Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Music Man

Lakewood Theatre Company
September 10, 2005; closes October 23, 2005

I went in singing, left singing, but in-between felt as if director was too busy trafficking line-ups to bother telling the story. Genial, but patchy–like change-of-hearts throughline was missing. Unfortunate, because first-rate voices of Jennifer Gill, Leif Norby and sound cast were all there. Beautiful costumes by Ashley Wase.


Anonymous said...

And the half-canned music didn't live up to previous orchestras. How ironic, given the story and all.

Anonymous said...

And somebody really needed to hire a choreographer. The whole show was strong vocally but the dance numbers were all pretty flat and uninspired. Clearly there were some strong dancers in the cast too, so there was really no reason for this.

Alan Lytle said...

I'll take the line "half-canned music didn't live up to previous orchestras" as a compliment to the previous bands we've put together for shows at Lakewood. (Such as Man of La Mancha, My Fair Lady, and Joseph....)

And I agree.

For The Music Man I tried an experiment-- an experiment motivated out of a desire to have a great sound. As a community theatre with long runs (MM ran for 7 weekends, 29 performances), we can't have huge bands for many reasons. I winced at the idea of singing 76 trombones with a piano and a couple of instruments backing it up.

I then read about Musical Theatre International's offer of the OrchExtra system. In looking at the cost and weighing my options, my actual thought process was something like "we could have a fuller sound for Music Man, and transfer resources to have a slightly bigger band for Hello, Dolly! later this season."

I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. I knew it would be fake. I hoped it would trigger discussion (to date this is the only feedback I've ever read from an audience member I didn't know personally). Though I had watched a demonstration video showing it's basic operation and explaining the idea behind it, I had no idea how it would work for our situation.

I decided to try it knowing that if nothing else I could chalk it up to a learning experience.

That it was.

The machine was tricky to get used to. I controlled it by tapping a key or series of keys in tempo. We had a live trumpet player (doubling on piccolo trumpet and euphonium as well) and a live drummer. The three of us made a strange ensemble of live and faux-live players. It was hard for all of us to figure out how to play together.

In the end, it did function in the manner it was intended. It recreated the music using the insrumentation as conceived by the original orchestrator. (So often for shows, such as Hello, Dolly playing there right now, I take original orchestrations and change parts, rewriting pieces to more fully utilize the limited number of players we have. This is a lot of extra work, but always worth it!)

The audience members who stopped by the pit at the end of the show had nothing but praise for the sound they heard. There's something to be said for satisfying your audience base.

However, in the end, it was an experiment that I would not repeat in the same circumstances again. I would save OrchExtra/Sinfonia technology to be used to supplement an already sizable ensemble, if at all. It'd be great to supplement a HS band accompanying the show, for example.

I'm happy staying in the realm of live musicians. That experience reminded me that making music is SO about the connection between the players. I feel like we're really on our way to finding that in our current ensemble with Hello, Dolly! right now at Lakewood through 11 June 06. Come see it!

Alan Lytle
Musical Director