The room was abuzz this morning as I entered. Even though technically nothing was different from any of the days of the four weeks prior, the fact that we were about to do our first full run of the show (minus bows) had clearly gotten everyone into a mode closer to what doing an actual performance feels like. When I entered the cast were warming up to GaGa’s “Born This Way” album. Thomas, our esteemed dance captain, was putting them through a really rigorous physical warmup to “Judas”. It was quite contemporary in theme (unlike the music playing) and the cast were fully committed to it. Also in the room were our lead producer, seeing the show for the first time, and our costume makers, the famed house of Brancato. And Kevin, our first Benji off the rank to join the adults. Although only in rehearsal for two days, Kevin is such a quick study that Toto felt he was ready to play the show.
(Side note – I asked why Kevin was called Kevin – not a very Italian name. Apparently Kevin Costner was so popular here in the 90s, there’s a generation of Kevins out there growing up. Often when there’s a popular celebrity, the name gets Italianised. After “Gone with the Wind”, the name Scarlett was taken on, but translated to Rosella, a name that had never existed before in the tongue. Kevin is clearly too unique to be translated. Or possibly the real Kevin has licensing rights – he was very controlling around the time of the Oscar and “Waterworld”)
The first run of the show was as I expected; hard work. Putting almost three hours together of any musical is challenging, especially one where the three lead actors rarely leave the stage, and the ensemble has a new production number every seven minutes or so. It’s an exhausting musical to get into your head and your body. But the experience of playing it full out and in order is necessary for it to become effortless (or at least look like that to the paying public). What we saw onstage were the performers pushing through, remembering brilliantly what and why they were doing, but not always able to jump into the “and it’s happening for the first and only time” magic that lights up theatre. Next week we spend refining the show for style and tone again, and building the stamina up through numerous runs. As I said to the cast, playing the show will never be that hard again…until we add the costumes, wigs, makeup, masks, lights and set.
Nonetheless, it was a great run and the arcs of all our characters were clear and completely in the right direction. Moments of inspiration still occurred (as they only can when you’re in the middle of playing the entire journey in order) and the numbers pumped with energy. Vocally it’s getting stronger all the time and the members of our cast new to musicals are learning more every day about how to deliver the three skills simultaneously.
There was one very touching moment. Before we put Kevin into the run, we quickly played his scenes. For the lego bed scene, where Tick talks to Benji alone, I dragged Anto and Kevin into the corner where the lego bed was, and had them play the scene. A loud and crowded room of people getting ready for Act 2 suddenly quietened as they all tuned into watching this moment. As the scene played and turned into the song, the sobbing started around me. It was very magical and showed how strong the heart of this piece is. Yes, you walk away remembering that girls flew in from the ceiling dressed as cacatua, but what moves you is a father and son bonding.