Off to Broadway for song and dance
It’s Tuesday, February 12, 2013 and I’m crawling about at Bowen Court at a rehearsal for Broadway on Bowen, taking photos and writing this column in my mind. I enjoy and yet don’t enjoy taking photos at rehearsals because performers are working and you’re like an intruder, even though you were invited.
The production goes up on Thursday, February 21 and rehearsals at this late-juncture consist of run-throughs, the actors in the scenes work, others serve as audience members until their next scene. Cast and crew listen and clap after each song, and try to give as much of a sense of the real deal as they can.
To me singing is the biggest risk in performing, it’s all there, there’s no hiding and you are totally open. I used to sing occasionally in the blues bands I played drums in but sang flat and gave it up. At Theatresports we improvised songs; semi-risky, but not compared to really opening up in a song.
The experienced Gil Yaron directs (he directed ‘Voices in the Sound’ in the meadow by the riding ring in years past). Here’s a bit of the man’s resume: studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, toured nationally with Les Miserables, was in a production of Godspell, played the emcee in Cabaret, played Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar and won two Jessie awards. It’s pretty awesome.
Many people that you and I sit with on the ferry are up there belting out Steven Sondheim and other Broadway songs. My friend, the incomparable Eliana K. Smanna (a.k.a. Eliana Yaron) is in the cast and comes over to whisper that there’s a place to sit near her and Kat Bernard, so I go take pictures there.
Ms. Smanna is organized, sharp as a tack, given to laughter and has a grand streak of bossiness and I expect if she doesn’t decide to be a performer when she grows up, she’s a lock for being the Prime Minister. Other young ones in the cast include Theo Binnie, Avril Kulbida and Eva de Zwart.
Heather Hodson just finished a solo and she was off-the-charts great; knew she acted, never knew she sang like that. Now Dan Cowper, emcee, he’s up doing a transition bit and, to get to the other side of the room to take pictures there, I do that thing where you crouch down and scoot pretty fast. Given I’m only going 30 feet it saves me no more time than .113 seconds, but do it to convey my respect.
Wind up over by the orchestra where Brian Hoover, Sheilagh Sparks and Marc Gawthrop play (Buff Allen is absent tonight). Now and again Gil stops a song, apologizes for doing so, and gives directions.
The closer to opening night the more the performer loves directions because you begin to feel terror (a good thing) and directions provide a place to hang your performing hat (an even better thing).
Won’t stay much longer; approaching opening night, an interloper is less welcome as things get more serious. I’ve been in plays where we loved each other for weeks but when it got close to opening night it got more...honest, such that “I LOVE the way you deliver that line, it’s so real” might become “Christ, could you say that line right please? I mean you’ve never gotten it once and it ruins my bleeping exit!”
There’s none of that here, mind you, but I do sense some urgency.
Here’s the deal: there’s a ferry full of time and effort that goes into all of this and the actors and crew work or go to school or both and there must be a love of it or it could not happen.
And here’s this: Bowen is a small community and yet we get our own musical in which people that we talk to in the line-up at the General Store open up their hearts in song for all of us to see and hear. Gil will later tell me that if you love singing it’s no greater risk than other kinds of performing and says that “song takes you into a heightened state of emotion, a fantastical place and space you can’t reach through text alone.” He is surely right about where song takes the singer but as I move about amidst all of this singing, I’m happy being the guy taking the photos.
It’s a wonderful thing they do for us.