Saturday, July 25, 2015

Opening Night: Does it ever go off as planned?

This is how  quintessential nerd Harvey Johnson will always look in my mind, although I would have made his hair a few shades lighter.

I know my few readers are tired of hearing about Bye Bye Birdie, but this is a journal of sorts. Right now I'm up to my neck in diapers by day, and in Bye Bye Birdie by night. Twenty years from now I may wonder just what it was I did in the summer of 2015. This is for me a written record. For you, it's mostly just boring. I apologize.

This evening we were within less than half an hour of curtain opening when the guy who plays piano for the production (the only one out of all of us who gets paid to the best of my knowledge, though that's neither here nor there) developed a colossal case of Montezuma's Revenge. When he took Immodium, he couldn't keep it down.  We could have gotten by without virtually any other musician (we're just using a combo, with a guitarist, bass player, drummer, clarinetist, and pianist; why they chose a clarinet as the sole wind instrument is anyone's guess), which is probably why the pianist is the one who gets paid -- that and the fact that the pianist has to come to most of the rehearsals for the duration of the run, while the others don't come in until the final few rehearsals.

The clarinetist plays piano, but probably not well enough to play an entire score she hasn't really played on piano. I could have easily done it with minimal cuing in regard to cuts and repeats, but I obviously had other responsibilities. The director did consider moving the "Ursula" character to the "Kim" part and putting another of the screechers into "Ursula's" part, and having me play the piano, but just as in a team sport, the more people who are out of position, the greater chance there is for a breakdown somewhere. 

I asked my mom if she would mind filling in as piano accompanist. She would have been capable of playing the score  with her eyes closed even though she's never accompanied for this particular musical. The only possible difficulty for her would have been that everyone's version of any musical has cuts and repeats for various reasons where they're not written in the score  -- a scene change takes longer because the scenery is more complicated than it's supposed to be, a wardrobe change takes more time, a particular part of a song just isn't working, the director doesn't like the particular music written for a given scene change -- all sorts of possibilities can arise. 

Sometimes last-minute glitches come up -- someone's wig has been misplaced or someone else's brain freezes and he or she is nowhere to be find when it's time for him or her to go onstage -- and the "orchestra" has to kill time until it's found. Those things my mom could deal with as well as anyone. It's the cuts and repeats that happen every time that she needed to be told.

We moved the bass player right next to my mom,  as he's the sharpest of the lot and was the most able to cue a new piano player in on alterations to the score. It's "Bye, Bye, Birdie," not a Rachmaninoff piano concerto that my mom was dealing with. She has a doctorate in vocal and piano performance, and is a university piano and voice professor, and is considerably more skilled than is the poor sick guy even using unfamiliar and slightly sub-standard Roland digital equipment with its own idiosyncrasies. my mom says whether she plays tomorrow night or not, she's bring one of our digital pianos for whoever plays to use. we have more than we need, so she'll probably donate one to the theatre, as our worst digital piano is far better than the one owned by the theatre company, and there's a limit to how many digital pianos we need to keep around the house. 

I don't know how the change in piano players impacted anyone else, but for me personally, it was distracting in a good way. i was on auto-pilot mixed with a bit of adrenaline in terms of my own part. My mom picked up on Rosie's musical issues and was able to play most of Rosie's melodies in the accompaniment without leaving accompaniment licks out, as she's a literal professional. The original accompanist had tried substituting Rosie's melody for the treble piano part in several areas, but it left the accompaniment sounding too bare-boned. The accompaniment as written was needed in addition to Rosie's melodies. 

When my mom got home, she used her computer program to play the part the way she played it tonight, so that the real piano player can play it the way she does when he returns. She could have written it out by hand, but it would've taken an hour or two versus the fifteen minutes it took to play it into the computerized keyboard and print it out.

Rosie did well, and I didn't even need to back her up after about two lines of her hardest song. Overall, it was the single greatest discrepancy between a final dress rehearsal and the subsequent opening night performance that I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of both as an accompanist. I haven't acted that much, but I've played piano for more musicals than I can recall off the top of my head.

The worst thing that went wrong was that someone in props thought it would be a good idea to use actual broken glasses taped together at the bridge for the nerdy "Harvey Johnson" character as opposed to putting tape on any old pair of horn-rimmed glasses and letting the audience assume they were broken. The glasses kept actually falling apart on the poor guy, which was rather distracting as he tried to sing his solos. It was only distracting to him. I think the audience thought it was supposed to happen that way. Now that "Harvey' is used to it, they may leave the broken glasses in.

We don't know yet if the original piano player will have recovered enough to return tomorrow.  I hope nothing is seriously wrong, but I also hope whatever is wrong is not contagious. If half the cast came down with similar symptoms, the production would be in a world of trouble.

Neonate Update: Baby Camille Catherine weighed in this (or technically yesterday) morning at a grand total of 4 lbs, 4 oz. All signs are pointing toward a July 29 discharge date. It's a bit of an old wives' tale that a baby under five pounds will not be released from the hospital. If the baby has made good growth to get to the weight he or she is at, is continuing steady growth,  is otherwise strong and healthy, and has competent caregivers, doctors don't use five pounds as the automatic discharge weight.

I'll try to post the song, "The Telephone Hour," with poor Harvey Johnson's solos. 

For the record, I think  Allie Trimm in the 2009 Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie was much more suited to the role of "Kim McAfee" than was Ann-Margaret in the movie version.  Ann-Margaret seemed too sophisticated, like a 28-year-old pretending to be a 15-year-old. Maybe there's something I don't know and that's how young teens really looked and talked in the early 1960's, but I find it hard to believe.

Sleep well.


  1. Sounds like opening night went well enough, under the circumstances.

  2. For the record I am not bored by this. I like hearing about what is going on in your life and I love musicals. To my mother, musicals were the best events in life-- like a celebration of life. No matter what happened in a musical, it was always perfect.

    You may wonder what will happen in your next musical or tomorrow. But you do not have to. Green Day sings
    "It's something unpredictable but in the end it's right, I hope you have the time of your life." Whether a musical is great or terrible, in the end you die. What is really important is that you are alive right now.

  3. Also you do want to avoid people that are in prison like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King. Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, Thomas Paine, Francis Bacon, Thomas More and Voltaire were.

    1. I assume that this is in response to the subsequent entry. None of the individuals you mentioned were oncarcerated in U.S. state or federal correctional institutions. The Reverend doctor mrtin luther king was incarcerated in local and county jails on something like thirteen occasions, but i haven't found evidence supporting his having done any time in a state or federal correctional institute. i would never go so far as to say there is no innocent person currently being incarcerated in such a facility, which is one reason I am not pro-capital punishment, but I'm equally confident in saying that there's a 99% chance that anyone with whom I struck up a relationship woulld be someone whose association wuld not be in my best interests. someone needs to look out for the well-being of prisoners, but it needs to be someone else's cause. I will have to find another way to accomplish good in the world.

    2. Yes it was for the subsequent entry. I do know that there are many people that spent over 5 years in prison from before there was DNA that were free using DNA from evidence they still had.

      January 2015: "New York (CNN)—When Sharrif Wilson was released after being wrongfully imprisoned for more than 20 years, he couldn't wait to have a hot slice of New York pizza.

      Wilson, 38, died Saturday night at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after suffering from breathing problems and other health issues, less than a year after DNA evidence led to his freedom, according to a statement from his attorney's office."

      February 2014: "Two men behind bars for more than half their lives over a triple murder walked free this week after DNA evidence tore holes in their convictions.

      Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson were teenagers when prison doors clanked shut behind them.

      Now, in their late 30s, they can hardly believe they're out."

      October 2013: "Exonerated by DNA evidence, James Bain isn't angry about spending 35 years of his life in prison for a horrific crime that he didn't commit."

      Actually it appears that DNA was available but not used in many cases like the above one.