Next to Normal – MTC – Tech Week and Previews

A week has passed.  Since last we met, the actors hadn’t even been on the set, and now they’re playing the show for over 700 people every night.  Time moves so quickly sometimes.  This week has been exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures, but the show that my team and I have dreamed about since last year is now in existence and having an amazing effect on the audience every night.

I was a little terrified about not having enough tech time, especially on a show that runs over two hours with almost a hundred different automation cues, sometimes with all eleven automated units (three furniture trucks, stair and porch trucks, four screens and two cutters) moving simultaneously.  To music.  With live actors on and around them.  However the automation and stage management team are utterly wonderful and have wrangled the show into being, and it looks smoother and more magical, show by show.

The shape of the week?  To break it down –

Monday – we hoped to tech until “Gonna Be Good” in the evening session.  It took two hours just to do “Just Another Day”.  Things looked dire.  Then suddenly we sped up and got to end of “You Don’t Know/I Am the One”.  The pattern of bogging down and then racing ahead continued, with the racing taking over until we got into the very lucky position of finishing the tech by Wednesday afternoon, allowing us a full extra dress run Wednesday evening.  Thus we got to do two dress rehearsals before the first preview, quite the luxury in the amped-up time allowances of subscription theatre companies.

The band had joined us from Tuesday evening – I’d been wary of this too, as rock bands are, well, loud and tech is challenging enough without trying to quiet them each time.  But actually it turned out to be a godsend, as the vibe of the band kept everyone very focused and goal-oriented, and I think sped up the process.  Plus sounded way more fun.

There have been too many highlights this week to count – though seeing the final image of the show, one I’ve been dreaming of for months now, actually happen in front of me was truly breathtaking.  And blinding.  There have been a few lowlights, as is standard with tech – sometimes things feel they’ve bogged down so slowly that you fear you’ll never get there.  But this team have been amazing in working, solving, staying late and getting Next to Normal ready to be seen by the public.

Jeff Busby came in and shot our final dress, and the pics are stunning.  Can’t wait to start putting them up after we open on Tuesday.  He is the king at capturing the live experience of the show in stills.  He’s always generous with his praise of the show he’s shooting, too.

The previews have been great.  The actors adored the first one, getting a chance to play to real people for the first time, and to feel the show come alive.  I sat up at the production desk, ready to grab the cans (headphones) if anything looked like it was going wrong in the show.  I made a speech prior to the preview, about new homes having surprises and not always working like you hope etc…it was cute.  There were a few close calls, but we got through and the response was great.  We celebrated afterwards with wine and sandwiches from the MTC and went through notes with the cast and crew.

Previews continued through Friday and Saturday with the show tightening from every department – actors found where the laughs were, how to pace scenes, how to play both levels, we tightened lighting, AV and auto cues, played around with minor costume changes, resolved quick changes, and by Saturday night it was really flying.  I sat in the front row for that preview and the energy in the audience was pretty electric.  The feedback has already been very exciting, with Twitter and facebook alive with messages of how moved audiences have been to finally see this show they’ve loved listening to.

We have one more preview before we open, and are still working and rehearsing tomorrow, but if we stay at the level of Saturday night’s performance I couldn’t be happier.  I felt euphoric watching the actors and team behind-the-scenes brilliantly making this show come alive.

Published by bryantandfrank

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

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