- Hi. I am Adam, and I would like to share my experience of joining the West End musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang while it was in Southampton and Singapore. My most recent news is just below, and in reverse order. This blog will be a reminder of this amazing experience, and yes, I am getting help writing it; remember I am only 9!
After lunch it poured with rain and there was a thunderstorm so we played table tennis and relaxed in our room. Once the rain had stopped we went to the Merlion and went right up into it's mouth and onto it's head. We then had great fun playing in the fountains and getting soaking wet. It is amazing what you are allowed to do when your parents haven't seen you for a long time!
When we saw each other we all cried and hugged. It must have been a funny sight for all of the rest of the cast who were leaving through Stage Door at the same time! I kept hugging my mum, dad and sister all the way back to the hotel and until we finally all went to bed, just before 1am.
On Friday we had great news. We are being allowed out with our parents overnight on Sunday night so we can spend the whole day with them on Monday. It was a very big surprise for us all and we are so excited. Over the final 2 weeks, on the days we are performing we will stay with Pat and Fran so we can rest, but on the other days we can go out with our parents after tutoring from 1pm until 8.30pm, except at weekends when one pair need to stay in to cover the performing pair.
This weekend Katie and I were on, and did 2 performances a day on Saturday and Sunday. It wasn't as tiring as I thought, but my feet ached a bit at the end of the 4th performance. The sewer kids alternate so that they only do one performance a day. On Sunday night Marissa was ill so her understudy, Kimberley, was on instead. Last weekend when Harriet and Harrison were performing all of the rest of their family were off - Truly, Caractacus and Grandpa. That is realy unsusual as it is rare for anyone to miss a performance, but amazingly everything went smoothly.
Between the shows at weekends we go to restaurants nearby for supper with the chaperone. It is usually an Italian place called Spaghettis or a Japanese restaurant, but our favourite is called Fish and Co. Katie and I are really enjoying trying the different foods here.
My family all leave England today to go to Thailand for a week before coming to see me. They fly in and out of Singapore airport tomorrow, so will only be half an hour away from me.
Last night's performance went really well, although the theatre wasn't nearly as full as last week. We are on again tonight, and as it is a Friday night it should be much busier.
Anne left at the weekend to go back to England and we are all missing her. She was a great chaperone and we have spent a lot of time with her over the past two weeks. It will mean that Pat and Fran are around a bit more now though, which will be nice.
We perform in a rota of 6 performances in a row (including 4 performances over 2 days!), then another pair do 2 performances, and the third pair do 6 performances. It means it is very hard work when you are performing and you have to look after your voice carefully, and then you have a long time to wait until you are on again. Katie and I were last on on Wednesday last week, and not until Thursday and Friday this week.
Now that we are over our jetlag we get up around 9am. I am always the first of the boys to wake up, so I play Nintendo until Pat puts her head around the door to say we can get up. The girls always go down to the restaurant for breakfast, but the boys quite like it when Pat cooks breakfast in the apartment. She had to remind us that she is a chaperone and not a maid! After breakfast we relax for a bit, and then it is three hours of schoolwork. In the afternoon we usually swim, and we have been to look at the shops a few times. There are some amazing shops here. In the evenings if we aren't performing we have supper and usually watch a DVD. We alternate which apartment we are in, and when we are in the girl's apartment they have an early night while the boys sleep on top of Fran's bed until the performing pair get home at about 11.30pm. The boy who has been performing wakes the other two up and leads them up to our room while Pat carries the bags. One night Harrison had his eyes shut the whole way and another night Sam had to walk behind me in case he needed to catch me as I was really dizzy. It is horrible waking up in the night.
Katie and I were allowed to phone home from the dressing room an hour before the performance so that our mum's could wish us good luck. Fran then took us both off and cut our hair - no one warned me that this would be part of the First Night! It is usually the wig man who cuts our hair, as the boys have to have a long traditional style and the girls have to have a short fringe (which they don't really like but it hides the microphone). Fran isn't a hairdresser, although she said that she cuts her own hair.
It is 8pm (12 noon in England) and Katie and I are the only ones on stage, standing side by side in the middle of the stage behind the two huge sliders. The band strike up for the overture which lasts for several minutes, and the audience start clapping along to some of the tunes. We both know the overture really well, and we know as it is getting to the end. Katie reminds me to smile, as sometimes I concentrate too hard and forget to, and then she says "hands". They get all sweaty while we are waiting to go on. I wipe mine on my knickerbocker shorts, she wipes hers on her pinafore and we hold hands. The sliders open to reveal us as the narrator says "Once upon a time, a long time ago..." and we step forward together into the light.
An update from the chaperone: "It all went very well this evening both the children gave an excellent performance and were congratulated by Edward! They were enthusiastically supported by the others who thoroughly enjoyed their evening out at the theatre."
As well as it being the first night for me and Katie it is the first night for the "Jaguars" team of sewer kids. It is also Press Night, so we need to be sure that it is perfect, and the other Jeremy and Jemima's are coming to watch too.
My parents and sister sent a big teddy wrapped in tissue paper to the theater to give me a good luck hug!
On Monday Sam and Niamh finally got a day off, and we all went to the Singapore Heritage museum to learn about Singapore's history. It was meant to be an educational trip but it was really fun too. Next Monday we are going to the Zoo. I am hoping it is the one with the Night Safari as I went there a few years ago but was too young to remember much.
The four of us who weren't performing stayed in the apartment and watched the first half of Monster House with Ann who is going to be looking after us while Fran and Pat are in the theatre with the performing pair. Pat is responsible for all of the sewer kids too, and they are training extra chaperones. We went to bed at 9.30pm wondering how Sam and Niamh were getting on, but need not have worried; the theatre was really full and the audience laughed a lot, especially at the "Eastmas" line. The chaperones said that the audience nearly brought the roof down with their cheers when they came on for the curtain call. Lets hope that the rest of the run has good audiences.
I spoke to my mum and sister over the internet for the first time since I arrived. We were going to have a Skype web camera but Pat can't get it working at all in the boy's apartment and Fran can only get the microphone working in the girl's apartment. The rest of the cast arrive today, ready for technical rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Tuesday, more schoolwork and a rehearsal with Kevin Kennedy, our new dad. We rehearsed Hushaby Mountain where he tucks us into bed and sings us a lullaby. Katie said that it isn't the same without Craig (McLachlan) who was our dad in Southampton. We saw Dane when we were walking down the road, and we were all really excited to see him, especially the girls.
Katie and I are going to be on Good Morning Singapore on Thursday for a live interview. We are being picked up by limo at 6.40am (how will we wake up that early?) and will have noodles or fried rice in the TV studio before the interview.
Wednesday - Harriet and Harrison are having a day off while Niamh, Sam, Katie and I do technical rehearsal as we are the first two teams on. We are meant to be having an early night so we can get up for the TV interview, but the rehearsal takes a very long time and we don't finish until 10pm and are all really tired. As Harriet and Harrison weren't up late they are going to do the TV interview. Katie and I are a bit disappointed.
Thursday - The TV interview went well for Harriet and Harrison, although the questions were asked in Chinese and they had to wait for it to be translated into English before they could answer.
During today's technical rehearsals the curtain got stuck at the end of the overture, and mage an awful noise. It must have been scary for Sam and Niamh who were waiting behind the slider, ready to step forward for the first scene.
Most rehearsals are done in rehearsal rooms, and it is only on the final days that they have "tech" on stage, to run through everything including the actors, the lighting, the sound systems and most importantly the props. We spent a lot of time doing Toot Sweets because the dogs are not nearly as well trained as the ones in Southampton, and won't go to Lord Scrumptious like they are meant to. On one of the run-throughs of Toot Sweets Kevin Kennedy was standing in the wrong place at the end of the scene as the backdrop for the next scene came in. Leo (Marissa's husband) saw what was about to happen and pushed him out of the way as it could have killed him, and Marissa screamed. Someone hit the emergency button. It was all very scary.
Today's rehearsal went on until 10pm again and we are all getting very tired. Katie got a bunch of flowers from home which really cheered her up.
On the third day, Thursday, we went to the theatre for a rehearsal. It was in a rehearsal room as the technical guys are setting up the stage. We rehearsed all of the same things as we had in London, to check we had remembered it all.
We had more rehearsals on the Friday, and on the Saturday there was no rehearsal but we had to do school, even though it was Saturday! We rehearsed again on Sunday - our day off will be Monday here as there will be two performances on Sundays, unlike in England.
We have been given the schedule and Katie and I are doing Press Night! They call in Gala Night here and it is on the Tuesday. Sam and Niamh are doing opening night, which must be scary for Niamh as she hasn't played Jemima before, but great for Sam as he had a long wait for his first performance in Southampton. Harriet and Harrison are doing the last night, so we have all got a special night.
On Sunday we finally met the children's ensemble - the Sewer Kids. There are just two teams, Bentleys and Jaguars, and they don't understudy the Jeremy and Jemima parts as we understudy each other here. Catie had told us all about them, so it was nice to finally meet them. They are from all over the world including America and Australia, and some of them have very strange names, and I think only two are from Singapore. I really get on well with Jack who is from Liverpool - he is just like Fraser.
On Fran and Pat's day off we had a great outing, and definitely our best day so far (sorry Fran and Pat!). We went with Roger, the company Manager, and Ann, a chaperone who was already out here, on a Duck Tour. It was a little bus which drove on the roads, and then straight into the Singapore River. It floats like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and was really cool. We were all given duck whistles.
Although the rest of the cast went on Quatar Airline we flew with Singapore Airline as our chaperone, Pat, said we needed a direct flight. We all sat together and watched movies and slept for the 13 hour flight - I watched Grease and The Simpson Movie - but then the TVs stopped working. We were given $75 to spend on whatever we wanted on the plane since we couldn't watch TV! Some of the passengers and crew told the chaperones that we had been very good but it seems normal now for us to behave nicely and quietly.
When we arrived we unpacked and settled into our apartment in the Somerset Grand Cairnhill, where we will live for the next 7 weeks. The boys are in an apartment above the girls with Pat. The girls are with Fran and have a bedroom set up as a school room. After we had unpacked we went to the local Chinese restaurant and I had chicken and rice for supper, then we went back for a long sleep.
We had a photo taken of all 8 of us together since today will be the last time we see Jessica and Fraser for a while. There was a bad car crash outside Pat's hotel and the whole road was closed so we only just got to the train in time.We rehearsed all of the second act today, but Catie wasn't feeling well so we finished a bit early.
The train back to Southampton took ages and Fraser and I kept getting told off for giggling. We made loads of video clips on our phones. I am really going to miss him in Singapore as he has become such a good friend. It is a shame he and Jess can't come too. It won't be the same without them.
Today's rehearsals were in a dance studio in London, and we saw (and heard) Connie Fisher from Sound of Music. She has got an amazing voice. We continued working through all of the songs and dances. The biggest change in Singapore will be because some of the sliders (with the big pieces of scenery) can't go off the same side as they did in Southampton. Part of the sweet factory scene is reversed, so the changes are quite tricky to remember. It is nice to rehearse in a proper studio, although it is quite tatty. Pat found us a great place for lunch, and after working hard all day we got home at 8pm, still stuffing ourselves with the fantastic fruit salads she had found us in the station - I think she is feeling bad about feeding us nothing but bread rolls and doughnuts yesterday.
We all had a jacuzzi in the evening - the boys went first because the girls took so long to get changed. We had a big supper then went to bed. Sasha was allowed to sleep in the girls room with them, but she and Jessica couldn't get to sleep and were still giggling at 11pm.
It took ages to get to the rehearsal hall in London by train and taxi, and then we had to work really hard all day with almost nothing to eat as there were no shops or restaurants anywhere near. We rehearsed with Phil, the children's musical director, and with Catie, going over everything from before and all of the changes that are being made for Singapore. They were pleased that we had all remembered everything.
We had to stand up most of the way back to Didcot until enough people got off, and then shared a couple of seats. Katie was going very white as she was so tired and hungry.
We are all staying at our house and Pat is staying in a hotel near Didcot station, as it is much closer to London than everyone going back to their own houses. It was after 9pm when we got home, and then we had a mad rush for everyone to choose a bed, phone their Mum and eat supper so that we weren't too late for bed. It was great fun as Fraser, Sam, Harrison and I were all in my room, and Katie, Niamh, Harriet and Jessica were in Sasha's room. We were all asleep within about 10 minutes, even though I had Fraser's feet in my face!
It said "I am delighted to be able to tell you at last that the children who are going to Singapore will be Samuel, Harrison, Harriet, Katie, Adam and Niamh."
I was so amazed that I read the email twice before I believed it. I am so excited. I can't believe that all of the children chosen are from Southampton. It must be because we are all friends already so they know that we get on with each other. Fraser and Jessica are going to be understudies and will do all of the rehearsals with us but will then stay in England unless one of us has to come home. It is a real shame that they can't take all 8 of us.
Usually at the end of the audition you are told who has got the part, but they told them that they would find out in a few days. That must be because they need to compare the Southampton children to the ones that auditioned today. In the meantime Katie and I are making sure we give every performance our very best. You never know who might be watching! I can't wait to find out.
My Mum and Dad talked to me about all of the reasons not to go to Singapore to make sure that I was certain that I really wanted to go. I am a bit worried about missing so much school work, especially in Year 5, and missing choir, but even with that I really, really want to go. It will be nice to have the chance to perform in another country, but most of all it will mean that I can carry on playing this part for longer. I am glad that I am Katie's partner as she wants to go as much as me, and neither of us will back out and let the other one down.
Shannon doesn't want to go, so she isn't going to go through to the final selection, and Sam wasn't sure to start with because he got homesick in Bristol, but decided it was too good a chance to miss. All of the other JJs from Southampton want to go, and am sure that all of the JJs from the other venues are desperate to get the part too, so there will be seven JJs from Southampton, one understudy (Niamh) and 12 others from all over the UK who have played the part and have now been selected by Catie for the final audition. They are taking three pairs of Jeremys and Jemimas and choosing a pair to be covers too. I can't wait until tomorrow's auditions are over and we finally find out.
Catie is going to choose from the JJs all over the UK to decide who goes to London for the final audition. I hope she chooses Katie and I.
Between matinee and evening performances the chaperones always take us to The Encore for a meal, but today mine and Katie's parents were waiting at Stage Door. They asked us and the two covers, Ella and Jordan, to go to the front of the theatre and there was a huge stretched limo waiting for us. We drove around Southampton for a while and then went to join the others for tea. It was a brilliant day and I think Katie will always remember this bithday.
West End at last!!
Each day I was performing I got on the train straight after school to go to London. I slept on the train some days so that I wasn't too tired, and arrived at the theatre by 6pm, and then went out to eat. I was paid £22.90 per performance, but I had to pay for my own expenses. My parents chaperoned me, and I had my own tiny dressing room. I spent most of the time in the Green Room, doing homework, watching "Cirque de Celebrite" and "Braniac" on TV and chatting with the understudies and everyone else who was in there. It was really friendly and the understudies, Mark and Declan, helped me to rehearse.
Cordelia was keen that we "made the part our own" and by the end of the run in London Joshua and I were playing the part in very different ways.
Senaria was the wardrobe mistress and she had to put brown make-up on my hands, feet and face to make me look dirty. You need loads of make-up for it to show under the lights. It was Senaria who told me about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as she is going to be working on it after Godot.
After one of the shows I was introduced to the director Sir Peter Hall and Harold Pinter, the famous playwright, who had been watching me that evening.
We had to read from a script and do an Irish accent.
Joshua and I got the part, and were given a script to learn with over 50 lines, most of which were "Yes Sir", "I don't know Sir" and "No Sir". We only had a couple of rehearsals, so it was lucky that we were both good at learning lines.
The play has 4 main characters and the Boy, and it is a bit of a boring play, as it is about two men talking while they wait for Godot (whoever he is), and Godot never actually arrives.
Joshua and I did alternate performances and we had our own huge dressing room, which was great as I had a sleeping bag and would arrive straight from school, do my homework and then have a sleep for 20 minutes before the show. I didn't see much of the cast, except on stage, as they were all in the Green Room below the stage.
My little sister Sasha came to watch and she sat in the front row. It must have been very boring for her, but she always likes to come and see me on stage. One of the cast said they have never seen anyone so young watching the play and look like they were enjoying it!
Some of us were asked to be evil dancing dwarves for Mozarts "Philosopher's Stone" at Garsington Opera for 2 weeks in June 2006. It was a really fun role with some amazing singers, but it was all sung in German so I didn't really understand too much of it. Performing at Garsington was strange as the stage is in the open air.
We were very excited when Julia, our Stagecoach Principal, said she would like us to sing the "Perfect Nanny" duet with a group called the "Westenders" who were coming to Banbury.
Unfortunately, a week before the performance, Megan broke her wrist and was put in a plaster cast. Luckily the producers decided that as she could have long sleeves hiding the plaster cast we could still perform.
The day before the performance I hurt my arm playing football. It didn't feel too bad so I went to choir as usual and played cricket, but the next morning it really hurt. On the way to Stagecoach we went to have it checked out in hospital. It was broken!
Both Megan and I did the performance that night with our arms in plaster casts. We must have been a funny sight!
The rehearsals went well, but the director, David Steadman, was not happy as George and I were both too tall, but the understudy Ethan, was only 6 and had not been in a show before. He overturned the casting and asked for a DVD to be made showing all of the cast, and then George, Ethan and I went to a recording studio to have a recording of each of us singing the Tiny Tim solo "On a Beautiful Day" so that Mr Steadman could see the DVD, listen to the recordings and then choose between the three of us and a boy in Solihull who was currently playing the part. I was really upset, and it was a very long 2 weeks while we waited as David Steadman went off for the Christmas break without making a decision. It felt like forever. Just before I went on stage for the last performance of Wizard of Oz Maya got the news. Ethan and I were in, with George as an understudy. Even though I was about to go on stage I cried as I was so happy.
I loved playing the part, although it was a bit scary standing on one leg on the table with my crutch, singing "On a Beautiful Day". On my first night Julia reminded me that Tim is meant to be ill so it wouldn't matter if my voice wobbled, and she and my mum watched from the wings. I think they were more nervous than me so they watched David Steadman's face on the monitor and when he smiled they knew it was alright!
I was really lucky as I did Opening Night and Press Night. Ethan got so nervous that he was sick so I did some of his performances too, but Maya was great and organised an extra rehearsal on stage so he was more confident in what he was doing. He ended up loving it.
Some of the cast were lovely and came up to our dressing room, but some of them were a bit grumpy. Apparently it was because it was so cramped backstage and we kept getting in their way, so we spent a lot of time hiding behind scenery to keep out of their way. My mum taught the boys sign language so they had something to do. We all learnt how to sign "Bog off Bob" for whenever Bob Cratchit walked past. Shane Richie played Scrooge, and we didn't really get to see him off stage. After the last performance he shook my hand and said "It was nice working with you mate", but he probably didn't even know my name.
We were only on stage for about 10 minutes, and then again for the curtain call, so we spent a lot of time in the dressing room. Maya played lots of games with us and did some really fun warm-ups, including getting us all singing "Somewhere over the Rainbow" when it came on over the intercom from the stage.
On the last day we went to Laser Quest between the matinee and the evening performance. The staff were hoping for free tickets to see the show so they gave us loads of pizza, chips and drinks. As soon as we started doing the warm-up for the evening performance we realised what a mistake it had been to eat and drink so much! I don't think they got their free tickets.
The other 8 finalists and I went to watch the show as VIPs and were taken backstage to meet some of the cast and to see how they do some of the illusions. Daniel, who won the part, went on to play Michael Banks in Poppins.