Estates and are relishing the chance to share this "forgotten" musical with a new generation. A lyric says "even the shy can fly on musical wings" - this week sees us try.
Darling of the Day runs at The Union Theatre from March 20.
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Darling of the Day receives its British premiere at the Union Theatre from March 20. |