Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Well, Nobody Died"

Those were the first words out of the mouth of director David Hilder after our first stumble-through rehearsal of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Though that rehearsal happened many weeks ago, David's words have come back to me, to describe the past week of our run at Olney Theatre Center.

Last Sunday, we completed our ninth performance of the show in a period of five days. This is a pretty significant departure from the normal run of a musical at this theatre (or anywhere!). The contract under which Olney works calls for a maximum of 8 performances per week, to be given over a maximum 6 day period. Yes, we stage actors traditionally work 6 days per week, even in rehearsal. While you civilians enjoy a 40-hour work week, with two days off, stage actors endure a 48-hour work week with only one day off. But I don't complain. Much.

Several weeks ago, the management at Olney alerted the company that, during one week of our show's run, we would be performing 9 shows. Apparently (and this in unconfirmed by anybody), nine performances were inadvertently advertised during this week, and by the time somebody of import noticed, there were already too many tickets sold to all the shows to cancel one. So, Olney paid the actors the going overtime rate, and allowed all 9 shows to remain on the schedule.

We did these 9 shows, as I mentioned above, in only 5 days. That scheduling is completely at the discretion of the theatre, but it makes for a pretty intense 5 days (4 of which had both a matinee and evening performance).

I'm relaying this background for the sole purpose of expressing my admiration for, and pride in, my fellow company members. Joseph is a completely "sung-through" musical, which means, it's really an opera. There is no spoken dialogue, everything is sung to music. This puts some strain on the voice, and in addition, there is substantial dancing in our production. Luckily, our cast was up to the task of so many shows back to back (to back to back to back to back to back to back to back). There were no injuries during this intense period (injuries being a fairly common occurrence in a musical with a lot of physicality to it, just ask Spiderman), no illness running rampant among the company, no one missing a performance. Everybody here is a pro, and giving their all each and every performance.

Our audiences agree, and we are greeted with thunderous applause after, and during, each performance. We've been extended into April, which means there has been good word-of-mouth on the show, since we cannot claim the reviews helped us much. I think it was Noel Coward who claimed that, if you believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad ones, too. I don't necessarily believe any reviews, but I do read them. It's unclear to me whether reviews affect the box office at Olney Theatre Center or not. Olney, MD, is a fairly rural community, and though it's sometimes called a DC suburb, I would submit that if there are horse farms in the area, it's not really a suburb. But anyway, who knows if folks in the area read the Washington Post, which is considered the "money review" by theatres downtown. The Post's critic was dissatisfied with David's directorial choices, and seems to have been in a grumpy mood the night he attended. We had a couple of very nice notices on online sites, and a recommendation from one other paper, and as far as I know, that's all the attention we have been paid by the press.

I guess the umpteenth revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is not likely to generate the same excitement as the Edward Albee festival at Arena Stage, or the Wicked tour sweeping through town next summer. But I'm proud as hell to be involved with this show, and look forward to our final two weeks.