Come Meet the Family or Sleep with the Fishes
We premiered the first staged incarnation of Mob Wife, A Mafia Musical last week. We got it right up on its feet and popped it in the space with a bunch of creatives all battling for their input and we did it all with barely any rehearsal and very little tech or band time. And I tell you what, it wasn't half bad!
After 2 weeks of on/off rehearsals in Birmingham with the delightful* Harry Blumenau at the helm, Starbuck Theatre Co - managed by Sarah Pavlovs - brought the cast and all the props and costumes down to London to rehearse with the US writers Michael Mott and Corey Skaggs who had come all the way from New York to ensure their piece met their requirements before being seen. I was pretty apprehensive about the whole project, particularly Michael and Corey's responses when they encountered our accents, our interpretations of Staten Island characters and our singing. BUT they were generous to a fault, gave guidance without criticism, accepted and loved our particular spins on each character and helped us shape the play with their feedback and input.
Alongside Harry, Michael and Corey we had possibly the best personality to get us through the learning and singing of the music, in the shape of the prodigiously talented, patient, and horrendously funny Dan Tomkinson. As an MD he was specific and exacting but took time with all of us each time we'd forgotten our harmonies, and he rescued many a missed cue. He also worked closely with Michael to make changes to the songs up until the last day of the show. Even as we were presenting the piece on stage, it was being amended and improved.
The week was challenging to say the least. We spent much time honing and perfecting where we'd usually be teching and dressing and so every single minute was mined for its potential. Rehearsals didn't stop as the play went up as each day certain moments would be restaged or reblocked based on feedback from audiences. But, it's not a week I'd have missed for the world. I got to work with some incredibly talented, kind and encouraging people in the cast and band; got to meet people I'd never have crossed paths with otherwise, such as Michael, Corey and Stacy Swain; and I got to be the first person to do the full play as Joanne Trevesani, who is hilariously written and gave me great joy! Besides all that, I got to wear some utterly ridiculous clothes, and who doesn't like a bit of dressing up.
However, it was exhausting, no doubt about it. It's taken me 3 days to recover and I wasn't even jet-lagged like the US contingent.
I hope Mob Wife has a future. It took plenty of feedback and several reviews and I know Michael and Corey have plans for its continuation. They've created a lovely piece of theatre, with Michael's wonderful songs creating a 'pornolicious' (Copyright Dan Tomkinson) soundtrack and Corey's fast-paced dialogue heightening the ridiculousness. Good luck to them and to the next bunch of actors to take it on (p.s. I'm super-unemployed soon so if you need a Joanne...) Until then, thanks for letting me be part of The Family for a little bit.
*I had decided before rehearsals began that I would probably clash with HJB - at the readthrough I couldn't make him out at all and his response to me was the one I was most apprehensive about. Turns out I'm an idiot, and he just had a cold so was being miserable. Harry's direction was frequently hilarious, and so often spot on. He gave me a ton of gags and people laughed at my portrayal because of his work. And despite time being short and tech being curtailed he still created a show and did so with great patience and generosity of spirit. So, lesson learned.