We typically open with a big musical in fall, but due to rights restrictions we had to adjust our typical format for our season. Our big musical (and it will be big) is now slated for January. We wanted to still provide our audience members with a musical in the fall, but it needed to be something that did not require a large set or many technical demands. Naturally, we steered toward musical revues.
We often receive requests from our patrons to produce some of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Unfortunately, our orchestra pit can only accommodate 12 musicians and many of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are scored for over 20 musicians. While exploring the Rodgers and Hammerstein website, I happened across their concert library. The library licenses individual songs and also concert programs. I was pleased to find a concert that featured some of the best songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber. We are overjoyed that we can provide our patrons with something they have desperately been wanting.
This monumental undertaking has never been attempted by a community theatre that I am aware of. A concert of this magnitude presented many challenges for us technically, and artistically, but the biggest challenge was balancing the sound of the 29-piece orchestra with the singers so that everyone could be heard and not overpower our audience members was the challenge presented to Rich Bird, the sound designer. We have 29 orchestra members on stage with microphones necessary for string players, woodwinds, and some percussion instruments as well as the necessary amplification for guitars and keyboards. Add to that the microphone needs of our 10 performers and you have a recipe for an extremely sound intensive program. Fortunately for me, Rich Bird is more than capable of handling the demands.
Another challenge has been the propensity for our performers to interact with each other during duets and group numbers. We have spent time finding appropriate moments to look to each other, and trying to find comfort in singing the song to the audience and treating the audience as the other person in the song.
This is a traditional concert and we are not permitted to evoke any part of the plot of the show which includes using costumes, props, or set pieces to tell the story behind each song. Therefore, we have embraced the music of the show, and our soloists do a fantastic job bringing each song to life with just their voice. Lighting Designers Ken and Patti Crowley help us tell the story with subtle lighting on the cyc and downstage for the singers.
There is a little bit of everything in the concert. Four of our performers sing “There is Nothing Like a Dame” from South Pacific, followed by a few solos from South Pacific and Allegro. There are also a few duets from Oklahoma!, The King and I, and Starlight Express, and each act concludes with a large group number. There are no costume changes or specific costume pieces but we do have the best dressed cast with all of our men in tuxedos, and our women in formal wear.
From the Cast:
“I chose this production because for a musical theater singer, there is nothing more exciting than singing the classics with a live 30-piece orchestra – the way it was intended to be done.
This experience allows you to bring what you can to a piece of rich music without the constraints of being in a specific character or in a specific setting. It allows for you to bring a little bit of yourself to the work, while being able to just enjoy and take in the actual music behind you.
I think audiences will love this rare opportunity to hear all of their favorite showtunes in one night being sung by fantastic singers.”
I love singing “I Enjoy Being a Girl!” Growing up, I was a bit of a tomboy, so singing about lacy dresses and curling eyelashes makes me giggle. And I know we have made a lot of progress for women’s lib and I should totally be offended when I am catcalled in the street, but… lets be real. I am in my thirties and just had a baby. If someone whistles at me, my face says “Rude!” but my heart says “…Still got it!” This song nails that emotion.
When I was in high school I played Laurie in Oklahoma! and just fell in love with the show. I am so excited to sing “People Will Say We’re in Love.” It is so flirty and fun and almost teenager like in the how Laurey and Curly act toward each other, and this song personifies their relationship for me. The classic play hard to get. I am so honored that I get to sing it alongside Terry Barr. He is a consummate professional and a wonderful friend, and so giving as an actor and a performer.
“I Have Dreamed” is such a gorgeous song. You can really feel how much these two people are longing to be together and how much they want and need to be with each other. There is something simple and true about this song and it is such a joy to sing it.
I have been working at Reston Community Players now for 11 years and it just gets better. RCP is like a family to me and the audiences are so giving and wonderful. Everybody who works there is passionate about theatre and are about providing the most professional experience, while having a great time and enjoying the opportunity to perform.
Lisa Anne Bailey:
The song that I am singing, aside from some of the arrogant lines (haha), really speaks to me especially being back on the Reston stage. It has been 10 years since I’ve performed on this particular stage and I do feel like I’ve “returned” to the home where I belong. The intimacy of the house and its familiarity gives me such a sense of peace and joy – the song, the orchestra and being home has made this an amazing way to return!!!
“Starlight Sequence” from Starlight Express-Laugh all you want to, but when you’re a nine year old who’s obsessed with Action Figures and the first Broadway Cast album you buy is a show about anthropomorphized trains roller-skating, full-speed all over the theatre, it’s pretty amazing! While the song might be an obscure piece for a “Greatest Hits” concert, it’s message of believing in yourself is universal and beautiful. It was shows like Starlight that brought me to appreciate musical theater at such a young age, and I am truly honored to perform the piece with such a large and gifted orchestra! If you see tears in my eyes while belting out this song with the talented Harv Lester, don’t judge, I am just leaking awesome.
“All I Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera-I will always be grateful to my parents for taking me to the theater during my childhood. In the early 90s, I saw Phantom and truly became a Webber fanatic! “All I Ask of You” is a song that is originally heard at the end of Act I. Here, the character of Raoul swears to love and to protect Christine always. The Phantom, who has overheard their conversation, is heartbroken. As a young audience member, watching the Phantom cover his ears as he tries to block out the lovers duet brought me to tears and is one of the most dramatic moments in the show (spoil alert: something happens to a chandelier). It is great to share the stage once again with Maureen Rohn who starred in last season’s production of Legally Blonde. We have been working very hard so YOU the audience member won’t have to cover your ears!
“I Have Dreamed” from The King and I: What can I say? This is one of the most beautiful love songs I have had the pleasure of singing. When the orchestra starts to play, I can’t help but think of what Broadway audiences used to hear in the theater (A lush orchestra!). It is a dream come true to sing these songs the way they were meant to be heard! One of my favorite parts of the evening is listening to Jolene Vettese sing the part of Tuptim. It’s the one moment where I can stand there in the middle of it all and think, “This is really happening!”
Until eight years ago, I had been in one, and only one, musical: when I was 19 years old, I played “Sven Larsen,” Sailor No. 37 (or at least it seemed like there were that many sailors), in my college’s production of South Pacific. It was years before I realized that there is actually no “Sven Larsen” in South Pacific and that the director had just made up the names of most of the ensemble guys. But I did my best to try to be Sven Larsen, although I had no idea what I was doing. And I remember our big ensemble number, “There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame.” Someone was wearing a coconut bra – I don’t think that it was me, but I cannot even remember. We all had our blocking, we were supposed to be jovial back-slappers, and, at some point, I was supposed to sit on a crate. That’s pretty much what I remember, other than that I was incredibly nervous, yet excited, through the whole thing. And then it was over. And then I grew up some more, went to law school, and went to work. If I ever sang, it was alone in my living room along with Tina Turner on the radio. Almost two decades went by before I tried another musical. Two decades! Now, 28-musicals-in-eight-years later, here I am again singing “There’s Nothin’ Like A Dame” with a bunch of guys. This time, our black tuxedos do not look anything like sailor suits, and the four of us are not anything like the 37 sailors who were working that song over in college. But singing it again, I have to wonder … where did that 19-year-old boy go, sitting on a crate on a stage, clueless and excited? As I sing that song again, at least part of him will be there, even if only I can see or hear or even remember him. But even he won’t know what happened to that coconut bra!
I was completely honored to have been asked to perform in this concert, having grown up just a stones throw from RCP. RCP holds a special place in my heart as I performed my first show after college with the group, A Chorus Line. I’m also super excited to be singing “Music of the Night,” as The Phantom of the Opera was the first musical I saw on Broadway. Lastly I’d like to say how thrilled I am to share the stage again with all these wonderful and extremely talented singers.
A Tribute to the Music of Rodgers & Hammerstein & Andrew Lloyd Webber plays through October 27, 2013 at Reston Community Players at The Reston Community Center- 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476.4500, or purchase them online.
Francine Schwartz’s review of A Tribute to the Music of Rodgers & Hammerstein & Andrew Lloyd Webber.