Next to Normal – MTC – Day 15

There are things that no director can prepare themselves for.  The shock is that great.  I walked into the room, unwarned about what would be waiting for me.

Bert LaBonte was wearing a wig.

It was a good attempt at giving him some gravitas, but unfortunately the fringe was just a little short, like he might have been wearing his son’s hair instead.  It was definitely adorable, even verging on Spock-ish, but for the family doctor, not so much.  Shock number two then walked through the door-

Gareth had a full face of makeup on.

You’d think I’d be used to boys wearing slap by now, but usually they’re attempting to look like girls, not juvenile leads who’ve timewarped in from a touring rep company, circa 1937.  We were shooting him for some “Gabe appearing on the set” video that’s being incorporated into the projections.  It was exactly right for what we wanted, and exactly wrong for wandering down the corridors in natural light.

The Welcome Board at MTC. Often people stop and comment on the attractiveness of the cast.

We shot Kate as a bride (gorgeous) and then her hair in a wind machine (apparently a motif for this show, as you’ll see on the poster next week).  Simultaneously I’d decided to rehearse “Hey #2” on set, thinking I could multitask.  I definitely did both tasks, just badly, so I unitasked instead, and put the kids on break (I can call them kids now, as I am 34 and they are 21 and that’s enough of an age difference).  I went upstairs to see Bert in Wig 2, which was fantastic and even a little bit sexy.

The malarkey out of the way (I thought) we settled down to work “How Could I Ever Forget”, one of the most heart-rending parts of the show.  And so it proved to be as we delicately worked our way through that section.  Kate was curious about the balance that actors in musical theatre need to learn between expressing emotion but not wrecking singing technique.  I told her about something we learned while studying “Playing Shakespeare” back at WAAPA – essentially that it’s crucial to get the text/language out and not let it be swamped by emotion, and to apply that to singing.

After lunch we continued, moving onto a section that involves one of my least favourite things in theatre – physical conflict.  This was pretty simple, struggling over a music box, but proved as challenging as I imagine fencing would be (please never let me have to direct a show with fencing – unless it’s putting one up, I’ve done that).  The trick is that it has to look violent and believable, but not be violent – you can’t damage the actors, the stage surface or the prop.  And preferably not the audience either.  Adding to the degree of difficulty was that they’re both singing really tricky stuff during the box snatch.

The day finished with a double duet, which contrasts the parents off the kids.  And finished off me.

Nicked off to a design meeting for Anything Goes, which I’m co-directing with Andy and is being designed by my Virgins designer, Adam Gardnir.  Brilliant first meet and model idea, so scootered cheerily off to see Robyn Nevin give another wonderful performance, this time in Apologia.

And the best thing of all came at the end of the day.  Adam Rennie included his Prodigal experience in his wonderful satire, Wheels of a Dream.  As I wrote on facebook, that’s better than a Tony.

Published by bryantandfrank

Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank make musicals. And other things.

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