Thursday, March 12, 2009


written by Mo Brady (Barnaby) on 3/9/09

We completed two smashing performances, and have two more before Thursday's opening. However, I wanted to catch you up on one of the more exciting rehearsals of the last week, The Wanderprobe.

I love wanderprobe. For pure emotionally value, wanderprobe is my favorite part of performing. Its thrilling, its communal. Its like church for actors.

For those of you who don't know the term 'wanderprobe,' let me explain. It is the rehearsal in which the band and the singers come together for the first time. The term comes from the German 'sitzprobe,' describing "a seated rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra, focusing attention on integrating the two groups." (thanks, wikipedia.) Wanderprobe is a take off of the aforementioned German word, because instead of sitting, we wander.

Only, we don't exactly wander. We execute the choreography for all of the songs, as well as the blocking for scenes that are underscored. On a technical level, it's a chance for the actors to hear orchestrations, time out dialogue with underscoring, and figure out which instrument is playing their starting pitch. This can be particularly important for dance numbers. When you hear the staccato notes of "Call On Dolly," you feel how it fits together with the choreography that our director, David Armstrong, gave to us. Or when you hear the wistfulness in the orchestration of "Ribbons Down My Back," you can understand how it expresses Mrs. Molloy's longing for change.

Many parts of wanderprobe are extremely technical. Usually when we work on music, it is within the context of a run-through or a performance. Wanderprobe gives our music director, Joel Fram, a chance to make sure that both actors and musicians are performing as a cohesive unit. If something doesn't go right the first time, we can run it again to smooth out the kinks.

However, the overall feeling of wanderprobe is one of enchantment. Part of what makes musical theater so exciting is the use of music to tell these larger-than-life emotions. So when I hear the orchestra play a score for the first time, it fills me with exhilaration (which is welcome at the end of a long week of tech rehearsals.) And as a soloist, its thrilling to sing with a live band. Sorry, karaoke singers, but being backed by a full orchestra beats singing with a synthesized CD track any day.

In every rehearsal prior to wanderprobe, the actors work only with a pianist. So to go from one instrument to 20 instruments in one day is magical. I can't tell you many actors updated their facebook status that night with "I cried I a little when I heard the orchestra and cast perform 'Put On Your Sunday Clothes' together for the first time." Actually, I can tell you. It was four cast members. But almost everyone commented on those status updates. Trust me, you'll enjoy hearing it just as much as we enjoy performing it.

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