You're Riding a Wave

Hard work but fun tonight. Blocking this show isn't difficult for me in conception -- I understand how the show ticks, what it's trying to say, what its rules are. But it's such an unusual piece of writing -- and with so much music that is so intricately integrated into the script -- that it makes it harder to get it Just Right.

Usually when I block a scene, we talk through it, walk through it, smooth some rough spots, and then run it once or twice. With this show, we follow all those steps but we're spending more time on fine-tuning things early on, and we run each scene three or four times before moving on. It's a very complex show physically, almost perpetually moving, so we need to make sure everything works really well from the get-go. With many shows, I can sketch in the outlines, and let actors discover the details and colors. But shows like High Fidelity, Assassins, Urinetown, and Bat Boy, the details are everything.

So though we usually spend two rehearsals blocking each act, this time we're taking three rehearsals per act. Tonight we did only two scenes. Nothing much happens in "Ian's Here" -- it's really more of a character introduction than anything else -- but we found some fun little ways of suggesting the tension in Ian's and Laura's relationship early on, Laura's ill-fit in Ian's world, and the shallowness of Ian's Eastern-ism. And it's funny too.

Then we did the last scene of Act I, in which Rob, Dick, and Barry all three are poised for success or failure in their respective quests. The act ends with this terrific, rowdy song "Nine Percent Chance of Your Love," with all the guys celebrating the fact that they each have a minuscule chance of getting what they want. A very quirky but cool act ender.

Robin Berger does all our dance choreography, but I do a lot of musical staging myself -- what Jeff has dubbed Millerography. So I staged the opening and "Nine Percent" myself, and I'm really happy with how they turned out. For the opening number, I made several choreographic references to the Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense, and with the Act I finale, I make some references to the moves of The Four Seasons. I figure if the music of the show sounds like the music Rob loves, shouldn't the choreography look like the rock and roll moves he loves?

Robin's doing the same thing, using some moves from a Robert Plant video for "Desert Island Top 5 Breakups."

And I realized driving home tonight that Robin's choreographing the women and I'm choreographing the men. That wasn't a conscious decision, but I think it makes so much sense for this show, a show that we see filtered through the mind of its hero, and a show about the disconnect between the genders. I love cool accidents like that.

Long Live the Musical!