Tuesday, February 8, 2011

No No No Joseph

I'd like to say I hit the ground running when I showed up for my first rehearsal of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Olney Theatre, but that would be a huge lie. Instead, I hit the ground stumbling.

When I walked into the rehearsal hall that first day, the cast was already assembled and seated around the piano for a full day of music rehearsal. (They had already spent the previous day on the music as well, but as the piece is non-stop music, it's clearly time well-spent.)

I was a last-minute replacement in this cast (as I mentioned here), so I was quickly introduced to the group at large. Once we began rehearsal, I was immediately struck by the expertise this cast has, musically. It's a big cast (more than 20 !), quite large compared to other musicals these days, and many of the actors are in the early stages of their careers. That's as it should be, I suppose, for this particular show. Joseph... was penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber when he was only 20 years old. The show has a very youthful feel, and is best served by actors who are youthful as well (just a few years ago, a national tour of the show came through DC, with Patrick Cassidy in the title role. I like that particular Cassidy, but he was solidly in his 40s at the time, and the show just did not play right).

In addition to those actors who are just starting out, our cast also includes a handful of seasoned (though still young) musical performers who work all over town. They anchor the chorus numbers with professional savvy, and I'm sure the result will be a dynamic show.

I was in that dynamic chorus for a day or too, until the union stepped in. Though I've performed in quite a few musicals over the years, I have not been in the chorus of a musical since my undergrad days. When I was brought into the current project, it was on an Equity Principle contract, which, as it turns out, has some differences from the Equity Chorus contract.

Specifically, it means I cannot be placed in the ensemble as anything other than the two roles for which I was contracted. Someone noticed this clause in the contract after I had spent many hours in dance rehearsal mode, staging one of the central numbers in the piece, provocatively called "Go Go Go Joseph." Gotta love those lyrics, but I digress.

So, I've been pulled out of any ensemble work, and will be appearing on the stage only as one of the two roles for which I was contracted. I actually prefer being busy during a show, I learned back at The Shakespeare Theatre Co. that we who were constantly carrying spears, hoisting banners, hauling thrones, and wielding broadswords, were having more fun than the principle actors, who often spent hours in the green room playing cards while waiting for their scenes to pop up.

So it is with musicals as well; the more numbers you are in, the quicker the actual show will go. (And the more fun you will have.) Judging from this week's staging rehearsals, I will have some downtime between my appearances on stage, but as the show itself is barely longer than an hour, I doubt I'll get too bored. And unless you think I'm grousing, I actually appreciate that the union is attempting to keep their actors from being taken advantage of. I chatted with our music guru Chris regarding the issue, and he succinctly made this observation: without clauses such as the one which will keep me out of our big choral numbers, certain producers are bound to insist that their leading players be required to slap on a wig and a moustache and play "Man with Suitcase" in act II. So the regulations are good ones, in my opinion, even if they will keep me from memorizing such complicated lyrics as "Go Go Go."

And on the topic of memorization, it appears that many of my castmates have done Joseph... before, I guess it's a favorite in high schools and college musical theatre programs. I have never done this piece, so I'd love to learn the trick to memorizing all the colors on the damn coat.