My most vivid memory of Chorley Capers was one year when we were at St Michael’s School in Chorley, we had just had a great dress rehearsal and as Stage Manager that year, my techie team were using some new technology in the form of a mini-disc player.
Essentially, this was a re-writable small CD in a plastic case and we had queued up, in order, all the audio required for the show. Absolutely everything from the pre-show music, recorded announcements, backing tracks, sound effects, emergency announcements, the lot.
This made operating the show really easy in that the audio guys could just hit play at the start of each cue, the track would play and then remain paused on the next track ready for the play button to be pressed again.
Anyway, opening night came, I was backstage when about 20 minutes before curtain-up, I got a call from the techie team saying “What does disc error mean?” I quickly went front-of-house to see the offending machine showing “disc error” on it’s screen and then, predictably, did what everyone else had tried in ejecting the disc, switching the machine off and on again, re-inserting the disc only to get the exact same result.
Here we were with just over 15 minutes before the show was due to start and no music, no sound effects, no announcements, nothing!
I then started to realise how serious this was; the odd sound effect could be lost but some of them, it was the whole punchline of the sketch which would be pointless without it. Then the larger items where people were singing to the specially produced Karaoke versions of some tracks where we had painstakingly removed the vocals from tracks using special equipment I had at home.
If we left out the items where the audio was essential, we would have lost about half of the show!
I then realised we had to gather the original audio and re-make the mini disc or at least have the tracks to play in some other way. But, the originals were not at the school, some of them were at my house. One was a CD we had borrowed and returned to the owner. We’d need to get someone to pick up the original CD, bring it to my house, re-process it to remove the vocals and put it all onto a new disc to use.
I despatched people off to all corners of Chorley to gather the originals, some of them were still in costume ready for the show to start. I went to the adult’s changing room to get the car keys from my Mrs (Kate) and apparently, I had a really serious look on my face when I did this. I dashed off home and one by one, people arrived with all the source material and soon enough, we had the first half re-done. I sent the gang back to the school to start the show whilst I re-recorded the 2nd half.
By the time the team got back, got re-set back up again, the show started only 10 minutes late which was a miracle. I arrived not too much later to find the show running pretty well without a Stage Manager and at the end of all of this, the audience hardly knew what had gone on.
To this day, the phrase “Disc error” sends chills through the spines of anyone involved that night.
The following night, we had everything on one CD, several backup CDs, a version on tape and all the original source material….just in case.