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Three nights of Annie: I'm exhausted.


First off, let me praise the cast. 40-odd children and a small dog acted their little cotton bobby socks off in a two hour show with no missed cues, forgotten lines, dropped props or any other Thespian problem, although the dog looked worried.


Being a musical all of the cast had to sing at some point, dance too for some of them. One girl has a good voice (and we've got her for two more years!) the rest ranged from OK to awful but what bottle to stand up there and belt it out. I didn't do it when I was their age.


The band was a sixteen piece motley crew of teachers, pupils and friends, and they rocked. They were my biggest headache as we've had problems before with music drowning the children, from both live bands and recorded tracks (that last should never have happened!). Luckily The Maestro has begun to realise the detrimental effect his volume has been having on the productions and full marks to him for reigning in the band as tightly as he could without getting stroppy about having to do so. I think he's beginning to understand that 1960's bog-standard school hall acoustics are not worth fighting over.


We have four Gemini dual channel radio mic outfits which I think are primarily aimed at the dj market but they were affordable. Up 'til now we've used them with the lavaliers they came with and haven't had much gain-before-feedback working with the budget range Carlsbro speakers we had mounted on the proscenium wall about six feet above stage height . This year however we've had posh new speakers installed at ceiling height in front of the stage and - :)! - I managed to convince the Drama Queen that we should switch to head-mounted mics. She's resisted them before because she said there was no one available to help the children with them when they were changing costumes.


The mics are CPC's cheapo Chinese imports, £1.80 each with mini-XLR connectors (see later) and brought with them a job I rapidly grew to hate: Micropore taping them to a bit of Canford's mic stiffening wire. Not my favourite way of getting my fingers sticky whilst stiffening something.


Twenty mics were distributed and the eight transmitter packs were shared between the twenty children, just three children keeping one throughout. One boy with quite a few lines was denied a mic because “It would confuse him. It's all he can manage to stand on stage and talk.”


The mics were taped to faces with little-or-no attempt to hide the tape. It looked like most of our cast had cut themselves shaving. Inevitably some peeled off. More worrying was the belt pack that had “peeled off” that I spotted being kicked around the floor. I'm going to try heat-shrink tubing next time: heat shrink the packs to the children's waists and then have the mics surgically implanted into their faces. Really.


A few of the mics died. “The batteries are flat” I was told, by the Drama Queen, obviously skilled in remote electrical diagnostics. All new batteries, though, luckily for me, and the Geminis are economical in power, so an unlikely diagnosis. What was happening? After the second show I figured out that some of the children were managing to insert the mini-XLR wrongly. Not easy to do as it's keyed.


The worst offender was a boy with a major part, lots of lines and lots of singing. After pondering the problem I noticed that if correctly inserted the plug's catch release “pip” is on the same side as the pack's belt clip so I wrote a song to be sung to the tune “The sun has got his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray”:


The clip side has the pip on

“Clip: PIP! Clip: PIP!” say,

The clip side has the pip on

And I'll get it right today.


... and


Chip and PIN,

Clip and PIP!


Drama Queen got the cast to sing it. I'm not sure if worked as we still had some dropouts. Causes unknown. Unfortunately one such was the same lad as before at the same point in the show. Curious that. This time instead of having no mic he had intermittency which is arguably worse. I was operating a camcorder and willing the mixer operator to mute his channel and let him shout. She let it ride though and made us all suffer. He had the same belt pack as before and a 5% chance of having the same mic (Memo: mark the mics) so I'll see what I can find out on Monday.


For the ensemble players we tried to use our two floor mics. Yes, we got some gain, but no, the little voices that most of them have did not reach the edge of the stage, so whole conversations went unheard and it was worse when a mic'ed-up actor was speaking with a natural: you heard half the conversation. One-sixth when President Roosevelt was talking with his cabinet. Plus it sounded awful if a speaker with a radio mic was also picked up by a floor mic. Comb filtering I presume. Also it didn't help on the last night that I'd inserted their feedback killers' jacks into the channels' Line inputs instead of the Insert sockets. These mics got kicked about the stage too. Blu-tac is not the answer.


A mic on a stick was used for the radio announcer, until its battery went flat. Oooer missus. Black mark against me. I changed it next night for a cabled jobbie.


We don't do sound checks we do “Hello” eight times.


The Drama Queen ran the mixing desk. I think this was a first for her but she was good in that she knew exactly what was coming up and had the faders ready, but she twiddled the channel trim pots and probably the EQs too throughout the show which I think she shouldn't have needed to do. We must get on top of mic set up. I was pleased to notice another thread on it here tonight.


Lighting was just three states: All up, a bit dimmer, and follow spots. One of the spots was hired in, the type being left to the hire company's discretion as long as it matched our 1kW tungsten. They sent us a 2kW tungsten with fan. Hmm. I hadn't mentioned I was going to run it off a dimmer channel. Fingers crossed, it was ok. Forgot to tell board operator, again Drama Queen - how's that for multi-tasking – not to run it on low (fan motor stalls, not good).


I had three boys fighting to be spotmen. Two of them turned out in black jackets, sharp black trousers, black shirts, and ties. I had the sh*t-hottest looking spotmen in Blackpool. They were placed among the audience so it looked good. Put me to shame. I was the worst dressed crewman. (Memo: get new t-shirt).


Three white confetti airbursts to finish on the last night, hanging from the stage lighting bars. Why do their manufacturers not cover them in paper that is less reflective of light. They looked like three snowballs hanging there when the lights were on. I had to Sharpie them and cut off the labels which looked like little flags in the limelight. So undignified having to climb a ladder in front of eight hundred dining children to do a bit of colouring-in.


And finally the horror of being called out to receive a box of chocolates for my contribution to the show. My girlfriend said I got a right big cheer from the capacity audience. She would say that.

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Well done, that show sounded pretty impressive. I take it you was supervising technician on both lighting and sound?


I'm impressed that you used the dog in the show and it didn't decide 'oh bu***r this, I'm going for a walk' and walked off stage


Sounded like you had a few problems with the mics there. At least you could diagnose most of the problems. At my am-dram group we recently did Jesus Christ Superstar (I was in this one) On either the second or third night, I'm not entirely sure which but I'm sure it was the second. Anyway, on this night one of our radio lapel mics died during the show. During the first act to be precise. Our sound techi who is a professional lx and sound techi from Nottingham Playhouse didn't even know what the problem was. It hadn’t come unplugged or lost battery power, these was fine. some sort of signal loss somewhere me thinks, because either later on in the show the mic was working again!

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I'm impressed that you used the dog in the show and it didn't decide 'oh bu***r this, I'm going for a walk' and walked off stage


The dog was fine in rehearsal but faced with a band and audience he had to be accompanied on stage by his real owner, Annie sang to him while mummy minded him. On the last night she dressed as though she was in the cast, which looked better.

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** laughs out loud **, sounds like fun! "Drama queen" brings back big memories of our old head of drama - are they all like that?!


Oh, and I love the song. Perhaps that sort of thing is the answer to similar problems...


Sounds like good work overall. Well done!

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That was a good read that!


Sounds like a very good and enjoyable show.


I've done Annie once, for which I was playing in the band (2nd Keyboards) and I would be lying if I said it was my favorite show! However, seemed like you had a good time and showed off your songwriting talents!


Enjoy the chocolate!




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