Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Tales from the Orchestra Pit: Guys and Dolls Part 7

Yesterday evening was the dress rehearsal, the only time that the entire show will be run – including set changes, lighting and music – before opening night. In other words, for us in the orchestra it was the final rehearsal. If anything wasn’t right then it would just have to stay that way for the performances.
We had been told to arrive at half past six in order to start the show at half seven (as will be the case during the actual run). I personally think it’s a bit extreme to get us there an hour before it starts, considering that it only takes us fifteen minutes at the most to set up and tune. I have played for shows in the past where we have had to arrive an hour early, but I still don’t think it’s necessary. I imagine we’ll probably stretch the timings a little over the course of the run. Seven o’clock would be a perfectly reasonable time to arrive in my opinion.
What made last night particularly irritating, though, was that the tech run preceding it had actually gone on considerably longer than planned, which meant that we didn’t really start the full run until after eight o’clock. This resulted in yet more standing around while we waited to begin.
Unfortunately the burst of excitement that I felt yesterday about finally getting into the theatre and seeing all the sets ready to go had worn off by the time we got to the dress rehearsal. I imagine I’ll perk up again for the first performance, when we’ll actually have an audience there to add a bit of atmosphere to proceedings.
This rehearsal was also the first time I saw the show in (more or less) its entirety. By the way, I very much enjoyed being able to watch it from my advantageous position in the pit. So what can I say about the production as a whole? Well, it’s by no means going to be a bad show. There are many great things about it. But it is slightly let down by a catalogue of small glitches. At least, it was at the dress rehearsal. Hopefully some of them will have been fixed in time for opening night. There were lots of small issues: the cast still fluffing their lines, lighting cues coming in drastically late, sets wobbling for a long while after scene changes. It’s like I said a few days ago – it has all the ingredients to be a truly outstanding production. But I have a feeling that it’s not quite going to live up to that potential.
Meanwhile, in the orchestra pit, we’ve basically accepted that it’s not going to be perfect and have resigned ourselves to the fact that certain bars and cues are going to be a bit ropey. There’s nothing more we can do about it, seeing as it’s mainly the fault of the musical director whose direction has improved over the past week but is still seriously lacking. It doesn’t help that he starts conducting each cue a long time before it’s actually meant to begin, just so that he can get the tempo in his head, and then when he actually wants us to start he counts us in vocally. This necessitates some deft lip-reading from us, and it is very offputting that we don’t have a clear visual indication of when to begin.
We had some difficulty with the scene-change music as well, which in general was too short in every case. For this reason we had to repeat each one several times, and this really sounded quite bizarre for some of them.
Fortunately for us, the theatre was only booked until eleven o’clock so we didn’t have to stay into the wee small hours tweaking things. We didn’t quite manage to finish everything in that time, but we did cover most of it except for the last couple of songs. It looks like the musical will probably be around three hours in total (including interval), which is longer than I’d initially expected but still not unreasonable.
And that was that. The end of rehearsals. Finally! I must say it’s been a laborious journey getting things to where they are, and even now it’s not perfect. But it’s time to put all that behind us, for tonight we will give our first performance for a large paying audience. Wish us luck! We’ll probably need a fair bit of it…

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