Two years ago, Romy's school did a performance of 'The Lion King' for the end of term and they did it in the local theatre. It is still talked about now with respect, admiration and awe. This year, the school decided they would do 'Beauty and the Beast' and as far as I remember, they held auditions for the various main parts either at the end of last year or early this year. And Romy auditioned for the part of Mrs. Potts and she got it. She was rather nervous about auditioning and she had to learn quite a few lines of dialogue and sing the well-known song from the show. But she did it.
Then all went quiet for a while before the parents were summoned to a meeting - in February, I think - to discuss costume-making. I was a bit worried as sewing is definitely not my forte! I was even more shocked to discover the hall was full to bursting with parents, mainly mums, and to find out that there would be 155 children in the play! The chaos of that meeting gave me a few negative feelings about the undertaking but was relatively relieved to discover that as Romy was a main character, I wouldn't have to make her costume.
Then towards the beginning of April, I was summoned to another meeting. This time with Puri, one of the Infant school teachers, who said I was to make the dress that Romy would wear under her teapot costume and she showed me a still from a performance of the play that had been put on in Madrid. It was a high necked, frilly white satin blouse and a long white satin skirt. Not a dress. Puri said I could buy the material and a lady who lived in the Calle Columbia would make it for me.
Now, my granny was a tailor - not a Taylor though - and my mum always made lovely dresses for my sister and me when we were little. My sister is an incredibly good seamstress and had a flair for design as well. My needlework teacher, who despaired at my dreadful attempts at school, couldn't believe Judy was my sister when she came to the school a few years after me. I never finished anything and nothing ever looked right either. I do own a sewing machine but it never worked properly and without instructions, I could never remember how to thread the thing. And I admit, it frightened me somewhat.
But I decided I would make Romy's costume myself. It was a learning opportunity and there was plenty of time to get it right.
Good job there was plenty of time!
Thinking a dress would be too difficult, I decided to make a skirt and a blouse and I began straight away by making a blouse in 'draft' (I don't even know what this would be called) using some old material and a pattern from a friend. It was too small. So I decided to make the skirt and at the market, I found some lovely, off-white satiny material that wasn't too heavy and I successfully made a skirt. It was very full and a bit bulky. I admit, but I'd made it. I went back to the market the following week to get some more material for the blouse....and they didn't have any more.
Undaunted, I bought some white satin, which is what I had been told to buy anyway, thinking to see which looked best. And I went home and made a blouse which wasn't too bad. It took me some time to make it and by the time I had finished, I could almost remember how to thread the machine without looking at the pictures in my instruction book! Almost.
But as you can see from the photo, it didn't look too good with the skirt. I wasn't happy. And there was too much material everywhere.
So I went to every shop in Alcala to try and find some more cream satin to match the skirt. Why I didn't think it would be easier just to buy some more white satin, I'm not sure....but I didn't. I couldn't find any anywhere that was just the same, so I returned to the market and bought some cream satin, that was thicker and not as nice as the original stuff but which at least was a similar colour, And quite expensive as I remember.
I decided to make a simpler style blouse and laid Romy on top of my material and drew round her.
Then I cut this out with a bit to spare and then, with great speed and confidence, I sewed it up and tried it on her. It wasn't an absolutely perfect fit, but it wasn't bad at all. Spurred on at this success, I decided to take the skirt in and have it more fitted. A doddle. I could now thread the machine and run a seam up in mili-seconds. And soon, I'd sewn the trimmings on and finished both the skirt and the top successfully - and look how beautiful my daughter looks in them!
I was quite happy when I took these in to school at the next meeting. And I was ready to offer my help if anyone needed it...but I was told that first, I should buy 4 metres of a slightly spongy material that had a satiny top layer - I'm sure it has a name but I don't know what in either Spanish or English- in the same creamy colour as Romy's costume. I was so glad I hadn't made it white! And then I had to bring it into school and they would show me the pattern and how to turn it into the teapot.
It slowly began to dawn on me that I was going to have to make the teapot part as well....
The next few weeks saw me backwards and forwards at school as we all groped our way blindly round the plan for making a teapot costume. Puri had her ideas but as I began to put them into practice, I could see they were flawed....there was a moment when I'd followed all her instructions but was left with something that was definitely never going to be a teapot! A bit of back-tracking and I discovered how to make the shape we were looking for. Oh gosh, and sewing the thing together, adding whalebone round the middle, trying to sew the wavy ribbon around the centre was SO difficult and of course, impossible to do with the machine and I couldn't get so much thick material to go through. I sewed until my fingers bled, then I had to tape them up and sew some more....
But in the end, I finished it and the beastly teapot began to look pretty good!
The school secretary had made Romy a teapot lid hat, which was fantastic and Puri made the spout 'arm' - and although this picture is rather out of focus, I think you have to agree, we did a sterling job between us. (I tried to persuade Romy to take her pink socks off for the photo but she was having none of it - she had some lovely cream and gold shoes for the performances, which matched beautifully.)
All that was left was to go and see the show.
And oh what a show!!!
For three nights, the children of Jose Garnica Salazar put on a spectacle that deserved to be seen by everyone. Hearts and souls were poured into the acting, the dancing, the acrobatics, the singing and just being part of a wonderful, wonderful show. It was very cleverly staged and the children acted brilliantly with the songs being performed to a playback tape from the film version. They had such confidence and energy and there was something for all ages to take part in. The town has a very successful acrosports group and there are several champions of Spain at different age groups. Many of the girls are at the school and they performed some very impressive routines during the show. The townsfolk scenes were lively and colourful and the Gaston character was impressively swaggery and confident for a young boy of possibly 12 years old.
There were plates, forks, spoons, can-can dancers, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers as well as a candlestick, a clock, a feather duster, a chipped cup, some amazing wolves in the forest, and touchingly, children in wheelchairs taking their part too. There were tiny children in spectacular costumes doing dance routines - and of course a teapot, an animated and charming Belle and the Beast - and his alter ego, the Prince.
I managed to sneak in on the first night after I'd finished work and arrived before Romy had done her main part. All the songs were mimed by the children - all except Romy who was singing live. She has a nice voice, without doubt, but I wasn't prepared for how lovely and unafraid she was when she sang. And when we went to see it all together on the last night, she had gained in confidence and sang her little heart out to the most amazing applause at the end. She very nearly brought the house down.
Here are some photos from the play - I do apologise for the quality, it was so difficult to get some good shots but you can get a feel for the amazing work everyone has done.
|With the wolves in the forest - aren't they fantastic!|
|Some of the characters in the castle - including Mrs Potts!|
|Lumiere, out of focus, but a lovely wardrobe and a brilliant Beast, bottom centre. Don't miss Chip, the cup on the trolley!|
|Another out of focus one, but with Belle on the chair.|
|Action shot as the acrosport girls arrive|
|...and the spoons, forks, plates and can-can girls join them|
|Lumiere, Belle, Mrs. Potts and Chip - now in human form. Just look at the costumes!|
|This is when the townsfolk come to storm the castle...|
And here is the jolly good fun scene, with lots of action on stage.
And here is Romy singing at the end of the show on the first night. It's not the very best she sang but it's the best recording I was able to make. You can't see my tears!
And I am so happy because my mother in law was able to come down to see the show. It's a long journey from Valladolid, but she was utterly swept away by it all. Everyone in Alcala was, I think. And at the end, it was really rather special to hug the teachers and staff from the school and feel so very much a part of it all. Sadly, my mum wasn't able to come - she would have loved it too.
But the very best part of all was the pure pleasure that Romy and her school friends got from doing the shows - all the hard work paid off and they really did enjoy every minute.
Such a great experience for them.
SO - we've had a roller-coaster of a week. How has yours been?