This was the week devoted to polishing. With the first full run on Saturday, the aim of the week was to go through every moment of the show and clean the choreography, the blocking, refine choices, find new choices, fix those little moments that you’ve been letting slide for weeks. It’s actually a fun week because the hard work of the original blocking and choreography is done and everyone knows the language now.
Monday we cleaned most of Act One. We got a little frustrated today as we were feeling like each number was fine, but done without much passion or excitement and couldn’t figure out how to get it there. We talked a lot about it to the cast and kept working, and by the afternoon things were improving and getting edge.
Tuesday work continued on the first act, heading for a run before lunch, where we hoped the work we’d done on the show would pay off. And it certainly did. The cast came to life in a way we hadn’t seen yet. The show was exciting, had edge, every moment the leads were on fire, the ensemble powered through each number with style and sex appeal and it was really fun. Natalie said after she wanted to get up onstage and join them, it looked like they were having such a great time. It felt like Priscilla. The excitement in the room afterwards was palpable. I asked around to see why it was so different, and could they feel it. They all could and responses ranged from “I told myself to choose fun no matter what” or “I understood how hard I had to work every moment” or “I got what I had to do”. That afternoon we started working Act Two.
Wednesday all work stopped for our press launch to the Italian media that morning. We were doing a rehearsal room presentation, where you invite them in to meet the cast and show them some numbers without costumes. I hosted the event (with Valentina by my side, of course) and it was very smooth. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to phrase my sentences so they’d have impact, even though they have to be cut up by translation all the time. I’m very lucky to have Valentina – she not only translates the exact essence of what I say (the cast have told me) but she now does my mannerisms!
The cast were electric at the presentation, really vital and powering the material. We did a question session afterwards that was exhausting. There was a lot of curiosity about the size of the production, the impact it could have on a religious country, the language, the expectation of how long it will run…on and on and on. There were tons of media there – it was quite intense, actually. That afternoon normality returned and we continued working Act Two.
All week, people have been pulled out for costume fittings, and now mask and wig fittings have been added to the mix. Ben Moir has arrived from Oz to do his magic with the masks and makeup, and oversee the wigs that are arriving from our wigmaker in Torino. I saw a few and they’re beautiful, really well made and flattering. Thursday we spent finishing off cleaning the second act while actors went in and out for their wig fittings. That afternoon we had another full run of the show. It was terrific, the story was completely there and all the work from the last week was in place. Every single actor with a role in the show was fantastic – it’s really thrilling to see them play the show.
Friday was a mixture of cleanup from the run the day before and then getting ready for the recording sessions that afternoon. Everything’s heating up now, every department needs the cast often to check a million things and you can feel us heading for the production. On Saturday we rehearsed the number we’re doing on Domenica 5, a television show on Sunday. It’s a hybrid of “Raining Men” and “I Will Survive” but with the principals dressed in their Floor Show costumes due to what costumes are ready. This was the first time in the costumes for the cast, which caused hi jinks with Gumbies stepping on the long trains of the leads’ dresses but we sorted it out. Then they were back on the bus for day two of the recording.
Finally, Sunday. Our first publicity. Publicity days are both exciting and dull in equal measures. You feel like you sit around forever waiting for something to happen and then there isn’t enough time. This wasn’t live, which took one degree of pressure off, but it was the first time that the cast were wearing the costumes (except the Divas, who were already publicity veterans). We met at 9 and jumped on a bus to the outskirts of Milan to a fairly grim tv station. Ben started on Simone’s face and the Divas got into pincurls. Then it was time for ten minutes of blocking on the studio floor. It was a fairly awful looking space and was really difficult to figure out what was supposed to be the front.
Then it was back to makeup again and my favourite part of Priscilla – when we turn the men into women via the magic of Ben Moir’s makeup. The three leads start out as themselves, then an hour or so later, look like incredibly glamourous women. We also had to do makeup on the Gumbys and get the Divas done. It was a lot of work but we made it with one minute to spare. Suddenly there was an audience, which we hadn’t realised. A very loud audience. We did the number and they went crazy – it was really exciting, and looked fantastic on camera. The addition of amazing lighting and LED screens turned the dull studio space into a vibey rainbow. We don’t see it till next week, but I feel pretty confident it’s a good launch onto the wider Italian public. And that was the week that was.