Won't You Please Take Me Along for a Ride?

Yesterday, we had our Forbidden Planet cue-to-cue rehearsal, a boring process but a valuable one for the lighting designer. Today, was our sitzprobe (a term from opera), the rehearsal where the actors sing the score with the band for the first time. For a New Line show, it's the first time the band has played the score together and it's the only time we'll run the music without running the whole show. Any potential problems or questions have to be sorted out in this one rehearsal. It's the most stressful part of the process for me, those four or five hours. But we have really talented, skilled musicians, and they pick up so much so fast.

The sitzprobe is a real turning point in each production. By this time, we've run the show several times, but only with solo piano. Particularly for a rock and roll show, it's just not the same. "Born to Be Wild" was not meant for solo piano. At the sitzprobe, the actors hear the incredible energy of the band for the first time, and the songs just leap to life. So, today was hard but it was also awesome -- our band ROCKS.

This is the weirdest time of the rehearsal process. All my hardest tasks are behind me, and yet I still can't think about anything but the show. Every waking hour. I can't accomplish anything that's not about the show. Ack!

As an example... After I got home tonight, in a desperate bid to escape RTTFP-on-the-Brain, I watched the film Frost/Nixon on cable. I had seen the play done extremely well by the Rep last fall The film was different but also very cool, very emotional, setting up those famous interviews as rounds in an existential boxing match. But then -- and I'm not kidding about this -- I started noticing parallels between Nixon and Dr. Prospero! Both of them do bad things thinking (or rationalizing) that it's for The Greater Good. Both their actions cause great harm. Both are challenged over their actions. Both volunteer to meet their fate before it can be thrust upon them.

See what I'm up against?

On the other hand, I am getting more and more zen-like about shows the older I get. For the last several shows, there's a point at which I realize that the end product is now out of my hands. The show is now the property of the actors and musicians. It's not theatre on the page; it's only theatre when performers bring it to life for an audience. I can still steer them a few more times, but it's theirs now. I set us on this road, I shaped our journey, but my work is largely done.

It will be what it will be. Some folks won't like it; hopefully far more will like it a lot. But we've done our best, we're made thoughtful choices, and experimented and played and explored, and the only real test now is that final missing piece: the audience. How will they receive it? Will we connect with them? Will the show be clear to them? Will they enjoy it as much as we do?

We will find out soon. Really soon.

Long Live the Musical!