Sunday, March 23, 2008
As we've launched into the Shear Madness Spring Fling, with two full companies sharing 12 performances a week, the actors have been reminded several times about the "sound" of the piece. Our glorious leader, Bobby, has mentioned more than once that the dialogue has a musicality to it. I have to admit that the first time I heard this, ten years ago during my first assignment in the salon, I inwardly rolled my eyes. Shakespeare and Shaw have a musicality to their plays, but Shear Madness ?
I have since changed my tune, pardon the pun. Bobby has always insisted that the show works best when certain crescendos are hit, certain sotto voces are enforced, etc. He freely admits that the play is paper-thin, so with that scarcity of depth comes the necessity of playing each and every moment in the correct key.
I've been thinking about this concept a lot since rejoining the Madness, and I've come to a few conclusions. The show has been around for decades, of course, and each and every cast, be it in Boston or Chicago or San Fransisco or Budapest, is telling the same story. We are all playing the same concerto, to use a term from the play. But as individual actors, we all have different instruments (ourselves) . So, each cast, while playing the same song, differs from every other cast, because the instruments playing that song are different.
It's been a relief to think of the show in those terms, particularly in the situation which occurs at the Kennedy Center each spring. It can be a bit unsettling to be performing a show with one cast while a completely separate cast (playing different "instruments") prepares to play the same show an hour later. Comparisons are bound to pop up, and I have to hand it to the management of the show at KenCen that they keep such comparisons to a minimum. They want each cast to be playing the Shear Madness Concerto in their own way.
But despite the fact that the instruments being played are sometimes wildly different, we are all playing the same song.