Best Practices for an Outstanding Opening Night

Best Practices for an Outstanding Opening Night

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O pening night for every show is filled with nerves and excitement! There’s a sold-out crowd, you’re exhausted from a busy tech week, and all the blood, sweat, and tears throughout the rehearsal process are culminating in the first public performance of this company’s performance of a musical!

So exciting!! I love that opening night feeling.

I’m writing this guide to share with y’all the steps I take to ensure I am prepared and confident for opening night.

A Week Before Opening Night

Start drinking a lot of water. Eat healthy foods🥑. Taking care of your body is always important, but it’s especially crucial during a demanding tech week! You need to give your body the proper fuel it needs to sustain you. 

If you don’t stay healthy before opening night– you’re dehydrated and pushing your body’s sleep requirements– you are hurting your immune system’s chances of fighting off diseases.

And trust me, you do not want a sore throat and a cold on opening night. 

You should always practice using the correct vocal technique when you’re rehearsing and performing. If your voice is tired after repeating a show day after day, don’t be surprised. This might mean that you need to ‘mark’ your vocals in the couple of days leading up to a show.

Don’t wait until the week before opening night to solidify your songs and lines. Resting your voice is important. You want to be able to take a couple days before opening night (if needed) to rest your voice! In order to do that, your director and cast must be confident and comfortable that you can perform your part!

I’m not saying you should whisper your songs or dialogue. Whispering incorrectly and too often actually strains your vocal cords. ‘Marking’ your vocals means continuing to utilize the correct technique while modifying more difficult sections of music.

For example, if a song calls for extensive belting, it’s a good idea to refrain from repeatedly singing that section in your belt.

Ask your director before marking vocal parts as they may have a preference as to whether or not you mark it. They might need to hear you singing it full out if you are not 100% solid.

If you feel your voice getting strained and tired, let them know! You know your instrument, and any good director will support your decision to modify the vocals in rehearsals for a healthy and quality sound during performances.

Again, do yourself, your cast and crew a favor: Don’t wait until the last minute to solidify your vocals and lines!

One Day Before Opening Night

Continue drinking plenty of water and eating well. Stay attuned to how your voice is feeling. If you are feeling vocally tired, be sure to:

•DRINK WATER (I know I keep repeating this, but it’s really important).

•Drink some non-caffeinated tea☕. I love squeezing half a lemon and 2 tablespoons of honey in my mint tea.

•Mark your vocals if you feel solid on your parts and you’ve asked your director.

•Don’t talk or sing unless you need to. This has saved my voice many times.

Have a great time at your final rehearsal! Ask your director if there are any finishing touches she/he feels will contribute to your character. There’s a good chance they have already told you, but it never hurts to ask anyway!

Plan to get plenty of sleep the night before opening! You’ll likely be nervous and excited when trying to get to sleep, so building in extra time will allow you to maximize your rest. 

Opening Night!!!

The day is finally here. Don’t freak out about your preparedness. You are ready! Go over your lines and music once with the libretto and once memorized. Practice your choreography in your head. Or for your mom. Then focus on getting ready. 

Wake up at a reasonable time. You know what amount of sleep is best for yourself to not be groggy or under-rested. If you don’t, try “sleepyti.me.com.” It’s an optimal sleep duration calculator that’s pretty cool. It works well for me, but you’ll want to test it out a while before opening night.

Okay, so you’re awake!

Complete your morning routine as usual. Take care to prepare and apply any hair and makeup specifications for the show (if you need beachy waves, curl or braid your hair; if you want your face clean for your makeup, consider doing it before you get to the theatre).

I try to eat a light and healthy breakfast and lunch AND continue drinking lots of water! I enjoy drinking some hot tea to help me wake up.

Ensure you have everything you need for the show packed a couple hours before you are called time. It never ceases to amaze me how often I think I own something when, in fact, I have not owned tan pantyhose in three years…

Don’t forget:

  • Hair and makeup supplies (men too!)
  • Undergarments and pantyhose (check for holes)
  • Any other costume/jewelry pieces you are bringing from home
  • Snacks and water bottle PLZ!
  • Nails painted or unpainted
  • Eyebrows plucked/legs shaven/basic grooming you need

This is not an exhaustive list, but it contains some of the more noticeable things that might be forgotten (and that I have certainly forgotten). The more prepared you are, the more focused you can be on your performance.

For me (and I assume for many other people), forgetting an item from home and racing to the store causes a lot of anxiety. I like to save my stressing for important things like doing my hair or singing a solo!

Get Me to the (Theatre) on Time

Best Practices for an Outstanding Opening Night
If I looked that glamorous, I would also gaze whimsically at myself before the show starts!

The time I arrive at the theatre depends on my role or the complexity of my makeup/hair/costume.

When I am in a modern ensemble (like when Mamma Mia!), it takes me about 25 minutes to get into costume, microphone checked, makeup, and hair.

When I was Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical, I had to apply heavier makeup and prepare my hair to have a wig quickly placed over my head. For this role, I arrived about 30 minutes before call and it took me all the way until the show started for me to be ready! 

Be nice to your crew. Make sure to arrive in time for microphone checks if you have one. If you don’t have one, you only need to worry about how long it takes for you to get ready physically and for you to warm-up (whether that be alone or with the cast). 

Most theatres will give the cast & crew a timeline for call, microphone check opening and closing, cast warmups, and places. Here was ours for Mamma Mia!:

6:00 pm: Call

6:15-6:30 pm: Microphone Checks

6:35-6:45 pm: Cast Warm-up to “Voulez-Vous” (that was fun)

6:55 pm: Places

Abide by these times! Your stage managers should guide you through the times posted and when everything is occurring. BUT you do not want to be the guy who was late for mic checks and makes the entire ensemble wait for you to check it onstage at 6:40 pm.

This is unprofessional and cuts into the casts’ chance to get pumped and ready for the show. You don’t want to rush getting ready and warmed up either! You deserve to have a stress-free pre-show experience and so does everyone else.

Places!

You made it to the performance! You are chilling/dancing/laughing backstage. You are looking fine, warmed-up, and ready to rock the show.

When those butterflies start to kick in, I like to say a prayer for me and the audience that we might all enjoy the show and learn something about ourselves and others during it.

I encourage everyone to take a breath, think about the preparation and great times that have gone into the performance, and wish your castmates the best show possible!

Then, you go and kill it 😁

Thank you so much for reading!

What is your favorite opening night tradition? Please feel free to share below!

Grace Brown

Grace is a musical theatre enthusiast, aspiring classical singer, lover of jazz, & wife of a country singer-songwriter. She started this Sing With Grace performing arts blog to share musical stories from her life and celebrate the experiences and wisdom of the fantastic performers she's met along the way! FOLLOW her on Insta for more musical theatre, singing, and performing shenanigans!