Priscilla 2011 – Broadway – Day 10

Sitzprobe.  What a strange term.  I’ve been part of them for over a decade without really exploring where the word came from.  It sounds painful…well, certainly without having a few drinks first.  Surprisingly, it’s usually one of the least painful and most enjoyable days of the tech period.  It’s when the full band is introduced back in and the actors get to hear how the show is really going to sound.  They get to drop costumes, makeup and all the paraphenalia and reconnect with the score, just like in those first days of music calls (five months ago, now).  But there’s the added infusion that comes from hearing the pound of the show – the blare of the horns, the whine of the guitar, the thump of the electric bass, the delicacy of the flute.  Yes, we actually do have a flute in the Priscilla orchestration.

From Wikipedia: Sitzprobe (German) is a term used in opera and musical theatre to describe a seated rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra, focusing attention on integrating the two groups. It is often the first rehearsal where the orchestra and singers rehearse together. The equivalent Italian term is prova all’italiana.

Our process for sitzprobe doesn’t involve any sitting.  Spud has the actors go through the physical motions of the show (marking the choreography) to give Jonathan, our sound designer, the best possible chance at micing the performers exactly how they’re going to be at any given time during the show.  We usually run each number 3-4 times, depending on the difficulty of cueing and balance.  “Raining Men” sounded phenomenally exciting – it’s such a perfect opener for this show – bringing the audience into the heightened world of gay clubs, introducing the powerhouse Divas and also letting them know “hey, you’re gonna know all these songs, but be surprised at how we use them”.  I don’t miss “Downtown/Never Been to Me”, our old openers, though Ross’ choreography was brilliant at creating a downtown cityscape – it was often compared to a modern “Runyonland”.

We ran through the afternoon, number by number.  It was great to be reminded how good Spud’s orchestration of “Material Girl” is – taking the song as you know it, but amping it up into a 70s power-rock anthem.  We’d finally solved the “I Will Survive” problem – over the years the necessity of keeping that number strict has made it a minefield for the queens and Jimmy to time their jokes.  Somehow Spud has found a way to get air into the large middle sequence, freeing the actors to time it to the audience each night.

The Benjis got a snow day of sorts – being allowed to sit in the auditorium and watch the rehearsal.  Watching Ashton and Luke dance to the various disco numbers was very entertaining.  It certainly look me back to one infamous home video where I performed all of Toni Basil’s “Mickey”, culminating in a tantrum when my sister tried to join in.

The creatives had the evening off as the rehearsal continued, so Andy and I took in the first preview of “Book of Mormon.”  The excitement there was insane.  I don’t think a Mormon turning up to press a doorbell has ever had a better reception.  The show is in fantastic shape (bar a show stop for sound issues, five minutes in).  Hilarious and surprisingly sweet, the performances are inspired, especially from Elders Price and Cunningham.  I loved that their ensemble is half dorky white boys and half African-Americans.  The audience was completely with it and the show didn’t seem as controversial as the PR had suggested, though the subplot of cliteridectomies was fresh for a Broadway musical.

Laughed out, I joined the rest of our team who’d been to Spiderman that night.  Apparently the flying’s good.

Published by bryantandfrank

Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank make musicals. And other things. www.bryantandfrank.com www.mybrilliantcareermusical.com www.deanjamesbryant.com

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