Friday, 17 January 2014

Tales from the Orchestra Pit: Guys and Dolls Part 4


Today’s rehearsal was another long one. For us in the orchestra it lasted from ten until half four, but the cast had to get there at nine so I can’t really complain. I also made sure to come prepared today, not only with a cushion to ease the pain of those awful chairs (a problem which apparently plenty of other people were having as well) but also with a magazine to amuse me during the dialogue scenes and all the other sitting around we would no doubt have to go through.
First on the agenda was the new version of the ‘Opening – Street Scene’, which the musical director had transcribed from a recording so that it matched with what the dancers had prepared. As I have previously said, it’s really his responsibility to make sure the choreographers are using the correct music when they prepare the dances, so I have little very sympathy for him having to rewrite the music.
Overall the new version seemed to work fairly well, although it would work better if he’d count us in properly at the start (all we need is an in-time upbeat and a downbeat, none of this ‘1, 2, 1234 12’ that he seems to be fond of). The important thing is it fitted with the dancers, so that’s another problem solved.
The rest of the rehearsal was essentially a run-through of the entire show, with regular stops to correct things and remind people of their lines. It’s always a little disconcerting to note just how many of their lines the actors manage to forget, especially this close to opening night. Judging by past experience though, this will improve quite rapidly as they get more used to running the entire show. I also think that today will have served as a wake-up call in some cases, reminding people that they need to make an extra effort to be on top of their parts because it’s not long until they will have to do it for real.
As usual, the musical director failed to give us in the orchestra (or any of the cast for that matter) much in the way of clear direction. Perhaps the most irritating thing about this is that he doesn’t seem to realise that it’s his fault when we get the wrong tempo or don’t come in precisely together. He got quite frustrated at the opening of ‘Marry the Man’ because it was basically a complete mess, and he kept telling us to concentrate and play in time. I can tell you that there were a variety of disgruntled (and also some bemused) expressions exchanged between the musicians at that point especially. We were all concentrating. We were all watching the musical director. If we played something at the wrong tempo, it’s because he conducted at the wrong tempo. If we didn’t play in time, it’s because he didn’t conduct clearly. If we didn’t come in at the right place, it’s because he didn’t cue us properly. Unfortunately he doesn’t appear to realise this, which is a shame.
On the plus side, though, we did get free food today! At one point during the afternoon I saw a large plate of tuna and sweetcorn rolls appear at my shoulder. The trumpeter behind me was passing them over with the instruction to take one and pass it on. I did so, and was simultaneously delighted (at having something to liven up the day) and also slightly bewildered (at the seemingly random choice of food). My mood was somewhat dampened, however, when one of my fellow musicians pointed out that the cast were getting doughnuts handed round instead, which made our tuna rolls look a little bit tame.
So the tuna rolls were exciting. But the most exciting part of the day came between the ‘Crapshooters’ Ballet’ and ‘Luck Be a Lady’. At one point the character of Sky Masterson is supposed to punch Big Julie in the face. Of course, this will be a fake punch in the actual production. Or at least, it should be. Today didn’t quite work out right in that respect…
You see, Masterson went to throw the punch at Julie. As I understand it, what happened is that a split second after the fake punch Masterson’s elbow caught Julie in the mouth, causing him to bite the inside of his lower lip with some force. He wasn’t hurt too badly, and was still able to participate in most of the remaining rehearsal, but it looked like a nasty wound and was sufficient for him to need to make a trip to the local hospital afterwards. Still, at least it livened up everyone’s day.
   The run-through must have finished at around ten to four, and was followed by an awful lot of discussion between the cast and the directors etc. about what wasn’t right and what needed to be improved. This was all completely irrelevant to the orchestra, of course, but we had to stay and sit through it nevertheless in case we were needed afterwards. After all, nobody had told us we could leave. It turned out that we weren’t needed afterwards, and therefore we could have packed away and left forty minutes ago if someone had thought to tell us. Just another annoying little thing to add to the collection.
On the plus side, the cushion did help alleviate my back pain, and I’ve finally got round to breaking in a new saxophone reed (although it’s not quite up to scratch yet). Tomorrow’s rehearsal will be a similar story I imagine – just running things through a lot for the whole day, although hopefully there will be a little less in the way of gratuitous violence. It’s in a different venue though, which will make a change. So until my next report, I will once again leave you with my notes regarding the Reed 1 part. Honestly, every day I discover more and more mistakes in it...
  • In the ‘Overture’, bar 82, beat three should probably be an E natural (rather than a flat as in the key signature) so that it fits with the rest of the harmony.
  • In cue 6, ‘I’ll Know’, the first beat of bar 18 is a B (it looks a bit like a C sharp in the music).
  •  In cue 16, ‘Fasten Your Seat Belts’, the first beat of bar 11 is missing. It should consist of a crotchet concert F tied to the next note.
  • In cue 20, ‘Entracte’, bar 76, beat three should probably be an E natural (rather than a flat as in the key signature) so that it fits with the rest of the harmony.

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