Saturday, April 10, 2010


It's was a jam packed week here at Goodspeed, as we readied the show for the addition of the orchestra and all the technical accouterments that await us next week. We really maximized every possible hour at our disposal, refining the staging and choreography and doing our all important run-throughs of the entire piece. Moving through the show after working on it piecemeal is our only way as performers to really understand the arc of the story and to get used to the physical demands of our individual performance "tracks."

On Easter Sunday, we gave our first such run-through, with an invited audience including our designers, some of our crew people, our producers and some special guests, including the head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, Ted Chapin, who gave our production two enthusiastic thumbs up!
My housemates and I decided, since we were working on a holiday, to host a luncheon for the entire company at our cast house, the "Stonecroft." The night before I went into a culinary frenzy and cooked three large pots of jambalaya with andouille and chicken, as well as some good old fashioned potato salad. The lunch gathering was warm and joyful, everyone basking in the warm sunshine and the bonhomie of each other's company. Truly, there's no people like show people.

As the week progressed it became clear to us all that, not only did we not have a whole lot of time left before the move into the opera house, but that we do indeed have a show.
I find myself, while observing scenes and numbers I am not in, experiencing goosebumps and being genuinely choked up by the sweetness and heart of the story and the performances. Jenn Gambatese gives Annie the requisite pluck and gumption that one would expect, but tempers it with a sincerity, sweetness and vulnerability that give the character beautiful colors. Her leading man, the able Kevin Earley, brings a rich, mellifluous baritone and a wry sense of humor to his Frank Butler. I am truly blessed to have a superb comedienne as my Dolly Tate, the talented Rebecca Watson, with whom I have become fast friends; our scenes together are going to be wonderfully funny and full of surprises. I find myself more and more comfortable in Charlie's skin, and am having a ball being the source of much of the comedy in the show.

I cannot tell you how very appreciated and cared for we all are here at Goodspeed. The efforts of many kind and enthusiastic people make our jobs possible. It is we who get all the applause, but it is because of people like Dave and Lucille Viola. This extraordinary couple are patrons of the arts in the classic sense. Not only are they sponsoring the production, they are also gracious hosts and treated the company to an elegant dinner at the Gelston House. They seemed to really know how very welcome a genteel evening of drinks, dancing and putting on the dog would be to a company of people so intensely engaged in the creative process. Grateful thanks!

Friday brought one of the great treats of doing a musical--the long awaited arrival of the orchestra. If you have ever performed with live music, you will know what a scintillating experience it is.
When I was performing my nightclub acts, I had a small four piece combo with me and I considered them a living, breathing part of my performance, wholly connected to my heart and my thoughts. The thrill of singing with an orchestra is one of the things that brings me back to musical theatre again and again. The company gathered for what is called a wandelprobe, which basically means a rehearsal with the orchestra while doing our usual staging and physical business. It excited and energized all of us to hear the talented eight piece band expertly performing Dan DeLange's special orchestrations for the Goodspeed production. I wish audiences could truly grasp the painstaking attention our director, choreographer, and our musical director, the great Michael O'Flaherty, give to every detail of the sound of this classic score. Every high kick is given special percussive emphasis, every tender moment is crafted and modulated for the most delicate and moving effect. Observing the process of collaboration between the directors, arranger and musicians was like watching a team of gourmet chefs concocting a one of a kind banquet resplendent with exquisite delights. Truly, theatre-- and musical theatre in particular--is one of the most satisfying collaborative experiences there is.

Next week's post will include back stage photos at the Opera House, including first glimpses of the costumes and sets for the show, as we forge on toward our opening on the 16th. Until then!

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