Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Classical Musical at Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center.
This is not my first time on the Boat. Back in 2009, I was part of Signature Theatre’s scaled-down incarnation of what was affectionately coined, “No Boat.” It was beautifully re-orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick for 9-12 musicians.
WNO auditions annually for the entire season, about 5 productions on average. WNO and The Kennedy Center went through a merger during the company’s 2011-12 season (which had already been cast). With earlier audition happening, I missed the call for 2012-13 season and had to attend alternate schedule date; I was unsure what to expect in regards of offers if any.
I was already contracted with Lyric Opera of Chicago who was producing this new production of Show Boat, directed by Francesca Zambello. I have worked with her in the past and adore her. Straightforward woman who focuses on intention in her visual productions; she asks for some character development within the opera chorus. I think some directors use us as set dressing vs. propelling the story. I recall the first time I worked with her, “EVERYONE has a story, a thought and opinion about what is happening….”
The rehearsal process in an opera studio ensemble is a little different than MT rehearsal. We are prepared by the chorus master, Steven Gathman and it can be umm…tedious. We come in a few times a week for 3 hours and sit in front of music stands memorizing the score. Then the director arrives to stage. An opera company mounting a musical has proved to be a controversial choice. The opera- loving public expects certain rep and “Can’t Help Lovin Dat Man of Mine” isn’t in the canon. American Musical Theatre has its place but something that has been discussed over the last few months on this Boat has been does opera still have a place in American popular society? Accessibility and a sense of comfort is what I keep going back to.
After Lyric Opera of Chicago contract, I returned to NYC to be part of reading at Playwrights Horizons and the final workshop of new contemporary opera, Makandal. Inspired by Alejo Carpentier’s, Kingdom of This World. the world premiere production is slated to be part of Harlem Stage’s 30th season.
I am working on a piece right now about Sammy Davis Jr. I have a preview event this Sunday night at Notting Hill Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria.
Showboat plays from May 4-26, 2013 at Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.