Tag Archives: Musicals

Spring Shows and Youth… Ah… Youth!

This is the first week of Spring and the new season of shows are busting out all over… (I know, that’s supposed to be June, but I couldn’t resist), and every year, there seem to be more and more and MORE shows going on that one needs to try to get to see.

This spring is no different.

Last week, I managed to snag a ticket to the completely sold out run of The Addams Family produced by LYTE at The Palace Theatre. I love that show. I saw it on Broadway with Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane and I thought it was tremendous good fun then, and I’ve now seen it performed by two delightful younger casts and enjoyed it both times. It’s a fun, silly, campy romp that doesn’t ask you to think much, but still delivers with some clever quips and great melodies. The set was FANTASTIC and the costumes were great, but the enthusiasm of the young people on that stage was what made it feel like spring was on the way for me. In particular the performances of Gomez, Morticia and Wednesday Addams – I found them all delightful, but these characters have the best lines in my opinion and these talented youngsters delivered!

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This week, a truly wonderful play, (with music) opens at Original Kids. I really wanted to be involved in this production – and I mean really – you can imagine after seeing it twice on Broadway and twice at the Shaw Festival that I must have a special place in my heart for this show, so you can bet I’ll be picking up my ticket in short order for their production of Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel of sorts to Peter Pan with many theatrical twists, surprises and ridiculous humour to keep you laughing as you read the script, let alone when energetic youth get to perform it! You’ve probably not heard of this little gem very much, but I guarantee, if you make the effort to head out to the market this week, you won’t be sorry – the script its that good.

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After these two vastly different productions, even more delightful fare is on the way – there’s never any shortage of shows in this town – but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the delicious little production of Anne & Gilbert – the Musical, that I’m working on for OKTC. Again, you’ve probably never heard of the show, but you will recognize the characters, their story and the feel of the music! This Canadian tale takes over from the end of the Green Gables story everyone (should) knows so well and follows Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe on their further education and romantic entanglements. It is going to be running in rep with the original musical during April. This is a new thing for OKTC. They’ve worked in repertory type situations in the past with their Playfest, but not with musicals and not with two shows so closely related. I can tell you, without the staff and facilities of the Shaw or Stratford Festivals at our disposal, we are working quite diligently to make the shows technically blend well into one space – for almost a month. Be sure to get tickets to each show, so you can get your fill of Anne and let us know how well we succeed!

Fingers crossed! And hey, go see a show!

Things that happen DURING the show…

Lots can happen during rehearsals and even more can happen during the run of a show.  I’ve had to go on for ill performers.  I’ve had a performer have kidney stones – he still went onstage – it was thrilling (NOT). I’ve watched my actors perform in the dark due to power outage (both thrilling and terrifying).  These are extreme examples of things that can happen… but what you really need to be ready for is what the show does to you as you watch it take on a life all its own.

Directing a show is very challenging, fun and rewarding. It is cathartic and it is all encompassing. Gene Kelly used to get asked who was his favourite dance partner and he would answer Jerry the Mouse from Tom and Jerry. There was no way he was going to pick one person out of all the beautiful and talented people he’d performed with over the years. When he received his Lifetime Achievement Award, he admitted that you had to be a little bit in love with each girl in each movie in order to make it work. I think it is also true when directing a play… on a larger scale.

I can muster up some feelings for even the worst actor for a few moments on the stage, but if I’m going to direct something, I need to dig into the script and fall in love with many aspects of it – the humour, the dialogue, the characters, the locations – anything and everything to get me involved with bringing it to life. There are times, of course, when I’ve been assigned a show that hasn’t had as much draw for me as other productions, but whenever possible I really do dig into the material to find reasons for loving a show. And then I cultivate that feeling in the attempt to give it all I possibly can.

So then, when friends ask me, “What’s your favourite show?” How can I possibly answer that? I’ve found something to admire in each production and trying to rank them or decide “who” is the best is really an impossible quest. Rather, I can describe how they each made me feel. For example: The Three Musketeers was a fine French dinner with wine and good friends, Follies was a beautiful crystal necklace, Oklahoma! was a rollicking party and The Trials of Robin Hood was a big bear hug.

During my most recent show, The Trials of Robin Hood, I had all of these questions asked of me, and I had all of these musings. There were a few actors in this show who had worked with me before and I was so pleased to have them around again. There were several actors I’d never met prior to this production and I’m now very pleased to call them friends. What you never can expect is how a show will change you during the run. Watching Oklahoma! was like watching something someone else had created – I had to remind myself that it was my work on that stage. Watching, (and performing in) Robin Hood made me feel closer to a show than I had felt in a long, long time.

After the show is over, and cleaned up and you’ve had a little time to reflect, you can start to see how you may have been changed by the experience. I’m still not sure for this last one, but it was different. They all are – there’s no way to pick a favourite. So don’t try…. and don’t ask me.

And STILL more things that will happen at rehearsal…

The score won’t match…

When doing a MUSICAL…. or even a Play with Music… I promise you that whatever they have said in the script or written in the score – IF there IS a score… will not match any of the following…

a) the CD

b) the current script

c) the director’s vision

e) all of the above

Add to that… the cd won’t match…anything. Frequently it is a concept CD and that means it is very, VERY different from the production you are doing. The production that got altered before Broadway, before the Tour, after the Tour and before the release to amateur companies. It will be extremely different. Don’t count on it – in fact… the best advice is don’t use it. At best it is a basic, simple reference. Move on.

The script will NOT make sense… why would it? I mean, you paid for it, so it should… but believe me, it won’t. There will be typos for sure, but then there will also be ridiculous stage directions – that can only be done on MASSIVE Broadway budgets – and even then they are probably stupid stage directions, so Ignore them and do your own thing. Aside from that… there will be lines attributed to the wrong character or a missing character or someone you didn’t know was in the show… (seriously… ALL of these have happened in shows for which I have paid royalties to perform “their script word for word”) There may EVEN be stage directions that appear as dialogue… yup.

$h!t will be missing… Like a song you expected… or a character in the description list will be missing from the show… or an ENTIRE scene.. yup, once a script went from scene 7 to 9. We all wondered “What happened in Scene 8?”

Here’s the thing…. you roll with the punches, you do what is necessary to create your vision, you IGNORE the stage directions – and if possible, get your cast to ignore them as well and you make the best show you can. Even if it means you have to tweak a few things. Tweak away and get that show done!

 

Even more things that will happen in rehearsal….

So… You are into rehearsal and things seem to be going well – or are they?

Sometimes this happens… you think everyone’s happy, but they aren’t. And they aren’t telling you. There can be lots of reasons for this, and there’s actually no point going into all those reasons, cause you’ll never list them all, but the point is – you need to have your Spidey-Sense tingling so that you are aware if there are disgruntled members of your cast/crew. You might not be able to do anything about it – but awareness is the key.

Illness can do it. If they feel sick, or tired or worn out or under-appreciated, (or any other version of illness that you can imagine), that can affect their mood and contribution to the project. Remember, any show should be uplifting, not a drag, no matter whether it is professional or amateur/volunteer. If someone is coming to the process and for whatever reason, they’d rather not be there, that will affect the positive atmosphere. Be ready to question it, and then, be ready to do something to affect change. That can be hard part. But, believe me, it’s worth it!

Lots of things can contribute to the atmosphere, and while it may seem like a big deal, you do need to pay attention to, and manage, the atmosphere. Plan an outing, arrange a potluck, ask people out for drinks or bring in some snacks. Even the smallest thing can make a really big difference, so do the little stuff, cause it can help you in the long run.

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How to recover from the audition… Cause you have to bounce back.

When you’ve made it through the auditions, the callbacks, perhaps another round of callbacks and maybe a surprise where they ask you to read something you weren’t expecting… you then have to reflect on the process – and you will, because you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. (You’re thinking about it now, aren’t you?)

First of all, you need to feel proud of what you accomplished, no matter the outcome. Maybe you’ve been successful and got the “part of your dreams”, or maybe you got offered a different role, or perhaps you are still waiting to hear, (that’s the worst), or the final option… we know what that one is, of course. Regardless, you’ve got to congratulate yourself. I mean it. Do it now. Give yourself a pat on the back, the audition process is one of the most difficult things you can do and you need to recognize that you did something many people never do. So, go ahead, I’ll wait.

Good. Do that for yourself regularly – because when you audition, you get a show, (or not) and then, eventually, the show is over, so you know what? You audition again. So you have to put yourself through that again. You will get better at it, each time – it all takes practice. Keep it up, keep working on the audition process and remember to congratulate yourself every time you manage to make it through another audition. Find something good in the process or you won’t keep going. And that’s the most important thing, to keep going.

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Auditions: The Callback – getting ready on both sides of the table…

So, you’ve made it through all the auditions and now you have to prepare for the callbacks… What the heck, you say? More auditions – yes… sorry, more auditions.

So, if you are behind the table, what do you ask them to do? What do have prepared for them? What are you looking for from these talented people? Do you have a list prepared? Are you ready to make the tough decisions? Do you even need to have the callbacks? And if you decide that you do, can you ensure that the process is rewarding for your actors and everyone else involved? Cause it isn’t an easy time, so at least make it fun!

FIRST – be sure you have some material ready from the show (this goes back to making sure you read the script, right?), material that is challenging, fun and will show you what you need to see to make your decisions.

SECOND – have that material prepared and ready to share with your people. Is it digital? Copies? How many? Do they need accompaniment? Can you provide it for them to prepare? What is the easiest, and classiest, way to share this with your people? Whatever you do, don’t make it difficult for your actors to prepare. Ensure that they have a really good experience getting ready to sing, dance or act for you. They might not make it to the finish line, so you want them to at least have a good time at the race.

THIRD – be ready to make choices. The choices are tough and if you agonize over them too long you will start to second guess yourself. This is dangerous. Go with your gut. Return to your list of a dream cast, return to your notes and continually tell yourself…. “I have to judge them based on what they showed me today at these callbacks.” That’s all you can do. Then, make the decision and be ready to back it up.

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So, what if you are on the other side of the table?

FIRST – celebrate!!! You’ve been asked to a callback. That’s impressive. No matter what the role or what you were hoping for from the audition team. You impressed them enough that they wanted to see more, so feel good about that.

SECOND – prepare! No matter what your hopes are for the show, prepare yourself to show your best performance and in your best light. You might not get the role, you might not even get the show, but if you impress, it could bode well for your future. You could be offered a role from the very first audition the next time the team sees you – people remember good work and professionalism.

THIRD – have a good time! The audition is your time to play. To show off your skill and to explore a character you may or may not get to play. Have a good time and don’t consider the outcome, you can’t control that, you can only control what you put into the audition and how you feel about it. Make it the best you can and be proud of whatever comes from it!

So, people… what are you waiting for? You’ve got to get ready, don’t you?!?

Some thoughts for people holding auditions… (make your job easier)

Auditions are HARD!!! For EVERYONE!!!

People always think about the folks up there showing they can sing, dance, act or whatever… but it is just as hard and nerve-wracking for the people who are casting the show – the ones who supposedly, “hold all the cards!” It isn’t easier on that side of the table at all!

Here’s a few tidbits of advice from my experiences….

1) TELL PEOPLE!!! What’s the point of auditions if no one knows you are having them? You need a lot of people for any show – even a simple little two hander. You want choice, right? You want selection? You want word of mouth? TELL PEOPLE! Don’t hold secret auditions. Don’t have them on a tough weekend, like a holiday or when the super sale at the mall starts… pick a good time – far enough in the future and PROMOTE IT!

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2) Tell people what the show IS! Sure it might have a title they recognize, but maybe it is a different version, or maybe you are planning to set it post-apocolyptic, (please don’t), or maybe you want TWICE as many actors as normal… if you don’t TELL THEM…. they won’t come.

3) Hold the auditions at convenient times. Evenings and Weekends work for community theatre – and make sure to mix that up. Don’t do just a weekend or just the evenings. Give people multiple chances to get out to see you. You need them, don’t you?

4) DON’T hold the auditions too far away from the show. You are only hurting yourself. If your show is in December, seriously, what is the point of auditions in January? So much can happen to people in between the time of the audition and when rehearsals start. Heck, they might even forget they are in your show! About 4-5 months before your show is fine, with rehearsals starting shortly after you cast it – but remember, if they don’t know about it, it doesn’t matter when you hold the auditions.

5) TELL THEM WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE!!! If it is singing – tell them what style. Provide examples if you can. Do they need to dance? Tell them. Be ready to teach that. Do you want a monologue? Comedy routine? Improv sessions? Don’t be afraid to shake it up and do something different – just be ready to answer their questions – cause they’ll have them!

6) Make your requests make sense for the show. Don’t ask for a WICKED inspired power ballad if you are doing a Shakespeare, and if the show is comedic, what IS the point of a classical monologue? Seriously, know what you are looking for when you prepare that audition statement.

7) Sit down with your team and discuss your dream cast. When I say dream cast – I mean it. Dream big! Who would you cast from all time of all the famous actors you and your team know? Build that EPIC cast list, (with options) and know what it is you are hoping to see walk through that door. Be ready though – cause it just might! OR – even more exciting – something you didn’t expect will show up and knock your socks off!!! Be ready for that.

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8) Prepare your banter. Know what you plan to say to each candidate and be ready with that. Have questions. Read their sheets/resumes/questionnaires. They took the time to come out and fill out those forms, have something you’d like to know about them. Be curious. Be genuinely interested in them because they are genuinely interested in you and your project. It’s the least you can do.

9) Be ready for the hard decisions. Here’s where it gets tough. The person you thought would really “bring it” might not. The unexpected will happen. Be prepared with challenges for your actors so you can know who is really going to deliver and make the project exactly what you want it to be. Don’t waste their time. They are there, working in front of you and delivering their level best. Challenge them. Have the callback materials ready – KNOW what you want to see. Then have the guts to make the tough decision and stick by it. Whatever happens. It isn’t easy. Art is never easy.

10) This should really be the FIRST thing you do… and I shouldn’t even have to put it here, but I do, cause you’d be surprised…. READ THE SCRIPT. Read it again. And then read it a third time. Make sure EVERYONE on your team has a copy. And do your best to give them time to read it. Discuss it. Have questions ready. Solve problems with it before you even audition. And if, for some strange reason, you don’t have the script and you are heading into auditions… what are you doing? Wait. Get the script. Read it. It’s the only way to be certain you are ready for the project and your people who are investing their time are also ready.

These are just a FEW tips. Do you have more? Mention them in the comments below.

Podcast #16 Post Avenue Q debrief on the 401

After a MUCH too long hiatus, we are back with a reflective podcast on the production of Avenue Q that Matt and Ceris saw in Toronto. Don’t worry, Matt was on the recording controls so Ceris could focus on the drive.

Listen in, and comment on our plans for the future as the team hopes to not be away from the airwaves quite so long!

 

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Miss Piggy’s Water Ballet

Miss Piggy’s beauty is undeniable. Mostly because, if you deny it, you get hurt by the Pig. But in this sequence, she really imagines a most elaborate showcase of her beauty. An Esther Williams inspired Water Ballet that would put any old Hollywood producer to great shame.

Frank Oz commented on the shooting of this sequence…

“The water ballet scene with Miss Piggy was really wonderful. I was under the water for a week. I had three days of scuba training and then down I went. Having them swim for the first time really was exciting!” Source: Muppet Wikia – http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/The_Great_Muppet_Caper

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This whole dream sequence is one of my favourites. I think it stems from the fact that Miss Piggy is fantasizing about everyone’s love for her. It’s all about her. The way it should be.

It all starts with Piggy having to replace a model in the swimsuit section of a fashion show. Perfectly plausible, right? Of course right. Especially when she’s being set up for a frame job by the major criminals of the caper – but you’ll need to watch the whole film for those details.

So, the incandescent Pig enters the stage, (much to the chagrin of the designer and her boss, Lady Holiday), but the crowd goes wild. Hog wild! (sorry, I had to…) Or at least that’s what we are led to believe. That’s one of the great things about Miss Piggy’s fantasies, we are never sure what IS real and what is imagined by the Pig. But her confidence in her fantasy is such that we see what the Divine Swine imagines the world feels about her – and then, we end up feeling that way about her. Talk about the power of suggestion!

Happiness, Miss Piggy

One Caress, Miss Piggy

All the world ever wanted way YOU! A dream come true….

What ensues is an elaborate water ballet, that you just have to witness to truly appreciate. I think my favourite moment is the insert of Kermit and Charles Grodin who are “apparently” fighting over her affections. The true tenor of Kermit’s voice gets me every time.

And then…. and then…. well, it ends badly for our heroine. And we see the crowd jump to their feet – not in adoration, but concern. So, I’m always thinking… how much can this gal cram into her imagination in a matter of seconds? It’s pretty amazing what goes on in that brain. At what point did they stand? And where does that actually fit in her fantasy sequence?

Ah, who cares? Watch it. It’s awesome.

Check out the design of her swimming costume…. I need personal designers… Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

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Journey to Neverland: Second to the Right and straight on til…. March Break

Disney’s Peter Pan Jr.

This is going to be an adventure – hopefully a fun and interesting one, for the actors involved as well as the artistic team. This is, after all, a youth production of a full scale show created on 8 hours of rehearsal per week in a mere 9 weeks.

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Working with Original Kids is always an adventure. It’s is always an excercize in flexibility and creativity and Disney’s Peter Pan Jr. will be no exception.

For this project I am the choreographer for approx. 30 wonderful kids between the ages of 7 and 14. This week they came into that first rehearsal with excitement and energy and enthusiasm. They performed their audition pieces with all the professionalism they could muster and they’ve been cast – as fairies, indians, lost boys and pirates and we are off together on our adventure to create this show.

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They are going to learn so much from this experience, but it always amazes me just how much I learn from them while going through this process. I suppose that’s part of the draw of theatre, each show and each team of people have something to offer and it is always different. Even if the team is the same, or the show is one you’ve explored before – it is ever changing.

What a great life lesson.

So, here we go… Off to Neverland!