Love / Reason / Belief
Volume 4 Book 1 Part 2 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Jim & Sue listen to a musical arrangement.
July 20-22, 2004.
[ Book 3-10 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Book 4-2 ]
Sue and Tom Carey have a beautiful gem of a home in Chicago with a big music room.
Sue, being a singer and musician herself, created the most magnificent space for making music. It's a big round room with wonderful acoustics and the perfect place for the musicians to begin rehearsing the score.
Musical Director Mark Janas.
John Fischer, Asst. Musical Director.
Musical Arranger Mark Hartman.
As the band went over the material, Sue was working the phones in her office. We all fell in love with her dog, Diva.
In the Carey's backyard.
Naturally, I had to play the piano.
Jimmy likes Diva.
Time for lunch!
Diva doesn't like it when she has to stay home.
In an act of heroism as much as anything else, Mark Hartman, who is conducting the Broadway musical "Avenue Q" flew in and over the course of three days, working with Mark Janas and the band, they literally rewrote all the musical arrangements for the five piece band. (The original demos were done with an orchestra, so they had to be rethought completely in order to work.)
It was not an easy job. Tthere are three distinct musical styles within the piece that must be served.
One is an African sound that happens inside the head of the character of Africa. Then there is what they're referring to as "society music" for the adults who are fighting over Africa's fate, which is operatic. Then there is the most hip hop/ R&B rhythms of the kids.
Tech Week in the theatre is also known as Hell Week.
And there's nothing more maddening during Tech/Hell Week than SOUND. "Sound," as Jimmy puts it, "is the bane of everyone's existence." But for a new musical, where everything is being created from scratch, it's even worse. If you're doing a known musical, most of the elements are there. The charts for the musicians are already written up. Since the show has been done, you go in with a sense of how it will look, how it will play, etc.
But with a new musical, you start with a blank page. Or, as we come to it now, a blank stage. Though it's every theatre writer's goal to make it to Broadway, the real income is made after New York when the show can presumably be done by hundreds or even thousands of theatres and schools. "Africa & Plumbridge" is just that kind of show. It's based on the true life story of an abused young girl named Africa who meets another former street kid turned society lady (Sue). Their relationship and how they help each other is the heart of the story.
The main anthemic songs emphasize such themes as "It doesn't matter where you come from, only where you're going," "Find out who you are," "A New Beginning," "Love is the Reason." All beautifully written with soaring vocal lines and memorable melodies.
These themes tie in to her specific charities and community activism, all focused on helping young people rise from difficult circumstances. (For instance, there is a "Learn to Earn" program for young people where they can earn money and scholarships through study. And that doesn't even scratch the surface of her work.)
Of course, all those good things don't mean much to a ticket buyer. What a ticket buyer wants is something entertaining, worthy of the ticket price. And that's why Jimmy was brought in. As a veteran playwright for musicals, he was commissioned to take this score and the outline of the story and turn it into an uplifting, inspiring entertainment.
Wednesday was the first time to run it with costumes, sound and lights. It was for an invited audience of friends and theatre folk. And, as can happen, when the opening music started, there was no actor on stage!
"Back up! Start again!" said Jimmy, who then looked at the audience and said, "Well? Did you enjoy it?"
Finally, they got back on track and had a very smooth run-through.
First preview! And suddenly it was like the show began to click into gear. The timing was on, the audience really enjoyed it and the standing ovation was thunderous! Afterwards in the lobby, everyone was buzzing.
Tomorrow: Opening night.
© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.