Friday, October 21, 2005

Diary of a Music Director - Part II - "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile"

Week one of rehearsals for "Annie" is done. Just vocal instruction so far, where I teach and work with the cast on all the songs - choral, solos, whatever. Blocking starts tonight and I'll be there, plugging away on the piano whenever a song is being choreographed.

Period shows like these often use names, places and events from the past that have little resonance with today's audiences. I remember we did "Bye Bye Birdie" in high school, and at one point in the show the main character, Albert, is talking on the phone to someone from the media about his client, superstar Elvis-clone Conrad Birdie. It turns out the caller is not "Mr. Loos" as Albert first thinks, but he's corrected by the caller and repronounces, well, "Mr. Luck". He hangs up the phone and we go on, the audience not have a clue what the whole bit was about. Except even the director (who should have known better) get it wrong. It wasn't "Mr. Loos" or "Mr. Luck" it was Mr. Luce, aka Henry Luce, the legendary creator and publisher of Time Magazine. But since nobody in the cast knew who Henry Luce was (why would we?) and apparently the drama teacher never bothered to look it up, it was mispronounced and the joke fell flat. Later I looked it up myself and figured it out.

So a little research is sometimes pretty important when you're presenting a historically set piece in the present. Sometimes it doesn't have to be a historical play to trip you up - when I did "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" this summer, not only was the show several years old, the songwriter that the work is based on was a Belgian/Frenchman churning out popular tunes in France in the 1960's. So there were a number of cultural and temporal anachronisms I had to research and clarify to the cast before we could go forward.

Which returns us to Annie, and an amusing story I found online of an actor who ran into a similar problem when they were learning a routine from the show in a revue. Well, read about it here and you'll see what I mean.

Oh, and you may need this link to help you out: Beau Brummell.


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