On the London production of Zorro I was 1st Guitarist in the orchestra pit and understudy to the on-stage Guitarist. This anecdote is about the first time I ventured out of the comfort of the orchestra pit to play the on-stage part.
There was a lot of music to play from memory and this had to be co-ordinated with various stage positions and choreography (moving into the right spotlight at the right moment, following visual cues etc.). All of this made is quite daunting and of course there is the pressure of having to get it absolutely right. The guitar parts (some to be played whilst walking) weren’t the easiest either…
There was no dress rehearsal for me, but we did have a rehearsal during the day of the show just to run through the sequences and cues. During this rehearsal the resident director said:
“David, after the fight scene between Zorro and Ramon (the bad guy) you will go on and play your solo piece before the big cabaret style bows with full company. During the fight scene a chair leg is used as a weapon and will be left on stage. It is very important that you collect this chair leg after you’ve played your solo piece and before you leave the stage. Otherwise it will trip one of the dancers over during the bows. This is VERY important David, you mustn’t forget!”
Ok, another thing to remember, but not a problem. I just have to remember to get the chair leg before leaving the stage….
At the end of the rehearsal a technician came to me and said:
“David, at the end of the fight scene between Zorro and Ramon there will be a chair leg…”. Anticipating what he was going to say next, I replied:
“And I have to collect it so that nobody trips over it, right?”
“Yes, but I can’t stress how important this is, you MUSTN’T forget!”
So if it wasn’t clear before, it certainly was now – I HAD TO collect the chair leg.
The big night arrived and I dressed up, warmed up, and on stage I went. The first half went well, everything remembered, no hiccups and then the second half: the opening went well, Bamboleo scene great, nailed the Djobi Djoba dance break and then for the solo at the end of the show…
… I went through the solo back stage and reminded myself about the chair leg just before going on. As I was waiting to go on the resident choreographer came to me and said:
“David, don’t forget the chair leg!”
So on stage I went, playing the solo piece to end the show. No mistakes, finished nicely. Then the blackout and I have about twenty seconds to find the chair leg and get off stage. I get on my hands and knees in the area where the chair leg should be and… nothing! So I move right a little bit and… nothing! Left a little… nothing! Now I’m thinking:
“Shit, if I stay on my hands and knees any longer the lights will come on for the bows and I’ll be here on stage on my hands and knees like a rabbit in the headlights!”
But at the same time I couldn’t leave the stage without the chair leg. The twenty seconds I had seemed endless…
As I scrambled relentlessly trying to find that damn piece of wood a technician grabbed me from behind:
“David, quick, you need to get off stage for the bows!”
“But I need to get the chair leg!”
“Oh, don’t worry about that! We’ve already picked it up” he replied. “We decided not to take a chance on your first night”