Monday, March 17, 2008

GREASE is the Word. Hopefully, For a Long Time to Come...

I just started rehearsals for "Grease" at the Oak Ridge Playhouse, and things are thus far going swimmingly.

It's great being a more-or-less established musical director, because I use the same musicians over and over (and being such a swell guy) they just tend to enjoy coming back and playing again. I'm using the same pianist from "The King and I", and my drummer and bass player have done several shows with me. It's great to go into a show without constantly worrying about putting together a band.

The cast is great, young people who are excited about a show that's been around for years and is ready for a fresh chance. One of the big problems about producing a show that's a) been around for a long time, and b) spawned a highly successful movie version, is that cast members can fall into the trap of imitating the previous performers. Being that John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made their parts so famous and distinctive (along with Stockard Channning, Jeff Conaway, Fabian and other stars) it's difficult to go back to the original script and score and treat it as if it were brand new. As I told the cast in the first rehearsal, if people wanted to see them imitate Travolta, Newton-John and others onstage they should just go rent the movie. It's our job to create something fresh, new and entertaining.

And that's really the same for every play or musical. Directors shouldn't simply copy a convention or design that's been used in the past, either in their own experience or based on a particular staging from a famous version of the show. They should always try to bring something of themselves, and the performers to the show and make it unique to this place and time. This is something I believe community theatre has over professional and maybe even regional theatre. Professionals perform in dozens, hundreds, even thousands of shows over a lifetime. Their experiences and memories or particular shows begin to blur over time. Even as my own resume' grows, memories of shows start to run together. But more often than not, I remember very distinctive parts of almost every show I've ever been involved in. And that should be the same for anyone who's ever worked in community theatre. Each one is separate and unique, and the good memories of casts, performances, relationships, friendships and emotions should be treasured their whole life. I certainly hope to for myself.

I recently got back in touch with an actress that was in "Company" almost 5 years ago. She's in college pursuing a masters. I've worked with several people in "Grease" before, one in particular who's playing Danny also played Horton in "Suessical" and Drake in "Honk". Another friend from "Company" and "King & I" I keep in touch with via Facebook. So connections continue and experiences go on.

Anyway, "Grease". The performances are weekends of April 25-May 11. I hope you'll try to

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