Next to Normal – MTC – Day 17 and 18

Week 3 of the show drew to a close with a very definite deadline – chiefly, finishing the blocking of Act 2 and having it be in a good enough state to run smoothly by lunchtime Saturday.

Friday we tackled “Light” in the morning – working very specifically on the text so that each character was still working through stuff and not delivering a learned slogan.  We shift around location quite quickly, completing each character’s story, and it was relatively clear (having pretty much been set months earlier when we did the set storyboard).  Matty has done wonderful work with the 6 actors on the harmonies here, which so beautifully written, and the song sounds amazing.  We have something very special planned with the set at this point as well.

After lunch a group of Andy’s students came in to watch rehearsals.  We were doing a slow work through the show, as the safety boards had been taken down at lunch.  The actors were thrilled to be able to act unhindered by visual obstacles for the first time, and everything on that level opened up nicely.  Not sure that I loved directing in front of a large group of observers, however well-behaved they were.  I felt we all became a little self-conscious and started to perform the idea of rehearsing.

It was great to be able to tackle things in Act 1 that I’d been itching to get my hands on during the previous runs – did tons of work on the opening number, barring the sandwiches moment.  I’m saving that for a special work session on Monday.  After rehearsal I spent an hour with Kerry and the SM team looking at the truck automation cues run off the computer for the first time.  They moved very smoothly and rapidly, which was a big relief.  That’s the first stage in the automation process, next up will be adding the stair and porch trucks, then the screens and finally the cutters.

Saturday morning we finished off the automation cues of Act 1 before rehearsals.  The actors arrived and we ran Act 2 for the first time.  It was a little rocky in the first half and then evened out marvellously, with some fantastic emotional work.  We then did more detailed work on five sections of the show, in prep for the first full run after lunch.

Lunch was dedicated to automating the Act 2 truck cues.  I think a lot of my time outside of rehearsals will be given over to this now.  But such a luxury to be able to begin well before tech rehearsals.  After lunch we chose a few cues to show the actors how well the trucks moved now they weren’t running on the remotes anymore.  Of course, they didn’t work.  It was kind of hilarious, really.  And excruciating as we all imagined what the run was going to be like, integrating these cues for the first time.  But we began.

First runs are typically pretty ordinary.  There is just so much to balance in the actor’s minds – how do scenes link?  What am I doing now?  Did I remember that prop?  How do I pace myself to get through two hours of this?  And of course, we were adding the automation cues on top of it.  We had a few people connected to the production in and I was a little (but not much) nervous.

But it was pretty fantastic.  The piece started adding up and layering across scenes.  The addition of even a few new people to the room helped the actors step up a little in the performance stakes and the trucks behaved most of the time, which kept the flow of the show, well, flowing.  Tons of great moments and the shape was very gratifying.  There’s lots for us to do, but lots of time to do it in as well.

So, all in all, we left for our day off pretty jubilant.

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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