In the Making

Oliver!

Posted by cjaxon on June 18, 2011

So we’re two weeks in to rehearsals now. Which means we’re two-thirds done with this first show!! I’ve never worked on a full-blown production at this pace, and I’m loving it. We had it all blocked and choreographed, a 2 and half hour show, within the first week. And it’s gonna be BIG. We’re doing Oliver! first. The set is HUGE. There are two bridges going across the stage, up to 20 feet in the air. There are giant pieces that roll on and off for different scenes. And we even have actors going up and down from the orchestra pit, as well as a pasarelle (fancy word for walkway) going around in front of it. We literally fill the stage, front to back, side to side, from below to way above.

Rehearsals have been going well. They told us in the beginning that this is an easy  ensemble show. It’s basically divided into two groups – adults and “the gang.” (I’m in the gang.) And it’s divided in a way that both groups don’t usually work at the same time. So for the first few days, I wouldn’t have to go in until later in the day, or I’d get released a few hours early. Technically, I’m in the “ensemble,” but I do have a featured bit or two as Charlie Bates, the leader of The Gang. (Or at least, that’s the role I’ve created for Charlie 😉 I’ve had fun even with a small role like this, because since it’s not a major part, there’s a lot of creative freedom. I can do almost anything I want within the world of the show, as long as it makes sense for the character, and doesn’t draw away from the scene.

The most interesting thing about the process for this show is working with the kids. I realized that I haven’t worked with actual children in a long time. Even High School Musical last summer was Jr High and older. Half of The Gang in this show are older people, 17+, and half are kids, 8-10. Also, the theatre is putting on a camp for kids and they get featured in a few numbers in the show. So every day we “work” with about 7 kids, and every few days we work with 50 of them. And by “work” I mean remind them of blocking, remind them to be quiet, break down very basic dance steps, and generally put up with their sass.

I think overall the kids like us, and we try to be patient, but sometimes it’s an effort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about educational theatre and giving kids a chance. I mean, that’s how I got started. But that wasn’t my expectation for this show. I’m ready for the fast-pace, the long days, the professional atmosphere, and the challenging dancing. And that will come with Hairspray and Chorus Line, but it’s not this show. And that’s just the way it is.

There are so many other redeeming aspects of this production that it’s totally worth it. First of all, I love Oliver; it holds a special place with me because it was my first show ever. The (adult) cast gets along great – we’ve already had two pool parties, a gumbo dinner, and Black Night. It’s okay for me to call it that, because our African American castmates called it that first. They cooked us soul food and we listened to hip-hop (they even tried to teach me some dance moves) and watched Coming to America.

And, of course, we’re performing in the Civic Center, which is huge and beautiful. We just moved in and started teching… actually, I’m writing this while they’re working on a number I’m not in. Today is our first 10-Out-of-12. Most rehearsals are like a “normal person” workday: 8 hours, 10 am to 6 pm. But Equity (unionized) theatres like Lyric are allowed a certain number of 10-Out-of-12 tech rehearsals. That means we’ll be working… 10 out of 12 hours today. So we start at noon, get a two hour dinner (and then get back into mics and costumes), and continue until midnight.

It seems daunting, but it’s not so bad since we get the mornings off, and it’s tech rehearsal so there’s a slow pace while we finish setting things. In fact, we won’t really run the show again until Monday night. Then we get one final dress rehearsal with full tech, costumes, and orchestra on Tuesday morning. And we do it again with an audience Tuesday evening.

Then we start Hairspray rehearsal on Wednesday morning.

Ahh, the “glamorous” life of summerstock!!

Stay tuned, there will be more pictures soon. In the meantime, here’s Lyric’s website. Check out info and bios for the casts for the whole season.

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2 Responses to “Oliver!”

  1. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the summer! Wish I could come see you perform.

  2. delms08 said

    I am so excited for your summer shows! I wish I could see the first two, but you better believe that I’ll be at “A Chorus Line” in August! 🙂 Keep us updated for sure! Miss you and best of luck from Peru! 🙂

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