Last Wednesday evening I had a fairly late message asking me if I could possibly help out a couple old friends; Pam Jenner and Rob Wells, who had found themselves in difficulty with their forthcoming stage production of The Wedding Singer. The difficulty being lack of drummer. They fully understood the chances of me being available for four nights in a row (the length of the run) was unlikely, but by some odd twist of circumstances - ie; I had a gig cancelled and could nudge around some social engagements, I was actually free. As you probably have guessed my to-do list is a bit daft at the moment, it goes on for pages, and I really shouldn't be taking on another commitments...but then I did, for two reasons: 1) they literally could not find another drummer anywhere willing to take this project on at such short notice and without one the whole production - which is huge - might not happen and 2) I'm crap at saying no. On Sunday, hungover from the Pidley gig shenanigans and having spent the morning recording percussion parts for the British IBM album, I arrived at Anglia Ruskin University to meet some of the friendliest people you could ever meet, and then to feel more than a touch daunted by the task ahead of me. I can't read music - I'm more about the soul and groove, but this was certainly a job for a 'reader', they gave me sheet music anyway (lots of it, it's a huge book) in the hope I'd follow it somehow. The songs are nothing like that of the film of the same name by the way, this is a proper musical - it was (and may still be) a big Broadway show, with huge swirling vocal lines matching the tight choreography. The kind of tight choreography an out of time/slightly lost drummer could really throw if he isn't sure of the material. Learning a whole musical - at this scale (big set, big line-up of musicians including full woodwind section and three keyboards) is about four months work. I had five hours on Sunday, followed by a dress rehearsal on Tuesday, to somehow get the hang of it. The thing is - there's absolutely no way I could have pulled out as soon as I met Emily - the musical director, and then the cast, because although I felt completely lost with it all for the first few hours it was clear they'd all put everything into this show and without a drummer it either wouldn't go ahead or they might have to have a backing track or something, which would be terrible.
I spent Monday evening in London watching my play, 'Probably The Greatest Goal Ever Scored' again in London with good friends (complete with Q & A with the audience in which I didn't let myself down: a first), and moaned a lot on the train journey back about the scale of the project I have to get my head around, and quickly. But alongside my negativity there was also this part of me which says...hang on, if I do pull this one off, I'll be absolutely shit hot. I then went back to being negative again, as we missed our first train and didn't get back in till 2am, and let's be honest - if ever there was a week I needed sleep, this would be it.
Tuesday's dress rehearsal was shocking. Absolutely horrible. In the space for the first time - I felt like a serious session muso in the orchestral pit, with my notes all lit up, and Emily - with such a huge task on her hands basically having to get a whole new band up to speed (I managed to rope my good friend Alister in on piano, because he's a genius and he's also someone I can rant to if it all goes terribly wrong).
Now, the problem I have, generally, is that I don't really have the ability to switch off from things. So many times have I taken on a project as a 'favour' but somehow became emotionally attached to it and find myself engrossing my whole brain into it just because I suddenly want it to work. This musical was a favour - a tall order, they probably weren't expecting too much from me in return but someone who turns up and can tick that drummer box. But having seen the set, the cast (all lovely and enviously talented people, I might add), worked with these musicians, I actually found myself starting to care, probably more than I should do. I've listened to the songs on repeat to the extent that they are practically haunting my dreams, from what was originally me helping a couple friends out has now turned into me being part of that team and actually not thinking about anything else at all. I believe in those around me, I can see the effort/energy they're putting and have put in - it only seems wrong somehow if I don't do the same, even if I'm only the stand-in guy who has a million other projects on the go.
A day after the dress rehearsal it was the opening night. We got away with it; it was touch and go - some of it was a little loose, but some of it was really strong. The actual show on stage was excellent - I should know, I have a really good view from my position in the pit. Tonight it was the second show, and whilst it wasn't what you would call entirely 'tight' it was a million times better. You can just see everyone starting to gel, it's a lovely thing. I predict Friday and Saturday will be great - we're becoming comfortable with each other, Emily is doing an amazing job. It's almost challenge complete - almost, we'll see. If you read this in time you should come and see it.
But then by 10pm on Saturday it will all be over. All that stress, all that learning, for four nights. I've been treated and fed very well, and I am learning a lot from watching the show - I'm analysing every detail of the script, it will benefit me as a writer. But by 10pm on Saturday I'll be driving home, exhausted, favour ticked off, but the way things are at the moment I would have moved on from this within a month and that almost feels like a shame because I'm actually really enjoying it. Of course I'm tired too - for example yesterday at work my foot just went to sleep and as I went to the vending machine I just toppled over, it was a horrible and awkward moment, tumbling in the office in front of concerned colleagues. It's probably just a circulation thing, but I just know tiredness has something to do with it. Izzy sent me an email today and reminded me that it's only 3 and a half months until the fringe and we need to get moving with that - I need to finish that bloody script for a start. I probably shouldn't have taken on this extra project, but somehow - in a really vivid kind of way, I just feel my life has been enhanced by this experience.
Anyway, here's me moaning about being tired and when it's 12.40am and I'm writing this blog. Idiot!