Pregnant Pauses

Diana Burleigh
Back in the early 1970s, Britain was experiencing power failures and all sort of places were plunged into darkenss. The DC were performing at Sadlers Wells and on arrival at the theatre for Gondoliers were warned that power cuts were expected, that there would be a stand by generator which would kick in if the lights failed and to expect that the lights would flicker while the switch-over happened. Sure enough, the lights flickered and the stand by generator took over and the performance continued into act 2. As Lyndsie Holland was singing "On the day when I was wedded" the second generator ran out of fuel and the entire house became dark. Lyndsie and the orchestra managed to struggle through to the end of the verse and then there was a pause - a long one. But the redoubtable British public was prepared for all emergencies and nearly all were carrying torches. Soon the stage was illuminated by hundreds of lights from all over the auditorium and showed the Duchess standing patiently in the centre of the stage awaiting the music but the Duke (yes Chris, Dear John) had found the throne and was stretched out puffing away at his cigar. Guess when the loudest laugh of the evening came?

Tony Watts
I remember poor Lyndsie Holland 'drying' completely during the Fairy Queen's opening scene dialogue at the Festival Hall during the Centenary season. She delivered a few lines, then total silence descended. She was prompted, in a loud stage whisper, from the side of stage, by other members of the cast on stage, by the conductor (Royston Nash I think) and even by one or two people in the audience. After what seemed like minutes, but was probably in reality only thirty seconds or so, the unfortunate contralto recovered her equilibrium and continued. It shows it can happen even when (or maybe because) you are overly familiar with your role and have played it hundreds of times.

Chris Webster
John Ayldon tells a similar story but concerning the Fairy Queen drying during the act one finale.
All around tried to prompt her into giving the line and she had a chorus of people from every side saying "Prick, prick, prick ..."
I found it a quite amusing story, but many of the people present when he told this to a London meeting of the G&S Society were not quite so amused (or at least did not wish to show that they were amused), and John made it clear that he perhaps should have had second thoughts about telling the story. He closed this little chapter by saying something along the lines of "well, so-and-so in the Manchester branch thought it was hysterical."

David Craig
In a Pinafare some years ago I was playing Deadeye. Captain Corcoran failed to appear for " In uttering a reprobation.." and, seeing the desperation in the M.D's face, I sang in the said bit. I was, very properly, sent to my cabin by an irate Sir Joseph. The Captain, meanwhile, had gone to the dressing room and donned his sailor's uniform one scene early. Maybe he was keen to meet Celerity.

Linda Sinker
Bosbury Players productions always take about nine months to come to fruition. Whilst rehearsing for our 1999 Mikado, Pitti Sing became pregnant and was about one month from delivery during the actual performance. When she sang "Won't have to wait very long, they say" in the Three Little Maids trio, the laughter stopped the show for several minutes.

Rachel Keegan
The recent postings about the power cuts in the UK in the early 1970s have brought back many memories. I can remember a local production of Yeomen in which they had rigged up an emergency generator and an arc lamp (the latter being perched rather precariously at the top of a step ladder). The thing about these power cuts was that you knew when they were going to be and how long they would last. On this occasion we knew that the power would come back on again at 9 oclock. It's the only time I've ever seen the chorus Night Has Spread Her Pall Once More accompanied by a sudden and dramatic burst of light. Our rehearsal schedules in those days were very complicated - we met in people's houses and had to fit the rehearsals around the published schedule of power cuts.
Happy days!

John Huston
This reminds me of 2 incidents from my remote youth.
When I played the Major General for a dinner theatre we had choreographed the Policemens' entrance through the audience. "Then Fred'ric &c" lights up, music played & we, Fred., Mabel & assorted daughters stood looking out to...nothing. Music continues...nothing. Finally 2 bars before the Sgt.'s solo the pianist realizes there is no Sgt. or indeed any undaunted man in blue of any rank to sing so she stops.

MJ: (to Frederic) Did you give them the right directions?
Fred: (Eyes rapidly approaching the size of saucers) I think so.
MJ: Maybe you should go & have a look for them. They're NOT VERY BRIGHT.
Fred; Good idea. (Exit)
Mabel: I'll go help him Papa. (Exit)
MJ (Thinks of rude sailor words about Mabel)
Ladies Chorus: Oh Papa. (They crowd around in consoling postures re: Dry the Glist'ning Tear.) It will be all right.
MJ: I'm sure it will my dears. (Pause) Perhaps after this nasty pirate business is behind us we can all go to London & see H.M.S. Pinafore. Ladies: Oh Yes papa!(Pause of almost Pinteresque significance.)
MJ: You know that reminds me of my song. Maybe we (look at pianist) might do it again?
Fred: (entering with cavalry-like timing) Found them.
MJ: Did you?
Fred: Yes. (sings) Dear sir. They come.
(Enter the police from backstage as audience applauds.)

While doing Sorcerer in Boulder in '83(?) our Alexis was "carrying on" with one of the leads from Gondliers (we did the shows in rep). Came the time for Alexis to enter in act 2 with "Aline my only Love my happiness" & he wasn't there. He finally came running in hitting the stage just in time for the pause before Aline's "ALEXIS DON'T DO THAT YOU MUST NOT." Now neither Aline nor Daly were at first aware that Alexis wasn't there so they had no ad libs ready when he didn't at first show up. As Alexis hit the stage to the silence of the pause prior to Aline's line he had no idea, as he later told us, where he was in the show musically & thought that the orchestra had stopped because he wasn't there. Aline, trying to cover for the fact that he HADN'T "done" anything, sang, "Alexis don't come in you must not." (Convulsions backstage.) Alexis,making the best of it by singing Gilbert's line, "Why?". And so on.

Richard Pennicard
My father recalled a performance of Patience during the (second world) war. Halfway through the first act there was a air-raid warning and the theatre manager announced that the the show would go on, but there would be a short break while anyone who wished to leave the theatre could do so. The next line was "Am I alone and unobserved? I am."

Philip Sternenberg
Last summer I played Ko-Ko with a company other than Ridgewood, and as it is ordinarily a more than competent group, I'll spare them the embarrassment of identification for the discussion at hand.
There were, in the short run of seven performances, THREE separate occasions on which Nanki-Poo hung me out to dry. Twice it was in the scene after "Three little maids." A few seconds after I realized that there would be interminable dead air after kissing the reluctant Yum-Yum, I started asking Pooh-Bah his opinion of a second kiss in as many of his capacities as possible.
The other occasion was in the scene after "See how the fates." Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum were supposed to enter from an audience lit in a way that made it impossible for me to see whether they were actually coming at the time I'd say, "Here he comes." I think I wound up saying something like, "I thought I saw him coming," and then Pitti-Sing, Pooh-Bah, and I just kept making random remarks of distress.
It might be useful to plan for as many missed entrances as possible. For one thing, it could be fun inventing dialogue for such occasions without expecting ever to use it. As Sgt. Meryll once, I did have a plan in case Leonard missed his entrance, something he had previously come perilously close to doing. I kept the plan to myself, and lo and behold, I actually got to implement it. It was to sing "Laughing boy," which wasn't supposed to be included, a cappella. I was staged to be seated on a bench musing at the boy who robbed the Lieutenant's orchard, so I just started singing as if I were still in my reverie. Nevertheless, when Leonard finally arrived (around "Unchecked by care and sorrow"), my "I'm right glad to see thee" had added significance!

Ed Patterson
During the Act One finale of Pirate of Penzance I was singing Major-General Stanley. Earlier, I had made a lyric lapse during the Major-General Song and was feeling quite badly. Nonetheless, I redeemed myself admirable, when I started singing "I'm telling a terrible story" - when half the orchestra "failed to show up" - then a measure or two later, the fiddles finally decided to join - of course from the beginning. So during this little "Schoenberg" passage where the conductor was frantically trying to get everyone on the same page, I realized that it wasn't gonna happen before the chorus joined. What a Steeplechase that would have been- The Pirates meet Wozzeck. So, I modulated, harmonized (on Sullivan's behalf) - and create an additional lyric (on Gilbert's behalf) - preventing the chorus from coming in until the errant fiddles caught up. Then "voila" - no train wreck. All was well.
Afterwards, I was a hero. I went to apologize to the conductor for having fudged lyrics in the pattersong - a mistake I thought was of heliogabulan proportions (and it was that verse) only to be regaled as a hero. "What ever you did out there, thank you," said the conductor. To which I replied, "I don't know what the ....." oh well, it far less Gilbertian and more the type of vulgarity that Sullivan would have appreciated.

Derrick McClure
I didn't actually see this one, and it happened many years ago so I hope I've remembered the story correctly, but here goes: Iolanthe declaimed dramatically "But see - he comes! Quick, my veil!" Phyllis and Strephon hurried off, and Iolanthe moved to side stage. No Lord Chancellor. Iolanthe looked anxiously around, and a voice from the wings hissed - supposedly for her ears only but in fact loud enough for most of the auditorium to hear - "He's in the shunk!" [i.e. toilet, if anybody needs a translation]. The laugh which this elicited was as NOTHING to the one that arose when the Chancellor came on and said his line!!