Traditionally musicals were cast by a mixture of personal contact, auditions and thumbing through Spotlight while sitting on the loo. In recent years casting directors have become fashionable and these doughty individuals now do most of the legwork and murky work it is too, trapped between actors, their agents, and impossible to please producers. In my view casting directors deserve every penny they earn, not least because they have to attend auditions on an almost daily basis. The world at large has become familiar with the audition process through the endless stream of TV talent shows but these are a pale reflection of the unrelenting tedium of the real thing. 6 hours a day watching a river of variable talent flowing across the chilly stage of an empty theatre. At the end of the day the creative team gather to compare notes:
Director: I rather liked the blonde girl in red. What was her name?
Director’s Assistant: Tania Mischmasch. Yes I liked her.
Casting Director: She’s just come off the Balkan Phantom tour.
Choreographer: She’s a bit fat.
Director: Good voice too. What did the Music department think?
Musical Director: Yeah not bad. Has she got just a touch of a speech impediment?
Choreographer: She’s too fat.
Director: Just a touch of a lisp is no problem. Rather endearing.
Choreographer: She’s got legs like tree trunks.
Director: Oh alright! What about the redhead with the slightly foreign accent? She was sensational.
General Manager: Sorry, we’ve just discovered that she is a Russian national and doesn’t have a work permit.
Director: Bugger! OK I also liked that little northern girl, Emily something.
Assistant Director: Ah yes Emily Entwhistle, now she could play the Chip Shop Lady, the Taxidermist’s Assistant…..
Choreographer: She’s too short.
Assistant Director: …..the Mother Superior, be first cover for the Librarian and the Dog Trainer……
Musical Director: She can’t sing for toffee.
Assistant Director: ….and she could be second cover for the Traffic Warden.
Choreographer: She’ll only come up to the boys’ navels in the Tango.
One final thing to bear in mind when casting is Rule 3, (Never sleep with the Turns), and therefore never cast anyone purely on the basis that you might like to sleep with them later on, it always ends in tears.
Project Model – Maintenance!
Producers Samuel J Bloodlust and Alvin Toxteth have quickly discovered that there are no ‘names’ prepared to take on the leading roles of Barry and Sharon in Maintenance! They decide to follow the well trodden path that Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and Cameron Mackintosh have made by reaching out to the British public in their own ‘audition’ show Baby You Can Drive My Car. Their proposal is rejected by all the terrestrial networks and at writer Dermot O’Dainty’s suggestion they approach Hampshire Gold TV. HGTV are very much new boys on the digital TV block, they operate out of an industrial unit on Basingstoke’s ring road and have relatively few subscribers, but have ambitious plans for national coverage in the coming months. They are producers of O’Dainty’s reality show Call the Receptionist, in which honeymoon couples and dirty weekenders are publicly humiliated in a cleverly rigged hotel room and insulted by the hotel receptionist (a heavily disguised Carol Smiley) and a drunk porter (Keith Chegwin). When the producer feels that the unfortunate couple have been put through enough O’Dainty bursts into the room to confront them with the news that it has all been a TV wheeze, at which point the couple show they are good sports and join in the general hilarity while collecting their scattered underwear. HGTV are also makers of the popular CSI Dorking (this week’s episode involved the theft of some pet food from a parade of shops in Carshalton) and their all-night Law and Boredom, which shows unedited CCTV footage from the Basingstoke area, has achieved cult status.
HGTV’s Chief Executive Lew Fade announced the project in glowing terms “This is the sort of programming that will put HGTV on the British cultural map and when I tell you that we will be following this up with The Allotment Hour and GP Surgery Waiting Room Action! I think you will agree that our cup truly runneth over”.
Bloodlust & Toxteth do the deal with HGTV despite director McHarrowing & composer Eisenkopf’s concerns that their two leads will be chosen by a relatively small number of viewers, of limited intelligence, living in the Basingstoke and Andover area.