The Stage Door
Stage Door Lore
Backstage Traditions, Terms & Superstitions
Summing up on investing in theatre, if financial return is your main concern, you should consult a financial advisor or put your money in premium bonds. The point of investing in theatre is for the fringe benefits. You will normally at least receive a pair of free tickets to the First Night and an invitation to the Bash afterwards. There you can rub shoulders with both the stars of your show, and the list of hangers on who nobody recognises, but the publicist maintains will guarantee media coverage. If you are really lucky, the back of your head will be visible (though blurred) in the background of photographs in various colour magazines for weeks afterwards.
Depending on the producer and the show, there could be a variety of other perks. You may be invited to special promotional presentations before opening night and to birthday and other parties after (though, sadly the days of sleeping with a chorus girl are now over). You may have access to House Seats, so you can buy tickets even though the show is sold out (you wish!). You may receive a goodie bag of merchandise, or be able to buy such items at a discount. At the very least your heart will swell with pride when you pass the theatre or see any reference to your show in the media.
If you are interested in becoming an angel you can contact the Society Of London Theatre and join the potential investors list, to whom their members can circulate Investment Proposals if they wish. The more established producers (with presumably a more reliable track record) will have a waiting list of people wishing to become investors, but as costs continue to escalate all producers continually need new investors.
The View From The Stage Door
It's the start of the awards season, and so I offer The Wally Awards, sponsored by Chagrin:
We Woz Robbed Award - Great Britain and Urinetown (which sold out the runs in their original theatres, but when they transferred to the West End, found that everyone who had wanted to see them had already done so).
Just Because You Built It Doesn't Mean They Will Come Award - Made In Dagenham and Memphis (which received generally good reviews, but didn't capture the imagination of the Great British Public).
Between Two Stools Opportunistic Casting Award - Speed-the-Plow (which, instead of attracting both the Lindsay Lohan and David Mamet fans found that each put off the other).
Emperor's New Clothes Award - The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time (which even bringing the house down - literally - could not quench the demand for the 'tale told by and idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing'.
William Goldman Nobody Knows Anything Award - The Book Of Mormon (which most people though would not work for an English audience but continues to sell out).
Doctor Pangloss Over Optimism Award - Women Of A Nervous Disposition and Bend It Like Beckham (which both opened bookings over six months before they started performances, anticipating a deluge of sales attracted by their names, which never materialised).
You Can Fool Some Of The People All Of The Time Award - We Will Rock You (which received some of the worst reviews of a West End show ever - and justifiably so - but was kept running for 12 years by Queen fans).
My Recommendation Of The Week
Ask The Stage Doorkeeper
Some recent questions answered...
"Are the Stalls at the London Palladium graduated or flat?"
"The Stalls in all West End theatres are raked (which is the correct term for a slope)."
"Is there a production of Art being performed anywhere in England at the moment?"
"Not that I am aware of, I'm afraid."
"Do you handle tickets for The Royal Opera House Covent Garden?"
"I don't actually do anything - I'm just the fount of all knowledge. If you're looking for special offers, they are few and far between but ShowSavers does have offers at Covent Garden from time to time."
"What is the average wage of a member of front of house staff?"
"The union rate for a West End theatre is £2.24 per show (3¾ hours)."
"Is the front row of a theatre row A? I want to book online tickets for a show at the Aberdeen Arts Centre."
"If only there was a simple yes or no answer to this - but there isn't. It all depends on the show. While row A is usually the 'standard' front row, it can vary depending on whether or not there is an orcherta pit (not likely at Aberdeen Arts Centre) or the stage is extended. So extra rows may be added in front of row A (AA, BB, CC etc), or the first row or rows may be removed, so rows C or D may be the front row. It's alwasy best to check with the box office regarding the particular show."
"Where can I find a script for the play Womberang? "
"I presume you mean Womberang by Sue Townsend, in which case the answer is that it is published by Samuel French."
"Do you know if the Edinburgh Playhouse has a stagedoor? if so, how do I get to it?"
"I've never worked there, so I don't know, but if you walk round the building you'll come to it. If you get back to the front again without finding it ask at the Box Office. I've only ever been to one theatre in the entire country that didn't have a stage door and that (unsurprisingly) was a recently buit one. Although I expect the Curve in Leicester also doesn't have one since they practically have to build the scenery in the foyer. "
"Is 'The Producers' being staged anywhere in the UK now or in the near future, either professionally or as an amateur production?"
"The only production that I am aware of is an amateur production at the Hazlitt Arts Centre in Maidstone from 7 to 10 March. That sounds so wrong in so many ways that it's too grisly to contemplate."
"How do I address a letter to the stage door at the London Palladium to pass on to Michael Crawford and what is the address?"
"The stage dooor is actually in in Great Marlborough Street, but they use the main entrance as the postal address, so you can just address it to Michael Crawford, Stage Door, London Palladium, Argyl Street, London W1F 7TF."
"Wanted to ask about the lengthy planning of a show... how important it is? how long from your knowledge certain shows take to come together?"
"The short answer is it all depends. A couple of years would be an average time for the writing of a musical, but it can take any amount of time after that for the production to be mounted. There are plenty of previously produced writers who have finished works that have yet to find a producer. When a producer or theatre does decide to put on show it can take months or years, depending on the availability of a particular actor or director. Alternatively, if everything falls into place, the process can be quite swift."
"I need to hire costumes for Mel Brookes' "The Producers" for an hypothetical show as a part of my college course. I cannot find one decent company website in the whole country...could you tell me where I might be able to find what I want?"
"Theatre is a bespoke industry. You can't go to a web site and order a complete set of costumes for a show as if it was Marks & Spencer. To put together a complete show you may need to go to many sources. Work your way through the list of costume hire companies in Contacts, published by The Spotlight, starting with Angels."
"How much does the average ensemble person make per contract??"
"It depends on the type of venue and length of contract, varying from nothing if it's Fringe to a reasonable wage if it's the West End for a year. You can find the minimum wage rates from Equity the performers' union."
"What is the shortest recorded run of a musical in the West End?"
"Leaving aside the revue that technically closed before the end of its first performance, the shortest run of a musical was Mike Reed's 'Oscar', which closed after one performance."
"I am writing a novel about a ballerina at the Royal Opera House. I was hoping to stage a scene where she spots someone she knows in the audience at a rehearsal and leaves the stage (either via backstage or otherwise) and joins the spectators (within a couple of minutes). Is this feasible for this venue? "
"At a rehearsal there will be steps offering direct access from the stalls to the stage."
"What is the dress code for a night at the opera at His Majest's Theatre Aberdeen to watch La Traviata on the 13th April 2012?"
"As I've said before, sadly the days when audiences dressed up to go to the theatre are long gone - even at First Nights - so you can wear what you like. Just try to avoid provoking the front of house staff into saying "Deliveries to the Stage Door." "
"What time do acts normally arrive at the Royal Albert Hall for a 7.30 show?"
"It's impossible to estimate accurately. They will be there in time for some sort of rehearsal, but its length will be detirmined by the fastidiousness of the act."
"Do you know the name of the wardrobe manager on The Lion King?"
"Not off hand, but if you call the Lyceum stage door on 020 7420 8100 they will be able to help you."
"Can I pre-order Champagne, in advance, for the interval at the Prince Edward Theatre. It is my anniversary and would like to surprise my wife."
"You can indeed just call the theatre on 0844 482 5166."
"Sorry if you've answered this before but is it possible to get giant theatre posters from theatres when they no longer need them or do they throw them away. I would love to use them instead of wall paper."
"I'm afraid that everything goes out the door the day after the show ends. "
"Which theatre in the UK has the largest seating capacity?"
"The London Coliseum has the largest seating capacity in London at 2,359, but I'm not sure what happens north of Watford."
"Where can I hire a Pudsey Bear costume in Leeds?"
"Do you hire cat costumes for adults please?"
"I don't actually do anything - I'm just the fount of all knowledge. Work your way through the list of costume hire companies in Contacts, published by The Spotlight, starting with Angels."
"I'm going to The Wizard Of Oz and I am seated in the Royal Circle - what should I wear?"
"Sadly the days when audiences dressed up to go to the theatre are long gone - even at First Nights - so you can wear what you like. Just try to avoid provoking the front of house staff enquiring "Crikey, what have you come as?" "
"We're taking our 6 year old daughter to see The Lion King. Is it best to sit in the Stalls or the Royal Circle?"
"I've discussed this in general a number of times before if you scroll down the questions. For this particular show, if you go to The Lion King web site, there is a 'check the view from your seat function'. My choice would be the Stalls - the reason will be obvious the moment the show begins."
"We are a drama group and are struggling to find a nice looking camel costume for two people (or one) for our panto in January."
"Work your way through the list of costume hire companies in Contacts, published by The Spotlight, starting with Angels."
"Which is the best theatre in London?"
"Don't you mean "How long is a piece of string?" There are so many criteria you can use to judge - from 'most comfortable seats' to 'best actor/audience relationship' - you can make an argument for almost anywhere. And on top of that, the response to any space is purely subjective. I think that Frank Matcham is the greatest theatre architect in the world, and of all time, so the London Palladium would be at the top of my list - but then so would the Donmar Warehouse (before it was refurbished in 1992)."
"Typically, where do musical productions get the costumes from? Are they all made by wardrobe or do they out-source them sometimes?"
"The costumes for West End and tourung shows are generally made by individual self employed costume makers. For limited run regional productions they may be hired from costume companies."
"I have just seen Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward theatre. Do you know if the artists that played Franki Valli etc were actualy playing the instruments on stage?"
"No, they weren't."
"How much should I charge for a show with costume, choreography and music for a cruise ship?"
"As much as you can get away with! Entertainment budgets are tight on cruise ships, so it won't be as much as if you were performing on land, but you will be getting food and accommodation for free, and hopefully seeing interesting places. You need to realise that the ship's attitude will be that you are getting a paid holiday, so they see it more as expenses than a fee."
"Is Starlight Express available for amateur theatre?"
"I'm afraid not. A school's version has been licensed in North America but nothing else."
"How do I go about buying a seat in the name of my wife"
"Use her credit card."
"What is the dress code for press night at a west end show? "
"Sadly the days of evening dress at first nights has gone the way of good table manners and politeness. Just try not to wear something that will cause the ushers to ask "What have you come as?"."
"I want to work in costume for dance, theatre or tv - I'm a graduate in history of art from University of Bristol, and want to gain some work experience in this field - where do I start?"
"You could try contacting the wardrobe departments of national producing theatres, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National or Covent Garden; your local producing theatre (many regional theatres only take in touring productions); or costume making or hire companies. You can find contact details for all of these in Contacts, published by The Spotlight."
"Do you know if the Palace Theatre in London has the highest balcony of all London Theatres? It certainly feels like it does."
"While the balcony at the Palace is very high, I think you will find that the balcony at Drury Lane is higher. I haven't measured it, but urban legend says that the view of the stage from there is sometimes obscure by low cloud."
"Do you if it possible to hire the principal cast of a west end show to perform at an event and who I would need to contact for this? "
"The casts of West End shows are sometimes available for these kinds of events - although often it's the understudies and chorus members rather than the principals. You need to contact the producer of the show to find out. If you search hard enough there are usually some sort of contact details on the show web site, or you can find them at the back of the programme."
"Looking for a costume for my daughter's dancing show. Her dress rehearsal is on the 25th June and her show is the 3rd July at the Armadillo Glasgow. Could you help me out?"
"Most of the theatre costume hire companies are based in London where the biggest market is, but they offer a mail order service. Look for them in Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet. I suggest you call dance schools and theatres in Glasgow (and possibly Edinburgh) and ask for their suggestions for local contacts."
"Is the Upper Circle in the London Palladium a big climb?"
"It's 47 steps up from the foyer - you decide."
"How much does it cost to hire a venue in london for dance theatre?"
"People ask a similar question about pieces of string. It depends on the venue. They range from fringe venues that are big enough to accomodate dance to the London Coliseum, with a similarly wide range in price. Just call somewhere that you would ideally like and ask. You can find contact details for all London venues in Contacts, published by The Spotlight."
"I want to leave a present for an actor at Wyndhams theatre, is it possible to leave it at the Stage Door or do I have to leave it at the box office?"
"All communications with the cast are via the Stage Door, which at Wyndham's is shared with the Noel Coward."
"Are you aware of any plans to release Disney's The Lion King for amature performance, as was done with Phantom this year?"
"I don't think Disney release amateur rights to their shows while the Broadway or West End productions are still playing - and since The Lion King is the most successful show they have ever staged, I don't think those runs will be ending any time soon."
"Where can I get get Cats wigs and costumes from?"
"You can find links to hire companies in Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet, and you can find a comprehensive list of hire companies in Contacts, published by The Spotlight."
"I'm doing performing arts GCSE and we have to research how much it would be to hire a venue for our showcase. How much would say the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton be to hire?"
"Just call the manager on 01902 573320 and ask him."
"Do you know how I can contact the props department for the Lion King?"
"As with all enquiries - via the Stage Door 020 7420 8100."
"Do you know if the lion king is coming to Scotland any time soon. "
"I'm afraid that I'm not aware of any plans to tour The Lion King."
"How much does the average professional stage director get paid an hour?"
"Directors don't have an hourly rate. The get a flat fee for 'whatever it takes' to get the show on, plus in the case of West End runs, a weekly royalty."
"We need to recreate the Old Bailey on stage in our village for a play in May. How do we represent the Coat of Arms above the judge?"
"Never having been in either the dock or the witness box I'm not sure of the exact nature of the Old Bailey's coat of arms, but I'm sure an internet search would be able to find it. If you don't have an artist in the village who can recreate it, you may be able to hire one from a scenery or props company, as I'm sure Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial By Jury is being done somewhere at this moment, so there will be a demand for it. You can find links to hire companies in Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet, and you can find a comprehensive list of hire companies in Contacts, published by The Spotlight."
"What is the likelihood of The Wizard Of Oz at the Palladium being extended till next year ?"
"101%! The run of the show will be limited only by the interest of the Great British Public - and judging by the current advance booking figures that is considerable."
"It's my first time going to theatre. Is it better to sit in the stalls or the circle?"
"If you like to be close to the stage and feel part of the action, then the front Stalls is the place to sit, although you will be looking up. If you like to have a wider overall view, then the Dress Circle, further back and in a slightly elevated position, looking down on the actors (as most people do in real life) is the place for you. Remember that Boxes are for being seen in - they are at best a sideways on view, at worst they are restricted. "
"I would like to book tickets to see Madame Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall - the choice of tickets is choir vs circle - what are the main differences between these two tickets? On the seating plan it looks like the choir is behind the stage which is mad."
"It is common for concert halls to have choir stalls at the back of the platform, and if they are not being used by a choir, it is also common for them to be sold as audience seating. You get to be close to the performers, but you are behind them, and depending on the accoustics of the building, you may not hear very well. In this case, as Madam Butterfly is performed in the centre of the hall rather than on the platform, the view and then sound should be no different than from circle seats on the same level."
"Does the King's Theatre in Glasgow take work palcements/experience?"
"The only way to find out is to call the stage door on 0141 240 1300 and ask the manager James Haworth."
"I'm planning to put on show at Royal Albert Hall with an orchesta and singers and performers from classical and contemporary music. Can you give me a rough idea of how much it costs to hire a production company like Raymond Gubbay to produce show?"
"I think your problems will be twofold. Firstly, you will find that most major concert promoters don't take on the management of other people's events, and secondly, I would be surprised if the Royal Albert Hall would be prepared to deal with a company they didn't already know. So, I would start by contacting the Royal Albert Hall to see if they have an 'approved list' of promoters that they deal with. Then, try contacting the people on the list and see if they are interested in managing someone else's event. Only at that point does the cost become a factor."
"Walter Plinge was allegedly a publican in the West End near to Bow Street, do you know the name of the pub that he was landlord of (allegedly)?"
"My research has - so far - not been able to substantiate the rumour, but I've always liked to imagine him as the host of either the Opera Tavern or the Nell of Old Drury, opposite the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. It was there that the playwright and theatre owner Sheridan saw Drury Lane burning down, and when asked how he could bear to watch his fortune and livelihood going up in smoke replied: "Tis a great pity if a man may not take a drink at his own fireside". "
"I want to book for the Wizard of Oz at the Palladium but the only seats that seem to be consistently available until well into next year are the back row of the centre stalls. When you click on these on the Ticketmaster website it says they have a limited view. How limited is the view? Surely there can't be poles in front of every seat! "
"Restricted view seats at the rear of the stalls usually refer to the overhang of the circle cutting off the top of the set - and thus any action if there is an upper level. The best example of this is Miss Saigon, which people only went to in order to see the helicopter - and from the back row of the stalls they couldn't. Until the set is installed and the show has opened it will be impossible to determine how restricted the seats are. In any case don't go to Ticketmaster, go to See Tickets, which operates the phone/online box office for the London Palladium. They will still add outrageous charges on top of the ticket price as Ticketmaster does, but at least they should have a bigger choice of seats."
"I've got row A tickets in Royal Circle for The Lion King. I was told that I need to be over 5 ft to see, but some sites say 5ft 7in. Which is it? Will I be able to see?"
"Well of course it's not just a question of your total height - because you will be sitting down. Some people are taller sitting down than they are standing up. The theatre has booster cushions if you find you have aproblem."
"I love browsing your site because you constantly get us fresh and awesome stuff, I feel that I ought to at least say a thank you for your hard work. "
"We try to - and it's great to know that it's appreciated."
"Where can I get a Pudsey Bear costume from? "
"How much does it cost to hire a west end theatre?"
"Again, I've answered this before. It depends if you want to hire it for, say, a Sunday night during the run of a show, or for a run."
"How does Journalism help in the performing arts industry?"
"It can bring a show to the attention of the public. Of course nowadays, it helps less thsn it used to, as fewer people are buying newspapers, and newspapers are obsessed with 'reality' television 'stars', rather than the legitimate performing arts. "
"What does swing mean in theatre programs?"
"If you scroll down to previous questions I've already answered this - there's lots of good stuff here. A Swing is an understudy boy or girl dancer, who doesn't normally appear in the show, but learns the different positions of each of the dancers, and can substitute for anyone who is off sick or on holiday."
"Do you offer costume hire I'm doing a project for my course at school?"
"There are links to costume hire companies from Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet."
"I am going to the Royal Albert Hall to see a concert and would like to choose the nearest seat to the stage. Does anyone know whether Arena F,Row 6,Seat 23 is closer than Stalls O,Row 3,Seat 117 ? I can't find a numbered seating plan anywhere. Any helpful advice would be much appreciated!"
"I'm not aware of an online numbered seating plan for the Royal Albert Hall. I think Arena F would feel the closest because it is more central. Stalls O might technically be closer, but only to the side of the stage."
"Could anyone tell me who owns the show The Lion King? I'd like to contact them and arrange their performances overseas."
"The Lion King is produced by the Walt Disney Company, which seems quite capable of organising shows on a worldwide basis by itself. "
"I'm looking to see Phantom in October. Which seats would be best, Stalls Row N (10-11) in the middle or stalls Row F on the far left (25-26)?"
"It's always a matter of personal preserence, as I have discussed in previous answers below. I like being close, so I would choose Row F, but you are obviously worried by being towards the side, so perhaps Row N is right for you."
"Where can I find cheap or complimentary theatre Tickets?"
"Look no further than ShowSavers for tickets to West End plays and msicals and concerts for the price of a cinema ticket, and ShowSavers PLUS for complimentary tickets."
"Where is the best place to sit for The Woman in Black to get the whole experience? I've been told to sit down in the stalls but want to make sure."
"Seeing a show at the Fortune Theatre is like seeing a show in someone's front room. Wherever you sit you have a good view. There are more seats in the Balcony of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane opposite than in the whole of the Fortune. Personally I would sit in the Stalls."
"Where is the best place to sit when watching The Lion King?"
"In the Stalls, in an aisle seat. You'll know why as soon as the show starts."
"I just bought disabled tickets for Sister Act and was wondering if there are any restrictions on seats M44-46?"
"Not that I am aware of - but while the location of wheelchair spaces remains the same, the set for each show is different, so you should check back with customer services."
"Will Calendar Girls return to Birmingham Theartre?"
"Not that I am aware of at present. If you saw it, I can't imagine why anyone would want to see it a second time - and if you didn't, you haven't missed much."
"How much does it cost to hire a theatre performance?"
"If you mean buy out a whole house, it depends on the size of the theatre and the range of seat prices. I doubt that any theatre would charge much less than the total of the normal seat prices."
"I recently bought tickets to The Woman In Black but want two more. I have a booking ref number of Encore xxxx. Who can I call to find seats close to us?"
"You can call Encore on 020 7492 1606."
"Where can I buy a poster of the original London production of Les Mis at the Barbican Theatre?"
"You've got me there. Marketing companies and producers generally dispose of out of date posters and programmes. You could try contacting Dewynters, the marketing company that created the original design, or Cameron Mackintosh, the producer, but if they have one, I doubt they would be willing to part with it. I think eBay is probably your only hope. "
"A colleague keeps getting free tickets for opening nights for theatre shows in Manchester. Do you know of a site where you can register for these?"
"I don't know about Manchester, but ShowSavers PLUS offers free tickets in London. Find out more at ShowSavers PLUS"
"I was wondering about work experience for September 2010."
"Many theatres offer some sort of work experience. You should contact the Theatre Manager if you are interested in Front Of House, or the Company Manager or Stage Manager if you are interested in backstage."
"For a small not for profit theatre company based in London, but international in terms of touring, who are the best legal firm/accountants to contract with?"
"I'm not sure which companies specialise in your particular area - and of course there is always the matter of personal chemistry. You can find theatre accountants in the Consultants section of Spotlight's Contacts. Regarding lawyers, I would suggest John Cohen at Clintons, Harbotttle & Lewis or Barry Shaw."
"How can I get in touch with Richard Andrews?"
"Is it cheaper to buy tickets at the London Palladium on the day, or pre pay an agent?"
"The cheapest way to buy a ticket is always at the box office window, either on the day (when tickets may not be available) or in advance - unless you can get a special offer. All ticket agents (and sadly now most box offices) will add a service charge for telephone or online bookings. Join ShowSavers for free at ShowSavers to find special offers - including for Sister Act at the London Palladium. "
"What material do I need to make Shakespeare's Globe theatre? "
"If you are talking avout making a model, you can buy one from Pollock's Toys Shop in Covent Garden. You can find more information at Pollock's Toys Shop . "
"Do you know who was is charge of the Dirty Dancing marketing campaign in London?"
"The marketing company is AKA. You can contact them via AKA. "
"How much does it cost to hire Aldwych Theatre for a show?"
"It depends on what you have in mind - a daytime performance while another show is playing in the evening, a one night Sunday show, or a full run. The Aldwych Theatre is owned by the Nederlander Organisation, and operated by Michael Codron Plays, who can be contacted on 020 7240 8291. "
"I need to hire local amateur African dancers in London."
"You could try contacting Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble via Adzido. They may be able to help."
"I've just bought tickets for Night of 1000 Voices in May and need to book a train home. Does anyone know the approximate running time?"
"The are aiming for a total running time of 2 hours 30 minutes (but you know how these things can go on)."
"Were can I find information on the play Womberang by Sue Towsend?"
"It's in a collection called 'Sue Townsend Plays', published by Methuen Drama in 1996."
"Am planning first trip to the ballet at the London Coliseum - can't really stretch to top price tickets - where are the best seats in either dress circle or upper circle - what row do you consider as being too far back to enjoy?"
"I've discussed this many times, and no longer respond to these questions, as I have not much more to add. As far as the London Coliseum is concerned, it was designed by Frank Matcham, so sightlines are good, but as it's a big theatre, distances can be great. It's a question of personal preference. I would much rather be at the front of the Upper Circle than at the back of the Dress Circle - further forward, but higher up, although the distance from the stage may be similar. But that might not be your preference."
"What is the shortest run in the West End?"
"I've already answered this - scroll down and you'll find lots of good stuff."
"Where can I hire the set for The History Boys from?"
"Good question. The 'usual suspects' of scenery hire tend only to offer musicals and pantomimes. They don't cater for plays - and certainly not multi scene plays like The History Boys, each production of which is likely to have chosen a radically different design solution. You could try an internet search of recent regional theatre productions and see if any of them have the set in storage. You could contact the production department of the National Theatre and see if they have been asked this question before and have any suggestions. Failing that, I think you are probably faced with inventing your own solution. I don't recall that the show actually has any specific scenic requirements, so you could opt for a 'black box' concept - no scenery - just create different areas with changes of level, separated with lighting."
"Hi, I'm going to see 'The Night Of 1000 Voices' at the Royal Albert Hall next May and am hoping to meet some of the performers at the stage door - I was just wondering whether you could tell me where the stage door is located? Secondly, I was wondering whether you have any advice on getting a backstage pass for this event?"
"If you walk round the building you eventually come to the stage door, which is on the south side. The best way to get backstage is to volunteer to work on it for nothing. You can contact them via The Night Of 1000 Voices. "
"Shortest running West End production please?? "
"If you look belove I have already answered this (there's lots of good stuff if you scroll down). The Intimate Revue at the Duchess Theatre is the shortest run, as it failed to reach the end of its first performance. Everything that could go wrong did so, with long gaps between scenes, and by midnight, with seven more scenes to go, they cut to the finale - the following day the run was cancelled." "
"How long does a dancers' contract in the West End usually last ?"
"Chorus contracts for West End musicals are usually for 1 year - but in direct contrast to prison sentences, with good behaviour, they can be extended for a further year."
"What were the pantomimes at Nottingham Theatre Royal in 1955 and 1956?"
"Who would know better than the Press Office at Nottingham Theatre Royal?"
"Does anyone know where I can hire some ears for Bottom for a production of a Midsummer Night's Dream at very short notice?? We are based in West London."
"You can find links to hire companies in Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet, and you can find a comprehensive list of hire companies in Contacts, published by The Spotlight. You can order it online from The Spotlight, which you can find from Agents & Casting in the Links section of TheatreNet."
"Has the lovely Katie Price [a.k.a. Jordan], ever appeared on the West End stage strutting her stuff ?"
"Not so far - and based on past evidence, I think it unlikely she would have the discipline to make eight shows a week on time (leaving aside what she might do when she got there)."
"I am a student. My assignment is to find out how much it costs to put on my production for 3 nights and what the seating capacity is."
"Like the length of the infamous piece of string, it depends if your production is a one person play, or an opera with a cast of 50, going on in a fringe theatre seating 30, or the Theatre Royal Drury Lane seating 2,444. More information required."
"Is the Upper Circle okay or just too high and far away to be worth the bother at the Theatre Royal Haymarket?"
"You can get a sense of the size and distances in West End theatres (including the number of steps to the different levels) from the seating pans and other information in the pocket sized London Theatre Guide, published by Metro Publications. There is a special offer if you go to ShowSavers. "
"What does 'swing' mean?"
"If you look below you'll find that I've already answered this - there's lots of good stuff if you scroll down."
"Obscured view seat at Theatre Royal Drury Lane - does it make a difference? "
"Most London theatres were built before cantilelvering had been developed, and so there are pillars to keep the uper levels up (although not at Drury Lane). The worst example is the Old Vic with 17 pillars in 3 levels. In addition, the overhang of the level above may cut off the view of the top of the set. All seats deemed to offer a restricted view by the producer are sold as such at a reduce rate. Experience may bring you to the conclusion that the first requirement of being a producer is the ability to see round corners. "
"Where can I hire an old time music costume in Glasgow"
"I would contact the wardrobe department of producing theatres in Glasgow. They may hire their stock, and if not, they will know the best local places to try (which might horror of horrors be in Edinburgh!)."
"I am a member of the uk theatre group which is based in glasgow and was wondering about auditions in theatres around the Glasgow area."
"Contact the administration department of producing theatres (not the theatres that only take in tours) and ask what their policy is. Most theatres will only deal with agents, but you may be luckier in the upcoming pantomime season."
"Where can I hire a Pudsy Bear costume in east London?"
"Is Tommy Steele planning to perform anywhere in the near future?"
"Not that I am aware of, but there is a Tommy Steele International Fan Club who may know."
"Why do you need costume hire companies in the performing arts industry ?"
"Making period costumes is very labour intensive, and therefore very expensive (like designer fashion - only wearable). So in order to reduce the initial production costs that would be incurred by having them made specially, producers hire them on a weekly rental basis. "
"I'm wondering what is meant by slightly restricted view when booking tickets...in this case seats in the grand circle of Her Majesty's Theatre for Phantom? "
"'Slightly restricted' usually means either behind a pillar (of which there are many in West End theatres as most were built before cantilevering was invented), at the extreme side of the auditorium so that part of the stage on the side you are on is cut off by the proscenium, or at the very back so that the top of the ‘picture’ is cut off by the overhang of the level above. The only way to be sure which it is (and how bad the restriction is) is to ask someone with knowledge of the theatre - almost impossible, as most phone bookings are taken not by the box office, but by people in phone rooms who have probably never been in any theatre, let alone the one they are booking tickets for. And as for online bookings, well, they have been set up by people who don’t even know what a theatre is. You can make an educated guess from the seat number as to whether it is in the centre of the theatre (and therefore likely to be behind a pillar) or at the end of the row (and therefore at the side), and the row letter if it is at the back. Even so, apart from pillars, just how restricted it is depends on the set and the staging."
"How can I find out what plays by a particular playwright are being performed and where? As an example, I want to see all the plays by Tom Stoppard and will travel around to see them. Thanks, Niccola"
"The Stage newspaper's web site offers national listings, so you can search by the playwright's name if you go to The Stage. "
"Do all fan letters posted off to the actors and actress get to them safe and sound?"
"I guess it depends where you send the letter. If you send it to, or leave it at, the stage door of a theatre where the actor is appearing, it will do. If you send it to the actor's agent, there may be a screening process, so it may get no further. If you stalk the actor so you can deliver it to his/her home, you will be probably be arrested, and it will get no further than the police. "
"Here is a historic question, what was fit-up theatre?"
"Fit-up companies were touring theatre companies who not only brought the scenery with them, but the stage as well. This meant that they could perform in any indoor space large enough to accommodate them, so they could go to towns that didn't have theatres. Sometimes in the summer they would perform on bandstands or at other outdoor locations."
"Can you tell me where I can find out about auditions? I just did a show at the Orange Park Community Theatre and I really want to do another show. "
"Open professional auditions are advertised in The Stage newspaper. (Open auditions mean that anyone can just go along - you don't have to be suggested by an Agent and have an appointment made in advance) At the community theatre level, you need to contact each organisation direct, or look in local newspapers for notices of forthcoming auditions or productions."
"How many steps are there to the Royal Circle in the London Palladium? Are the steps steep? Is there a hand rail?"
"You can find the number of steps to the different levels in West End theatres in The London Theatre Guide, published by Metro Publications. There is a special offer if you go to ShowSavers. The steps are not particularly steep and there is a hand rail."
"I am looking for an agent to promote, publish and market my project, so I can tour the world, performing a solo musical dance known as "jika afric", based in South Africa. How can I get relevant assistance? "
"You can find a comprehensive list of agents and producers in Contacts, published by The Spotlight. You can order it online from The Spotlight, which you can find from Agents & Casting in the Links section of TheatreNet"
"What are the main ways a show is promoted to the target audience and the wider audience? "
"A huge subject! You need the services of a professional marketing company. Here is a brief outline. Firstly, marketing is split between paid for - buying display advertising in general and specialist newspapers and magazines, poster sites on buses, underground and elsewhere, leaflets, building a web site - and 'free' - getting articles about the actors and the show placed in general and specialist newspapers and magazines, appearances by the actors and creative team on radio and television, running competitions with tickets as prizes, 'viral' methods such as social networking sites. Secondly, there is direct marketing to previous ticket buyers via mail, email, fax and messaging lists."
"What does radio and television have to do with the performing arts business, and how do they help?"
"Short answer: not enough and very little. Although there are more tickets sold for theatre shows than football matches in Britain each year, the amount of radio and television coverage given to the performing arts is minimal. In New York the opening of Broadway shows - and the Tony Awards - are given wide coverage, whereas West End openings are virtually ignored (unless they feature a Hollywood star) - and the Olivier Awards haven't been screened in years. It's disgraceful. In the same way that every news programme features special sport and business reports, there should be a special arts report - like the sections in a broadsheet newspaper. Perhaps if we all complained repeatedly to whichever radio and television stations we most frequently patronise, then the situation might change. "
"What's the difference between "stalls" & "dress circle" seats?"
"The Stalls is the lowest level in the auditorium, it allows you to be close to the stage, but if you are sitting at the very front you will be looking up. The Dress Circle is the first level above this, so you will be further back, and looking slightly down on the actors (as people do in real life)."
"Which companies distribute all the west end shows flyers to the flyer boxes found all over the west end in pubs, clubs etc? "
"The best known is London Calling."
"What is the role of equiptment hire companies?"
"Sound and lighting equipment is installed in West End and regional touring theatres specifically for each show, and so in order to reduce the initial production costs that would be incurred by buying these expensive items, producers hire them on a weekly rental basis. "
"Who would be the best contacts for taking a UK musical production to the US, Germany and France. Tried the British Council....no response. "
"The short answer to this question is, if you're looking for help - you won't find any! The world is oversupplied with musicals. A longer answer would be to try the producer's association in each place. In America that would be The Broadway League or Off Broadway League in New York or the National Alliance for Musical Theatre nationwide."
"Do you know of anywhere I can print a copy of the play "Womberang" by Sue Townsend quickly as I have to have it this week."
"If you mean have scripts printed then try CLP. If you mean buy a copy, then I don't think it is in print."
"Please can you tell me what 'swing' means in cast lists in programmes?"
"Once again I have already answered this below"
"Is it better to view a musical play in a performing art theatre from the left side closer up or the center further back. We're talking row F on the left side of the stage or row F center behind the orchestra section."
"It's always a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to be as close as possible, even if it is to the side, while others want to be centre regardless of how far back they have to sit. In this case it's only 3 rows difference, so the safest bet is to say row F centre, in case you find you don't like the view close but to the side."
"Please can you tell me where I could hire one of the horse's heads for the play Equus - preferably in the Midlands?"
"I suggest you contact David Pugh, the producer of the recent West End 'Harry Potter' production of Equus, on 020 7292 0390, who may know."
"Where can I get a Starlight Express costume from?"
"If you look below you will find that I have answered this before. As I keep saying, there's lots of good stuff if you go through previous answers!"
"Do you have the name of an agency for Wardrobe Mistresses?"
"There is no agency for Wardrobe Mistresses that I know of - the position tends to be filled through personal recommendation. You need to start off as an Assistant or a Dresser and work your way up. You can become a Dresser by asking at the stage door to speak to the Wardrobe Mistress to see if there are any vacancies. The skills you have as a potential Wardrobe Mistress will enhance your chances of being hired as a Dresser."
"What was the shortest running play or musical in the london West End, how long did it last for - and why was it the shortest?"
"If you look below I have already answered this question. There's lots of good stuff if you go through previous answers!"
"Is there a wall or an aisle bordering the extreme sides of the Upper Circle at the Coliseum?"
"To the best of my recollection it is an aisle, but to be truthful, it's a long while since I've had to go up that far. Best to call the box office to confirm. If they don't know, call the administration on 020 7836 0111 and complain that they are not training their staff properly. If they don't know, tell them to send someone up to have a look and call you back."
"Can you give me some examples of hire companies for my dance company? This is our first show and I need costume, prop and lighting hire. "
"You can find links to hire companies in Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet, and you can find a comprehensive list of hire companies in Contacts, published by The Spotlight. You can order it online from The Spotlight, which you can find from Agents & Casting in the Links section of TheatreNet."
"What was the name of the very first actress? I believe that she was Italian."
"If you mean the first recorded appearance by a professional actress on the British stage, it was Margaret Hughes as Desdemona in The Moor Of Venice on 8th December 1660. She doesn't sound very Italian to me. If you mean the first actress in the world, I don't know - Cleopatra?"
"What have hire companies got to do with the performing arts buisness?"
"Producers and theatres hire certain physical elements of their shows: costumes, scenery, furniture, props, musical instruments, music stands, lighting and sound equipment rather than buy them, in order to reduce the up front production costs."
"Where can I obtain a copy of the play 'Entertaining Angels' by Richard Everett which was premiered at Chichester a few seasons ago?"
"As far as I know it has not been published, but you could try contacting Samuel French who have published his other plays. If they haven't or don't plan to publish it, they should be able to give you the name of his literary agent, who may be able to help you."
"How much did it cost to view a play standing in the open area in front of the stage in Elizabethan theatres?"
"If you look below, you will find I have already answered this and many other frequently asked questions. "
"For The Phanton Of The Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre is it better to sit in the Royal Circle or the Stalls?"
"It depends whether you want to have the chandelier come crashing down on your head or not! Surprisingly, you get a more dramatic view from the Royal Circle as it goes past you, than you do from being directly underneath it as it comes towards you, because there is not the same sense of movement. Actually, the best place to see it is in New York, because it falls faster there."
"What was the year Evita performed at the King's Theatre Edinburgh on the dates 16th March to 2nd April?"
"You've got me on that one. Try contacting the archivist at Really Useful Group who manage affairs of Andrew Lloyd Webber "
"Could you please tell me if the script is available of Calendar Girls for the amateur stage stricly for use as a fund raiser for the charity. Thankyou"
"Shows are not generally released to the amateur market until they have exhaused their West End potential. I believe that the show is being reshaped during the Christmas break in the tour schedule, before it opens in the West End in April, so I would say that was some time away."
"Can you tell me where I can hire a Pudsey Bear costume for Children In Need - I live in Stoke-on-Trent?"
"Is it true that Mandy Patinkin is returning to London in the near future?"
"He will be performing in concert at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 8th to 18th January."
"Where can I find out how much it will cost for me to get the rights for Starlight Express?"
"The affairs of Andrew Lloyd Webber are managed by Really Useful Group."
"London Coliseum.....ballet production. Is the Dress Circle view better or the Stalls? How are the Boxes? In fact where is the best place to sit?"
"As the London Coliseum is one of the masterpieces by Frank Matcham, the world's greatest theatre architect, you get a good view wherever you sit. As I have said many times before, whether you prefer Stalls or Dress Circle is purely a matter of personal choice. If you like to be close to the stage and feel part of the action, then the front Stalls is the place to sit, although you will be looking up. If you like to have a wider overall view, then the Dress Circle, further back and in a slightly elevated position, looking down on the performers (as most people do in real life) is the place for you. Remember that Boxes are for being seen in - while closer, they inevitably offer a side view (but you may well be able to see unscheduled action in the wings if that appeals to you)."
"I have mixed race twins age 12 with experience in local stage productions, dance and cheer leading. Do you know the casting agency for The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre?"
"It is cast in house by Walt Disney Theatrical UK based at the Lyceum Theatre, with open auditions advertised in The Stage newspaper. N.B. There is a minimum height restriction. They have just had cast replacements and do not have a date set for the next auditions."
"In your subjective opinion, where's the best place to sit to see the Mousetrap and who is it best to get tickets from?"
"I've answered this question a number of times before in general terms - see below - and in order not to bore people, don't offer advice on specific theatres. However, in the case of The Mousetrap, I'm tempted to suggest across the road in The Ivy restaurant. It is always best to buy tickets direct from the theatre box office - whether by phone or online. However, this is increasingly difficult as more and more theatres have 'sold off' phone and online booking facilities to the agents Ticketmaster, Keith Prowse or See Tickets, who add exorbitant 'service' charges (a misnomer if ever there was one). The good news is that you can still call the St Martin's Theatre direct on 020 7836 1443."
"Is the production of Calendar Girls coming to a theatre in Birmingham in the near future?"
"Not really, I'm afraid. The closest it will come to Birmingham is Malvern Festival Theatre from 1st to 6th December."
"Is it better to sit in the Royal Circle or the Stalls to watch The Lion King at the Lyceum?"
"The Stalls - particularly if you get an aisle seat."
"Do the leads in West End musicals (for example Dirty Dancing) really perform in 8 shows every week? Are they regularly replaced by understudies or just in case of illness or injury?"
"It used to be the case that the leads in West End shows performed all 8 shows a week. Sadly, along with the deterioration in the quality of many other things in life, this can no longer be guaranteed - particularly with the proliferation of inexperienced or amateur performers cast from 'reality' television shows. It is now not unusual for there to be an ‘alternate’ (rather than understudy) who plays 2 or more shows a week."
"Where can I get a good costume for Pearl from Starlight Express?"
"You can find links to costumiers in Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet, or, try going to the source, and ask the show's producer, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group."
"Does anyone know how good the view is from the front row stalls in the Kings Theatre Glasgow... We are going to see Evita. Would we be stretching our necks to look up at the stage? Would we be better a few rows back from the front? "
"Once again, as I keep saying, it depends on what your personal preference is. One person's "too close looking too sharply up" is another person's "Wow! This is the best seat I've ever had"."
"What would be the best seat for a 7 year old in the Theatre Royal Newcastle to see the production High School Musical."
"My answer to this would be the same as the many times I've given it below for large theatres - but with a booster cushion."
"What does swing mean?"
"A swing is a dancer who understudies a number (or all) of the dancers in a show, but does not perform him/herself. It is the equivalent of a walking understudy in a play. "
"Is La Cage aux Folles being presented by amateurs anywhere in UK this year? Do you know where can I find the props and cloths associated with it?"
"I'm not aware of an amateur production - sounds a pretty grisley prospect. Presumably, if sets for the show are available, the 'usual sources' of scenery hire will have them. You can find scenery and prop hire companies in Contacts published by The Spotlight."
"We are planning booking tickets to the Monkey Opera at the Royal Opera House. Any guidance on good seats would be appreciated. We don't really want to pay for the very best seats in the house - just too expensive."
"A look at the plan shows you just how big the auditorium is. The cheaper seats are very high up but usually a clear view."
"Does anyone know what the view of the stage at the London Coliseum is like from front row stalls?"
"It's fine, because the orchestra pit is quite deep, so the front row is not right on top of the stage. But as I keep saying, all views are subjective."
"How much did people pay to watch Shakespeare's plays?"
"If you scroll down you will find that I have already answered this question - and given lots of other useful tips, facts and information!"
"Please can you tell me does Dirty Dancing have a live orchestra?"
"I recently went to watch Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre (16/05/08) and the actor playing Johnny Castle was not Josef Brown could you tell me who he was please?"
"It was Richard Lawrence."
"Do you know of anywhere from where I could hire a cats costume (i.e. the musical)?"
"You can find links to costumiers in Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet. "
"As an American visiting London May 28-30, what shows would you recommend?"
"First I'd recommend you stay longer - 3 days isn't enough. Then it depends what your interests are, plays or musicals, new writing or classics. I would suggest you see shows you can't see at home. King Lear or A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe, The Revenger's Tragedy at the National, Pygmalion at the Old Vic, or Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace."
"I'm going to book tickets for The Lord Of The Rings, and would like to know where is the best place to sit and see everything? "
"As I keep saying, the more you pay, the better the view, but in the case of Drury Lane, remember that it has four levels, and having climbed up four floors to the Balcony, people have been known to return to the Box Office ashen faced, and ask to exchange for tickets on a lower level, because the view is almost vertically down. (However, rumours that the view of the stage from there is sometimes obscured by low cloud is believed to be simply a myth.)"
"What is the shortest run of any West End production?"
"I've answered this before. The Intimate Revue at the Duchess Theatre is the shortest run, as it failed to reach the end of its first performance. Everything that could go wrong did so, with long gaps between scenes, and by midnight, with seven more scenes to go, they cut to the finale - the following day the run was cancelled. "
"Aside from those at The Globe, what Shakespeare plays will be in performance in London from September 15 to December 5, 2008?"
"There are no performances of Shakespeare plays currently announced during that period as it is too far ahead. It may be that National Theatre's repertoire at that time may include a Shakespeare play, or that the Royal Shakespeare Company may transfer a play or plays from Stratford to the West End. As the wretched call handling voice says "Please try later"."
"I'm not great with heights, so don't like sitting in balconies, but I want to see Wicked in London - where's the best place to sit?"
"As always, the more you pay, the better the view, but if you are looking for a cheaper option, although it is a big theatre, it is only on two levels, so at the back of the Dress Circle you are not looking too steeply down."
"Will Tommy Steele be taking his new musical Doctor Dolittle to the West End in the near future?"
"Unlikely - but you can never say never when its producer, Bill Kenwright, is involved."
"What is the view like from the very back of the Grand Circle at the Prince Edward Theatre - is it a small theatre?"
"It's a big theatre, with 1,643 seats on three levels, and the Grand Circle is the top level, so it's a long way to the stage, but it's a clear view."
"Do you have to dress a spcific way to sit in the Dress Circle?"
"Sadly the days when audiences dressed up to go to the theatre are long gone - even at First Nights - so you can wear what you like. Just try to avoid provoking the front of house staff enquiring "Crikey, what have you come as?."
"Do dress circles start at the back of the stalls or are they located over part of the first level of seats?"
"Apart from opera houses generally and the London Coliseum, the front row of the dress circle is usually around two thirds of the way back from the front of the stalls - but it varies in each individual theatre. Seating plans sometimes state over which row it begins."
"Where is the best place to sit for The Lion King? "
"In the stalls, for reasons that become immediately obvious once the opening number begins."
"How much did it cost to get in to the theatre in Shakespeare's time? "
"It cost 1 penny to be one of the Groundlings, standing in the yard in front of and around the stage - so the current price of £5 to do the same at Shakespeare's Globe seems a bargain."
"What are the best seats in the Royal Albert Hall? "
"There are really too many imponderables in this question. Firstly, it depends if the event is happening on the stage at the end of the hall, or is in the round. Secondly, it depends - as always - on the kind of view you prefer. If it is on the stage at the end, some people would consider the front of the flat floor best, although it means looking up, while others would prefer an elevated view, which would inevitably be sideways on, or a long way away. Similarly, if it is in the round, you also have a choice of being close and at the same level, or further away but looking down, and then, on the long side or the short side of the arena. They are the options - there is no 'right answer' only personal preference."
"Could anyone tell be the best place to sit at His Majesty's Theatre Aberdeen. Not been to the theatre before and want the best experience possible. Thanks"
"It is a big theatre, with four levels, but as the building was designed by Frank Matcham, the world's greatest theatre architect, you will have a good view wherever you sit - but unsurprisingly, the more you pay, the better it will be."
"I am interested in setting up a work theatre trip group and wanted to know how we would go about getting discounts for trip to see shows? Are there any organisations that help for public sector workers?"
"Group reductions are usually available for Monday to Thursday performances and sometimes for Fridays and Saturdays. The size of groups and prices vary, so check with the Box Office. Some theatres have established a group booking office and send out regular newsletters with information and offers. Some ticket agents specialise in group bookings. You can find a link to one of these if you click on Group Box Office from just above Ask Walter Plinge on the home page of TheatreNet. There is also a listing of group offers in the ShowSaves club."
"Do you know if The Lion King will be opening in Scotland after the London season finishes in June 2008? "
"I'm not aware of plans for a tour of The Lion King, and I don't think there is any possibility of the London production ending in June."
"Where can we get a backstage theatre tour in London on the morning of Tuesday 12th February for a group of 12 young people and 2 teachers?"
"A number of London theatres now offer backstage tours: Barbican Centre, Duke of York's, Her Majesty's, London Coliseum, London Palladium, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, National Theatre, New London, Royal Court, Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells, Shakespeare's Globe, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Theatre Royal Haymarket, and also the Royal Albert Hall and The Roundhouse. For the day and time you specify try the London Palladium, National Theatre or Shakespeare's Globe. "
"Is the Gallery a good view in the King's Theatre Glasgow? "
"It is a big theatre, and the Gallery is the highest of four levels, so you will be looking steeply down, but as the building was designed by Frank Matcham, the world's greatest theatre architect, you will have a good view."
"Hi there, I wish to come upto London with my wife to see a show in the West End. I don't know London at all and am getting confused about where to stay, what areas /*** hotels are best to go for? "
"If you select a hotel in the W1 or WC2 post (Zip) code areas you will only be a short walk from whatever shows you decide to see. The Official London Theatre Guide has a theatreland map you can download with the location of all the theatres. If you book a theatrebreak package the hotels on offer are usually nearby."
"Where is te best place to sit to see The Lion King with two eight year olds?"
"Generally I would say the best place to see The Lion King from is the Stalls because of the action in the opening scene, however, with small children it may be better from the Dress Circle, as they will be looking down on the action rather than up."
"I need to find a good costume hire company with back up infomation to prove they are good."
"Contacts, the handbook published annually by the actors directory Spotlight, is the major resource for finding details of anything and everything to do with the performing arts, from theatres themselves, and theatre, television and film companies, through all kinds of suppliers. You can be sure that companies included in the listings are reputable. You can buy Contacts from the Spotlight web site, which you can find via the link from Agents & Casting in the Links section of TheatreNet. You will also find links to costume hire companies from Suppliers in the Links section of TheatreNet. If you look in your old theatre programmes you find the companies that crop up most frequently, which will be an indication of their standing in the profession."
"Front row of the dress circle at The Apollo Victoria? May sound a stupid question but is it a good seat?"
"Can anyone tel me the best place to sit at the Ambassadors Theatre in London?"
"All seats have a good view in the Ambassadors as it's a small theatre of only 440 seats. The London Theatre Guide by Richard Andrews, published by Metro Publications at £8.99, is a pocket sized book containing plans of all West End theatres (plus a whole lot of other interesting information about London theatre). It would help you to judge if seats you are offered in any theatre are in a good position. You can even get a £1 discount and free delivery by joining ShowSavers." "
"Does journalism have anything to do with the performing arts?"
"I'm not quite sure of the context of your question. My initial response is "not in the popular press - other than to denegrate them as elitist and out of touch with contemporary society at every opportunity". But then I would question if the tittle tattle that constitutes the popular press counts as journalism. Even the professional journal The Stage has transmogrified into a 'fanzine'. Obviously the arts sections of the once and remaining broadsheet press are still engaged with the performing arts on a serious level. However, as time goes on, serious criticism is waning. Firstly, the amount of space has diminished, with theatre criticism now getting fewer column inches than restaurant criticism. Secondly, the purpose of reviews seems to have been redefined as 'provide trivial entertainment' rather than 'informed comment'. I'm sure that whatever you meant by your question that doesn't answer it."
""What is the "swing" and "dance captain" role in productions?""
"If you look below I have alrady defined a Swing. The Dance Captain is one of the dancers who deputises for the choreographer on a nightly basis, organising cover with the swings when a dancer is off sick or on holiday."
"Who is Gavin McAlinden?"
"Gavin McAlinden is artistic director of the company Charm Offensive, who has directed a number of shows at the Finborough and other fringe theatres in London."
"Which seats are the beset for viewing Wicked at the Apollo Victoria?"
"My answer is the same as the various versions below. My only concession to this theatre is that the Dress Circle is quite a way back at the Apollo Victoria because it is a large auditorium, but it is still a good view."
"Who is in charge of costumes at the latest production of Wicked? Would tours be available to see the costumes do you think?"
"The Wardrobe Mistress/Master is the person who is in day to day charge of the costumes. In New York there is a Behind The Emerald Curtain tour that runs on Saturday mornings, which provides an opportunity to see the costumes and props up close, and learn about how they were made and how some of the tricks work. Unfortunately I don't know of any plans to do that here. Still, the current state of the dollar means that it has never been cheaper to go to New York so why not treat yourself? You can find special offers and a downloadable Broadway On A Budget guide on our sibling site www.newyorktheatrenet.com"
"Is there a minimum age for the Grand Circle Box in the Edinburgh King's Theatre?"
"Most theatres operate a rule that 5 years old is the minimum age for entry to performances. Some children's theatre companies perform shows aimed at 2 year olds upwards to which this obviously does not apply."
"What show is on at the moment at the Regent theatre Stoke?"
"If you look in Regional Theatres in the Links section of TheatreNet you can find links to the web sites of all the major regional theatres, so you can find out what is on anywhere in the country. "
"Is there a device for use as a special effect that would appear to produce puffs of smoke coming out of an actor's ears, or top of his head?"
"Sounds dangerous! There is nothing off the shelf that I know of. You would need to contact a special effects company to see if they had any experience or ideas about how it could be done. Some sort of piping run through the costume/wig attached to a portable smoke machine would seem possible. Alternatively, a magician who does consultancy may have a suggestion."
"How much did Pantomime tickets cost in the 1700s?"
"At that time prices ranged from around 5s (25p) for the Boxes, through 3s 6d (17.5p) for the Pit (Stalls) to 1s (5p) for the Gallery."
"What does the legal side involve within the performing arts?"
"A big subject. As the lyricist Sammy Cahn used to say when asked "What comes first, the words or the music?" - first comes the contract. Producers have a contract with writers, which gives an option to produce a work, and states what the royalties will be during any run; with the theatre in which the show is to play; and with any subsequent recording, publishing and merchandising companies. Plenty for a lawyer to get their teeth into."
"Is Hot Flush coming to Glasgow?"
"The closest announced at present is the King's Theatre in Edinburgh from 12th November."
"What name is used by an actor playing two parts? "
"I think you are referring to Walter Plinge. Look at the answers below."
"Where is the best place to sit when watching the Lion King musical? Stalls?"
"I've answered this question in various ways before. I think for the Lion King an aisle seat in the Stalls is probably best, as will become apparent during the first few moments of the show. I had just such a seat when I saw it in New York a couple of weeks after it first opened and it certainly made a big impression on me."
"Hey. I was just wondering if anyone knows a club or somewhere in Stoke-on-Trent where they do dirty dancing. As in the film Dirty Dancing. But for people of the ages of 12-18 or something. Thanks"
"Outside my field of experience I'm afraid. Any sugestions?"
"Is there a female version of Walter Plinge? (like Wallina Plinge)?"
"I'm not aware of a female version of Walter Plinge. If anyone else does, then do let me know."
"What is the best way for me to get into the theatre (e.g. become a producer or actor or director etc)? Could you please answer this as detailed as possible aiming the answer to be understood by everyone. Also do theatres have legal representitives who come and watch a show for half price or something?"
"The best way to get into the theatre is by going to a recognised drama school, on an acting or technical course, depending on your talent and interest. This will give you a proper grounding for a career. Then it is a question of working and learning towards your ultimate goal. If you look at Training in the Links section of TheatreNet you will find schools and colleges. The members of the Conference of Drama Schools are the top level. Producers and theatres do use the services of lawers who specialise in theatre - for instance, investment proposals have to be vetted before they are sent out."
"Could you tell me who appeared in the shortest running play at the Duchess Theatre in London, The Intimate Revue, and also why did it close so quickly? Is there anywhere I can find more information? "
"I only know the basic facts of the 'legend', as detailed below. I imagine that because it was so chaotic and went so badly they anticpated bad reviews and decided that it would be a flop, so that any rescue mission would be throwing good money after bad. It doesn't happen very often here, but it's common for shows to fold in their first week on Broadway if the reviews are bad. Last December I saw the musical High Fidelity on Tuesday, it opened on Wednesday and closed on Sunday. You may be able to find out further information on The Intimate Revue from the Theatre Museum archive - wherever that is now (probably in the back of a taxi going from Covent Garden to South Kensington), the Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection, or from the British Library. You can find their web sites from Information in the Links section of TheatreNet."
"Where is the best place to sit to watch and opera? The front row of the stalls or the front row in the grand circle?"
"If you look below I've answered this question in a number of ways previously. Most classical operas are staged on a grand scale, so it's probably better to be in the Dress Circle - not to mention that you will probably need to read the surtitles in order to find out what's going on, which is easier further away from the stage. "
"Where are the best seats in the Aldwych Theatre?"
"If you look below I have already answered this both in general, and with regard to the Aldwych. But be aware that Dirty Dancing has the most raucous audience I've ever experienced - predominantly female, and what I imagine a typical hen night audience for a male stripper is like. So as a matter of self preservation, you might choose an aisle seat - useful for a quick getaway if things really get out of hand."
"What and when was the first ever pantomime staged in London?"
"The first pantomime was staged by John Rich at the Lincoln's Inn Theatre in 1716, when he played Harlequin in an adaptation of an Italian comic ballet. He continued to present it each Christmas until 1760. The word pantomime was first used to describe a performance at Drury Lane in 1717."
"Could you please give me information on any hire company either, lighting, costume, props, sound etc. Not about what companies do what, but about what being a costume hire company for example, involves?"
"Well, a lot of dry cleaning and sewing for a start. The basic principles of any hire company - be it lighting, sound, costume or props - are the same. First, you have to invest in the stock. You need to have sufficient to make it worthwhile people dealing with you. They don't want to have to go to umpteen different companies to fulfil their needs. Second, you need to maintain and service it between hires to keep it in good condition. On the one hand people tend not to look after things they don't own very well, but on the other, they expect what they hire to be tip top. Thirdly, you need to keep maintenance and depreciation in mind when you are setting your prices. Fourthly, you need to know about the competition - what they offer and what they charge. And finally, as with all businesses, while always going the extra mile to help your customers, don't promise what you can't deliver."
"I'd like to see the Lord of the Rings, however I've not been to any of the London theatres before, and I have no idea which is the best part of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to sit? Any advice much appreciated."
"If you look below I have already answered this question in general terms. As far as Drury Lane is concerned, be aware that it is one of London's biggest theatres and has four levels. The Balcony, which is the top level, is very high. It is a long climb up there, and some people who suffer from vertigo find the view down on to the stage too much to take. N.B. This is not a joke. When I worked in the box office there, people would sometimes return ashen faced and ask to move to a different level."
"Dirty Dancing Aldwych Theatre dress circle row H seats 26-27 are the only ones I could find. Is this a good place to sit ?"
"I haven't actually sat in those seats for this particular show, but they should be fine. The London Theatre Guide by Richard Andrews, published by Metro Publications at £8.99, is a pocket sized book containing plans of all West End theatres (plus a whole lot of other interesting information about London theatre). It would help you to judge if seats you are offered in any theatre are in a good position. You can even get a £1 discount and free delivery by joining ShowSavers. "
"What are the longest and shortest running West End shows?"
"The Lord Of The Rings felt like the longest show I have ever seen - but I guess you mean the longest and shortest runs. The longest running play is Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which opened on 25th November 1952 and is still going (although I wouldn't say it's going strong). The longest running musical is Les Miserables, which opened in the West End on 4th December 1985 (having played for six weeks at the Barbican) and is also still revolving. The Intimate Revue at the Duchess Theatre is the shortest run, as it failed to reach the end of its first performance. Everything that could go wrong did so, with long gaps between scenes, and by midnight, with seven more scenes to go, they cut to the finale - the following day the run was cancelled."
"I'm an American Stage Manager looking for opportunities in England. How (and where) do I start?"
"It's tricky - there are plenty of British Stage Managers looking for work already! You would obviously need to check out the work permit situation. I don't know if you are a member of the American Stage Management Association, but they have links with the British Stage Management Association (www.stagemanagementassociation.co.uk). There are some jobs advertised in The Stage (www.thestage.co.uk) - but of course the best ones never get advertised. You can find contact details of both theatres and producers in the book Contacts published by The Spotlight casting directory (www.spotlightcd.com). If you have worked on Wicked I know that the London production is looking for a book cover at this moment."
"Who was the first actress to appear on the British stage?"
"Females did not appear on the British stage until the theatres reopened after the restoration of Charles II in 1660. The first recorded performance by a professional actress was Margaret Hughes as Desdemona in The Moor Of Venice on 3rd December 1660."
"Is Hot Flush coming back to Scotland - central or east areas?"
"It's hard to believe that an idea so bereft of imagination is causing such interest. Dates currently announced are: W/C 30 April - Regent Stoke on Trent, W/C 28 May - Lighthouse Poole, W/C 4 June - His Majesty's Aberdeen, W/C 11 June - New Wimbledon, and W/C 18 June - Theatre Royal Newcastle."
"How can I be part of the event crew in theatres?"
"The show crew in each theatre is hired by the Master Carpenter for the stage, Chief Electrician for electrics, or Wardrobe Mistress/Master for dressers. Ask for one of them at the Stage Door (usually at the rear of the building) during the morning - full time staff usually work mornings and evenings. They will expect you to have had some amateur experience, and to be available for all eight shows each week. A good time to try is when a new show is about to start rehearsals prior to opening, when they may be loooking for extra staff. Naturally musicals have a bigger crews than plays."
"What do Americans use for the name Walter Plinge?"
"If you look below I have already answered this question."
"Is Hot Flush on in any theatre in May?"
"It's at the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, from 30th April to 5th May, but then appears to be lying down in a darkened room and bathing its temples with eau de cologne until 4th June, when it opens at His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen."
"Please tell us the best plays from April 3rd to 8th."
"When asked this question the words 'how long is a piece of string?' come to mind. Are you looking for classical or contemporary, comedy or drama, conventional or experimental? And then there is the matter of personal taste. I guess we could agree that the fact that The Mousetrap has been running for 55 years doesn't make it the first choice. So, perhaps a Top 8 (as there are 8 performances in a theatrical week) across genres and tastes in alphabetical order: Boeing-Boeing (Comedy), Equus (Giegud), The Glass Menagerie (Apollo), The History Boys (Wyndham's), The Man Of Mode (Natioinal), A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Roundhouse), The 39 Steps (Criterion), and The Woman In Black (Fortune)."
"where is 'Hot Flush' showing starring Rula Lenska?"
"Hot Flush is opening at the Churchill Theatre Bromley, and then touring to the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent and the New Wimbledon Theatre."
"Can anyone tell me where is the best place to sit in the Aldwych Theatre, is it, Stalls, Dress Circle or Upper Circle?"
"Once again I refer you to my previous answer below. But you'll be lucky to get a seat anywhere for Dirty Dancing!"
"Where is the best place to sit to watch a musical? Should I buy front row seats?"
"If you look below you will see that I have already answered this question. As far as sitting in the front row is concerned you should ask if there is an orchestra pit or not. If there is a pit, then the front row will be maybe 10 feet from the front of the stage, if there isn't, it will be just inches from the front of the stage."
"What is the best way to become a theatre director? Would I have to join a production company?"
"Most people become directors either by gaining experience while at university (usually while on English and/or Drama courses), joining one of the few post graduate directing courses at a university or drama school, or following a career as an actor. If you can get any sort of experience with an amateur company it might help. The first step is to become an assistant director either at one of the few regional producing theatres that can still afford to hire them, or as a resident director on a long running West End show. As with most positions in the theatre, getting a first job is very, very difficult."
"Is Womberang by Sue Townsend being performed anywhere in the UK?"
"I'm afraid that despite exhaustive searches I can't find any productions currently or planned. Perhaps someone else knows different."
"Do you know if the Sherman Bros. 'Over Here' is likely to open in the near future?"
"I don't have any definite news, but after the prospective production at the Apollo Theatre this month, and subsequent touring dates were cancelled, it would seem not in the immediate future. "
"Why didn't the play Bounty ever make it to Broadway? It was one of the best plays I've ever seen. It starred David Essex and Albert Finney."
"I think you and the producer were in a minority of two with that opinion. Consequently, no American co-producer or theatre owner would touch it with an 18th century sailing ship pole. (And by the way it was Frank Finlay not Albert Finney - I can't decide who sings worst out of the two of them, but both are pretty grisly experiences)."
"Who was the original Walter Plinge?"
"He was allegedly a London publican, whose name was used in recognition of his 'services to the profession', but there's no real authentication for this claim that I am aware of. "
"What are the shows with longest and shortest titles that have been seen in the West End?"
"The Royal Shakespeare Company staged the plays with both the longest and shortest titles in the same season at the Aldwych Theatre in 1964. 'The Persecution And Assassination Of Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade' by Peter Weiss is known for short as 'The Marat/Sade'. Even so, it is still not as short as 'Eh?' by Henry Livings. The RSC also staged a documentary theatre piece called 'US' in 1966."
"where is the best place to sit when watching Starlight Express?"
"The musical theatre enthusiast’s answer would be ‘at a great distance’ or ‘in another theatre’. However, addressing you question seriously, I have only seen the original production, where the racetrack went out into the stalls. I believe that the touring production restricts the skaters to the stage, so I think that normal rules would apply, as in my previous answer below."
"Who is the American counterpart to Walter Plinge please?"
"Good question. I'm not aware of an exact Walter Plinge equivalent in America. John Doe is the generally accepted civilian designation for a person whose identity is unknown, but perhaps John Booth might be appropriate - as in the often used theatre phrase "Apart from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?
P.S. Dogged determination and exhaustive research (for which I am famous) has now revealed that there is an exact American counterpart, and that the name is George Spelvin. As yet I have not been able to find either a real George Spelvin, or an authenticted origin of the use of the name. I believe that Harry Selby is an alternative."
"What's the price for Starlight Express in Wimbledon?"
"£13 to £35 - but it would have been quicker to call the theatre than ask me!"
"I was wondering if you could answer the following questions for me, what does a production company do?, how does a production company sell itself?, how does it serve the arts? "
"This is such a big subject you could write a book about it - in fact it is covered in Making A Musical by Richard Andrews, published by Robert Hale (see the special offer on ShowSavers). I'll describe the process in the West End. The producer finds the property - either a script that has been submitted to her/him, by commissioning a writer, or by seeing a show at a fringe, regional or subsidised theatre. (S)he then raises the money from investors, puts together a creative team (director, designers etc), chooses a cast, finds and contracts a theatre, organises the building of the physical production (set, costumes etc) and marketing. (S)he will then manage the show during its run and supervise any subsequent touring or foreign productions. As to serving the arts, while some shows are just cheapjack attempts to separate the great British public from their hard earned cash by whatever means necessary, there have been many cases where producers were enthused by a particular project, and against all sensible advice, put shows on when no-one else would, which went on to become recognised as major works. To be truly healthy the theatre needs a mixed economy embracing both the commercial and the subsidised."
"I am a teacher looking to bring a group of studets to London to attend a workshop on a musical and then to watch the West End production in the evening. I know this exists for opera but does it exist for musicals?"
"The Mousetrap Foundation runs an extensive programme of masterclasses, workshops and events, together with subsidised tickets for West End shows, for school pupils and teachers. You can find the details on The Mousetrap Foundation web site via the link from Organisations in the Links area of TheatreNet."
"What is The Producers about?"
"It is the story of a Broadway producer who sets out to make money by defrauding his investors. He decides to stage the worst musical he can find - Springtime For Hitler - certain that it will be a flop, and then raises much more money that he has to spend to put it on, intending to keep the difference. The show opens, it is terrible, but his plan is foiled when it becomes a hit, and he can't pay his backers. Of course the traditional answer in musical theatre to "What is the show about?" is: "It's about two and three quarter hours - but we're working on the second act"."
"Why is saying Macbeth supposed to be unlucky?"
"There is no straightforward answer to this. Some people think that simply because it was always a guaranteed crowd puller, and so was often substituted for a play that had flopped and was taken off, that it somehow caused the misfortune. However, it is certainly true that there have been many productions of 'the Scottish play' as it is always known, that have been fraught with disaster. A production starring John Gielgud at the Piccadilly Theatre during the Second World War definitely lived up to its unlucky reputation, with four actors dying and the designer committing suicide - shortly afterwards the building suffered bomb damage and closed. So best not say the word to be on the safe side."
"What does "Swing" mean when shown in the programme against the name of a member of the cast."
"A Swing is an understudy boy or girl dancer, who doesn't normally appear in the show, but learns the different positions of each of the dancers, and can substitute for anyone who is off sick or on holiday. If there is a big chorus there will be more than one Swing and they will split the covering between them. In plays, understudies who do not normally appear in the show are called Walking Understudies."
"How many people attend West End shows each year?"
"The total attendance in West End theatres has been around 12 million for the last few years. In 2005 the number rose to an all time record of 12,318,625. Attendances at Broadway theatres is slightly lower, and their figures are accounted in seasons rather than calendar years. The 2005/2006 season was also a record breaker at 12,003,148, the first time the figure had topped 12 million."
"Is your name really Walter Plinge? You seem appear in a lot of productions!"
"Walter Plinge is actually a well known theatre pseudonym used for disguise purposes in billing and programmes. For instance, if the producer doesn't want the audience to know that one actor is playing two parts, or wants to give the impression that there are more actors in the play than there really are. I'm using it to protect myself from the attentions of magazines such as Heat, OK and Hello."
"What is the best place to sit in the theatre?"
"If you like to be close to the stage and feel part of the action, then the front Stalls is the place to sit, although you will be looking up. If you like to have a wider overall view, then the Dress Circle, further back and in a slightly elevated position, looking down on the actors (as most people do in real life) is the place for you. Remember that Boxes are for being seen in - they are at best a sideways on view, at worst they are restricted. "
"Which was the first public theatre in London?"
"The first public theatre in London was The Theatre, constructed outside the city wall to the north in Shoreditch in 1576, and managed by the actor James Burbage. It was of the kind we are now familiar with from the film Shakespeare In Love, with half the audience standing in the open air yard below the stage, and the rest seated in three shallow galleries surrounding them. The Theatre was so successful that Burbage built another, The Curtain, nearby the following year. When Burbage died in 1597, his sons were unable to renew the lease on the land where The Theatre stood, so they dismantled it, transported it across the river, and re-erected it in Bankside, where two other theatres had subsequently opened, rechristening it The Globe. "