When we start work on a new show, if I have in mind some radical approach to it (and again, I mean the real definition of radical, meaning returning to the root or origin), usually I have to "sell" the cast on my ideas. I have to really convince them that my road is worth following. But once in a while, we assemble a cast so confident and so trusting and so adventurous, that I don't have to sell anything. Whatever I propose, they try it.
It happened with Jesus Christ Superstar (which we produced in June 2006) and with Grease. In both cases, I explained my plan at the first rehearsal and it was accepted without hesitation. With Superstar, I wanted to take out the religion that is usually imposed on the show (as the creators intended); it's a show about political activism, not religion. And I also planned to set the show in 2006, allowing modern clothing to help define who the major characters were politically, socially, and economically. This changed the show a great deal, and Superstar is one of those shows people feel very protective of. But the cast never questioned the path I set us on. And because they committed to my ideas so unanimously, the show was amazing.
The same has been true of Grease. Though our plan is to produce the show as much as possible like the original, that's a major departure from the way everybody else produces Grease. That ours will be so different from other productions and from the film will certainly bother some people. But again, this cast embraced my ideas fully from Day One. My great thanks to all of them.
And another thing...
Most actors will tell you that in most shows the cast gets to be very much like a family, often a really strange, fucked-up family, but a family nonetheless. I'd say it's true about 80% of the time. But sometimes it's more true than others. We're very lucky that it's been more true for quite a few of our shows -- Hair, Bat Boy, Superstar, and now Grease. Our process is unusual in many ways, more leisurely than most, more communal, more experimental, more open. More fun. It may sound a tad pretentious, but we are conscious that we are making art, not just opening a show. We love the process. We marvel at it. We are humbled by it. And more than anything, we respect the work. We know how important art is to the soul and to society. We know the enormity of the responsibility on our shoulders because we are the ones lucky enough to make art, to record our civilization, to make order out of chaos.
We are very lucky indeed.
Long Live the Musical.