Monday, November 21, 2005

Diary of a Music Director - Part V: "You Won't Be An Orphan For Long"

Yesterday was a marathon rehearsal for "Annie", at least for your humble host. Well, it was a marathon in and of itself...

Right after church was over, I had to head out and be in Oak Ridge at 1:00 for our first band read through. I didn't have time to grab lunch since it's a half-hour drive from Bearden to the Oak Ridge Playhouse, so the race was on.

Our band consists of:

Michael - Bass
Greg - Guitar
Kerry - Drums
Beckie - Keyboard, trumpet
Patty - Flute, clarinet, sax

And myself on piano. The read-through was a great success, better than any I've participated in so far. I attribute that to the professionalism and experience of all involved. A number of times I've used student or amateur performers in shows, and what they had in enthusiasm they sometimes lacked in overall skill - which occasionally caused some headaches. But not this time - each of our band members has done a number of shows before, and are experienced musicians. It's really important when putting together an "orchestra" to get people who don't just know how to play a horn or beat a rhythm, musicianship is key because of the constantly fluxuating requirements of the musical stage. A cut here, a key transposition there, can be really confusing to those not accustomed to playing a show. But there's no problem this time. I plan to keep all these folks on my speed dial for future shows :)

But overall it's nice not to be the orphan piano player out there - now I've got family coming in :)

Oh, and Kara, our Annie, is much better now - strep seems to be mostly gone, though her throat still sounds a bit scratchy... She's a trooper, and one of the most visually engaging young actresses I've seen in a while. She has a sweet smile and infectious enthusiasm for the part, as well as good stage presence.

Typically on Sunday before opening (which is on Thanksgiving, by the way) we run what's called a "Dry Tech" - which is basically zombie-walking through the show mainly to nail down scenery changes, lights, props, etc. However, this show is different - yesterday was a quick review of scene changes in the second act, then a complete Act 1 run-through. Something normally reserved for the next couple of days. So that means we're really ahead of the game, compared to normal musicals. And that makes life a little easier for everyone - cast, crew, and assorted directors :)

Tonight's a Dress Rehearsal and we put the band to work for the first time with the cast. I have a tradition of inviting interested cast members who want to come to the band read-through and sing along, and several took advantage of it. I think it's helpful for principals (Annie, Daddy Warbucks, etc.) to hear the real music in a more relaxed setting for the first time, rather than cold up on the stage on First Dress Rehearsal night. It's my responsibility to make sure the actors are comfortable with their singing parts, and sometimes adding a full band when they're used to just a piano rehearsal accompianist can be jarring. I don't anticipate any problems in that regard tonight, but it pays to be ready.

Costumes will be added tonight for the first time, as will more extensive lighting, props and scenery. The house will be dark, and we'll be in a mostly performance mode from here on out.

So far, things look like they're on track. Knock on proscenium arch... ;)

UPDATE: By the way, take a look at articles about the show from the Knoxville News Sentinel and the OakRidger (both sites require registration).

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