Monday, February 23, 2009

Table Work & Learning Music

Blog entry by Mo Brady (Barnaby) 2/19/09

Hello from Hello, Dolly!

The 5th Avenue is back in the rehearsal studio, preparing for their next big production from the golden age of Broadway: Hello, Dolly! --and I am lucky enough to once again be along for the ride.

Although rehearsals for the principles began almost two weeks ago, today was our first day of rehearsal with the full cast. Until this point, the company had been layering in small groups of actors little by little.

For the first few days, just the principle cast was called for rehearsals. The schedule for these rehearsals consisted primarily of "table work" - where actors literally sit around tables with our director, David Armstrong, just to speak through the lines and to discuss the plot, situation, our characters and their motivations. This is a good time to discuss the historical context of the story, as well when major information in the plot is revealed. Basically, its a great opportunity to get everybody on the same page. Literally.

For me, table work is influenced primarily by the script - looking at the lines and thinking of how I can say them in the most realistic way. I always figure that if the director has done a good job, he has cast me because he sees a lot of myself in the role. So I try to encounter at the situations in the plot as I would encounter them myself. Of course, there are some technical things that go through my head, such as being aware of where the jokes are. Also, since I recently played another shy and goofy teenager in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I am hyper aware of how the two characters can be different. But essentially, table work is about finding the truth in the text.

Then we began to learn music, learning harmonies and cut-offs, marking in our music the lyrics that Joel Fram, our wonderfully meticulous music director, wants us to emphasize. I'm a sucker for music direction, and I enjoy his passionate take on breath marks and ending consonants. He's the kind of music director that turns the work of being particular with your notes and your lyrics into a game. Its hard not to get excited when you see the way Joel conducts.

And as the throngs of dancing waiters began staging their leaps and turns, the principles began putting the scenes on their feet (or in my case, on my knees, a lot of the time. Again, it seems that shy and goofy teenagers crawl around on the floor a lot). Most of this work takes place simultaneously, in separate rehearsal studios. Today, I was joking around with Troy Wageman, a friend and fellow cast member, that even though we had both been called for four rehearsal days, we hadn't yet been in the same rehearsal room at the same time.

Finally, today was the first day that the female ensemble joined us. Seeing the legions of waiters and cooks and society ladies - almost forty cast members in total - was almost overwhelming, and definitely exciting. This day's rehearsal culminated in another read through of the script. This read through is quite the event: all of the actors sitting around with scripts on music stands, reading the lines and singing the songs together for the first time. I should say, everyone was sitting, except our fantastic Dolly Levi, played by Jenifer Lewis. She was strutting and marching all over the room, to the delight of the cast and our small audience alike.

Now that everybody is called for rehearsals, we can begin to stage the large production numbers, such as "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" and "Before The Parade Passes By." We only have seven more days in the rehearsal studios before we get to the stage. It'll be a busy week, full of blocking and staging - quite the task with over 40 bodies to choreograph. But having the full cast at rehearsal is motivation for all of us, and should propel us to complete the task by the end of next week.

Tracee Beazer (Minnie Fay), Suzanne Bouchard (Irene Malloy), Mo Brady (Barnaby) and Greg McCormick Allen (Cornelius) enjoy the read through.
photo credit Neil Badders (Ensemble)

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