Well, July was *almost* a complete month of summery sun! A day of rain towards the end, though, was rather welcome considering how brown the UK had become.
Temperatures into the mid-30Cs caused a small amount of discomfort down in London where are new cast of kids have continued to rehearse all month, but my infrequent visits there have always been a delight as they clearly continue to enjoy the process of learning Matilda. In a few days time, they will finally join us up here in Birmingham and the month-long process of integrating them with the adult cast and with the fully-automated set can get underway.
Back on the tour proper, the most notable event of July was arguably our first Relaxed Performance for Matilda on the road. An autism-friendly event, the idea is for families to be able to enjoy the musical without the worry of disturbing other patrons too much. The house lights are left on (albeit on a lower setting), the auditorium doors are kept open and extra members of front-of-house staff are constantly available for assistance. From a show perspective, sound is less amplified, lighting effects are made subtler and small directional changes go in. It was a pleasure conducting this performance, especially as it fell on my 36th birthday! The focus and energy onstage was expertly geared towards providing the audience with the same experience that the usual show offers, and the reception at the end of that matinee proved that that had been achieved. Everyone had a spring in their step that day after that!
I also moved past 4,000 professional performances in my career this month. Yes, it's rather strange of me to keep count, but as I started counting back in 2004 it's proved very difficult to stop! It all stemmed from a biography in a programme I once saw where a principal claimed to have done "over 20,000 performances" in her career. Knowing they definitely hadn't counted, it intrigued me enough to see just exactly how many I would end up doing. And happy to see after 14 years I'm still going strong (just about)!
It was Showcase this month. This is the amateur dramatic spectacle that usually takes place at the Lowry in Salford every summer. It's full of familiar faces from years gone by and is always far too much fun, especially enjoyable to step back into the depths of an orchestra pit, behind a keyboard, and play things other than Matilda! Well, except that one of the medleys this year was, in fact, Matilda...!
August will flash by, I reckon. By the end of the month, our new set of kids, including two new Matildas, will have performed their first shows. Before that, much rehearsing awaits! Let's hope the weather outside stays kind. But if it doesn't, we probably won't notice much anyway.