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A CUPFUL OF SUGAR

by Brian Langtry Claire Holder and Kevin Gilbert disCliss their premiere productioll for Main Street Theatre, Leicester.

standing relationships begin to dlsintegrate. At th e eleventh hour all is revealed and the joy of the wedding is celebrated. This is a play which involves the portrayal of humour, tenderness, joy, anger and tension and is beautifully linked by music, song and dance.

Main Street Theatre was formed back in 1976 and began life based at a Community Centre in Kibworth Beauchamp, a village just outside the City of Leicester. We moved to nearby Great Glen in 1993 after the Community Centre was closed and now use the Village Hall as our home base. We have worked hard on transforming a stark- looking hall into a regular venue for our three productions per alillum - a musical, a play and a pantomime­ which keeps our membership of around fort y enthusiasts busy. e xtremely The company has a hi story of seeking out new works and fortunate in is having singers and several band members upon whom we can call for our musicals and pantomimes. A Cupful o(Sugar came to us via a mail-shot and we were quickly hooked.

Set in the 19505, this story tells of two Midlands famili es and of how the prospect of a marriage uncovers long-he ld secrets of adoption for Mary and Liz th e two future mothers-in-law. As the two young people fall in love, Mary and Liz confide in each othe.r and resolve, each in their own way, to address their hidde n secrets. For Liz this involves telling her son David that he was adopted and for Mary it is a journey to trace her baby boy whom she was forced by circumstance to place for adoption at birth. In time Mary begins to believe that her adopted child is, by way of a te rrifying twist of fate, Liz's adopted son Da vid, by this time engaged to Susan her own daughter. The tension builds quickly as Mary faces the potential catastrophe alone and her long-

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There are eight principal characters - two young men, two young women and four adults - of which four are required to sing. We undertook casting using an assessment of acting, singing and danCing, asking at the auditions for performances of character songs and dialogue. Given the interest in the play, we devoted a fair amount of time to trying people in different roles finally settling for what was , in our view thE' optimum mix. During our preparation we hi t on the idea of ha ving an allfe male vocal backing group ­ The Sweetettes. This undoubtedly proved to be an inspired conce p t enhancing through the purest of soaring harmonies and liv el\ movement each and ev ery song sequence. A wealth of cha racterisa tion s exist for each part and it was vi tal for US to see a range of possibilities in order that a balance between hilarity, song and drama could be achieved .

REHEARSALS --,~-;;o'

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We re hearsed for five month commencing weekly in July. In September we moved up a gear to twice weekly and subsequently to three times a week for the hectic final three weeks. Initially we used adjacent rooms for the song and the dramatic rehearsals with actors moving between the two a;: appropriate. We undertook three full dress rehearsals to finalise back of stage routines and entrances/exits etc. Throughou t this period we worked with th,.

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FEBRUARY


,_ to tweak and s hape specific particularly we added a musical backcloth to the p o ignant poems whi ch immensely th e helie

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~ play is offered with backing p . obviating the need for U!oicians. However, we have ove r <' veMS recruited a co re of c celient musicians and thus we r fc rred to use a "live" approach. 'UT "ery fine five-piece band 路 .e\-boards, bass, two guitars and '~ms - was introduced during - ptember and from October we "hearsed using the full band ill rele r to acclimatise both actors and '"1U!o icians and achieve the so -ecessary d elica te sound balanC' tween largely acoustic singers 'ld amplified musicians.

SCENER~ ~

venue is an elderly village hall we have installed lighting d sound equipment. There is no ~ al1 e nt s tage and no traditional ~ . rtain. Consequently we use a - rtable s tage which protrudes .to the audience area. Essentially me,lIlS we have to be extremely .:reat ive and innovative with our ' C ' , und, as the s tage entrance/exit - .0 5,l Y the least " tight", backs tage "ani ation was crucial. There a re ree main sets - a kitchen, it living m and a clubroom - for which e used a mix of flats painted by ..JI talented resident artist - and '":'p ~. The need to build a portable 路 - and a six feet high scaffold to e the Sweetettes proved a 路 ;..:xJlenge to our carpentry and Id ing skills but it was achieved :h tlnlv a few blisters and terse - nte lligible mumblings. The . setting was po rtrayed via the '"""' of atmospheric lighting . ,hing across a simple bench on mpty s ta ge; it worked to :ant effec t. ~" h ich

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1\ dance and movement is an

.~ I part of the show. Routines

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Sweetettes were developed

ur musica l director and our

dance rou tines were med and rehearsed by one of -n>tnbers who also played the - l iz. Naturally, given the "'.i' emphasis was on jive and ~ . The finished product was t. ble cascade of excitement, ..; co lour, darting feet and " smiles.

!"US

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We d es ign and tailor most of own costumes and have a tal ented and ex pe rie nced desi g ne r who o nce aga in did us proud . The main ingredients were startlingly bright colours , sw irling skirts and underskirts, wide belts, scarves, polka do ts, s trip s and drainpipes, baseball shoes and sleeveless swea ters. Other challenges we re the full wedding regalia, th e pub cleaning attire o f Liz and Mary and the stunning red o utfits worn so elegantly by our very own Swee te ttes. As with sets th e cos tum e ch'1l1ges needed to be speedy and slick.

This was a fairly complex lighting script invol vin g many mood ch<1l1ges from the onslaught of a full stage in rock 'n'roll mod e throug h to the emotion o f sho rt poe tic interludes, outrageous humour, tenderness and dramatic tension. We used microphones for the lead voices but the chorus ilnd the Sweete ttes ' performed acoustical! y. A perfec t balance be tw e n th e acou s tic and th e amplified was achieved throug h patient ex perimentati o n and constant monitoring during th e performances.

SUM

AR~

Th e production of any premiere is exc iting and terrifyin g in equal amounts. Tlw mix of drama, music, humour, dance and poetry enthused us all in what wa s a ch a ll cn l\i ll~ but invi go rati ng und ertal..lI1 g which created a co nsta nt bu zz throughout the whole pe riod of rehearsal and performance. TI1e limita tions of o ur venue mere ly se rved to stimulate the crea tive ju ices and a lack o f faci lities should not d e ter anyone from s taging this play. In a strange sor t of way it was an advantage which ensured th at we focll sed upon and utilised th e many endearing fac ets of the play ra ther than relying on the inert intricacies of a complex set. And the audience? Well they loved it as much as we did and supported us with fi ve capacity nights including Bonfire Night! One reviewer almost captured the mood referring to the show as "A Cupful of Entertainment", what he should of said was "A Bucket of Entertainment" . For more details on the show contact Legless Productions on 01530 416251 or see the website: www.langtry1.freeserve.co.uk

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A Cup Full Of Sugar - February 2000