The show that the audience see is the result of a large amount of work by a lot of people - the cast you see, and the crew you don't (usually). Here's what some of them are thinking, as the call comes over the show relay: Beginners for Act I please. Beginners for Act I.

picture of Helena

Helena Say was a Biomedical Sciences Fresher and "Tallulah" in Bugsy Malone 2007

One month of costume fittings, three-day-a-week rehearsals, learning lines, flogging tickets, putting up posters, drunken socials and sleepless nights...and here it was at last. As I sat in the dressing room smothering myself in unreasonable quantities of eyeliner and oompa-loompa-esque foundation, there were so many thoughts going through my head - "Will it all go smoothly tonight?", "Oh No! What's my first line?!" and "Why oh why did you audition for a principle role?!". I slid into my almost indecent dress, brushed my hair a few thousand times, tried to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and put on a smiling face.

The show started, and everyone was onstage apart from a few poor souls who were left waiting nervously. Whilst most of the cast were shining in front of the audience, we had to wait in the dressing rooms with pounding hearts, until our names were finally called. "Tallulah to the balcony please, Tallulah to the balcony." "Ooh! That's me!" I race up the stairs, wait nervously behind the curtain, give my hair a final flick and then then I'm in the spotlight and saying the lines I've rehearsed a dozen times before. I don't have to think about it, somehow they just flow from my mouth. I walk down the stairs trying to look as graceful as possible and return to the dressing rooms, joking around with everyone but really still panicking about my song in Act II.

Act II begins, and I try my best to cover up my shaking hands and stay frozen whilst the audience come in. My mind is racing, "Oh God, Oh God, I'm going to forget the words. I know I am...hang on, what are the words? Argh! OK, relax, just breathe...remember to dance with that guy over there, don't trip over, hold the mic near your mouth..." The music starts, and I snap into character. Inside I am terrified Helena trying to pull back her shoulders, remember the words and cover up her shaking limbs. But outside I am sassy, confident Tallulah, Fat Sam's moll who always gets what she wants. The music ends. It seemed to be over in a flash. "That wasn't too bad actually. I want to do it again now!" I am still shaking from the adrenaline. Just a few more scenes and then the grand finale. "Will my dress get caught on Kim's buttons again? I hope not."

The show ends, and everyone is on such a high. The sense of achievement you get is incredible, and the buzz of being in the spotlight is like nothing else on Earth. Sure, shows are a lot of work, and can be stressful...But was it all worth it? You Bet!

picture of Matt Matt Helmers joined MUGSS in September 2005, gaining principal parts in both Rock Trial and Utopia Ltd. When not being a rock star or a drill sargeant, he's studying English Literature, Theology, Spanish and Philosophy in Manchester on his year abroad from Arizona State University...or as Sam put it "somewhere in America."

Sitting in the improvised dressing room which actually appeared to be more of a dance studio with full length mirrors covering one entire wall, slowly strapping myself into the conglomeration of leather and metal and spandex that was lovingly referred to as my "costume" I suddenly realized that this was it: a few weeks of whirlwind rehearsing, pushing my voice to dig and scoop in just the right "rock" manner, trying desperately to remember the bits of choreography thrown at me a few weeks before and praying to God that I'd hit that incredibly high note in the final song — all of it was for these performances, this night.

I did the same warm-ups I'd done a hundred times before for all those other shows, but here I was, thousands of miles away from any venue I'd ever played, jumping around the hallways of the RNCM and hoping that Manchester would like me. It's odd that all the worrying comes when I'm doing my hair or putting on my shoes, and not when I'm singing in front of a hundred people. When I'm onstage with the lights and the crowd and the chorus behind me nothing can go wrong, but when I'm backstage with cast members putting the final touches of spray-on glitter to my trousers — well then it seems like nothing will go right.

On stage I'm Edwin, cocky, self-assured jerk who's the lead singer of "The Unfaithful" and being sued by the gold-digger Angelina — but offstage I'm just terrified Matt trying to make enough jokes to cover up the shaking hands and trying to remember if it's three or four beats before my entrance in the tango number. But then the call comes and the musing is done. The next thing I know the techies are herding me towards the door, shoving a radio-microphone in my hands and telling me to break a leg — half an hour later I stumble back off stage.

picture of Malcolm By: Malcolm Grey
Physics Lecturer and MUGSS Chorus Member

There's something exciting about the difference between the backstage darkness before the curtains open, and the smart front that the audience see. It's great to see all that mess of wood, weights, cables and, good grief, there are funny people moving around here in black gear wielding torches and coarse carpentry implements. Do they know what they're doing any better than we do?

Nerves, what nerves? A MUGSS performance is so much more scary than giving lectures. Partly, this is because the show is a team effort, and I want it to go well for everyone else. Also, the audience pay; I'm forgetting, so do students now. Perhaps I should give lectures in a MUGSS costume; that would be value for money!

Just a few minor worries about going on stage: surely this red and gold gown thing is from 'The Mikado', rather than 'Princess Ida'? Will I trip over it? Hope they've stuck enough powder on my head to stop me looking like an overgrown lightbulb. Please, please let me get that trumpet somewhere near my mouth before the music starts. Oh, and no fire alarms, like the one that went off in Pirates' year.

Just time to wave at people in the wings and discuss tonight's rendition of the overture (in the quietest possible whisper, of course). Drat, now where's that trumpet.....

picture of Frankie By: Frankie Still
Fresher and 'Mad Margaret' in Ruddigore 2005

I'd be lying if I said I felt nervous when I heard the beginners calls during Ruddigore. My primary concern was finding my way through hordes of chattering bridesmaids making their way to the stage, and squeezing past villagers fighting over mirror space to try and get to the sanctuary of the make-up room. Every night I panicked that they wouldnt be able to complete the change in time, but every night the two make up artistes (yes, two, that surely qualifies me as a diva!) managed to transform me into Mad Margaret through the use of painful backcombing techniques, half a can of hairspray, and artily applied splodges of mud all over my face.

Mad Margaret doesn't appear onstage until 45 minutes into Act 1, and so when I was finally called I was nervous but raring to go after catching the infectious excitement of the chorus every time they came off stage. I made my way to the props table where the props man smiled at me reassuringly and handed me a photo which I shoved down my top. On stage it would be removed with a flourish and used in the throes of an emotional song. I then prowled around backstage, stealing nervous sips from the water bottles of unsuspecting crew-types, patting at my hair to make sure that it was still standing on end and constantly checking that my skirt wasn't tucked into my knickers. I waited in the wings at the foot of the stairs I made my entrance from. The song before mine ended; Dick Dauntless exited the stage in such anguish that he almost knocked me over as he careered down the stairs. The lights went down and the introduction to my song started. I took a deep breath and began to climb the stairs.