August 26, 2008
August 23, 2008
Hello from Doug Peck, music director of Caroline, or Change. This is my seventh show at Court (James Joyce’s The Dead revival, Guys and Dolls, The Importance of Being Earnest, Man of La Mancha, Raisin, Carousel), and it gets better and richer and more fulfilling every time. Collaborating with Charlie and the amazing casts we always manage to assemble is the highlight of my year.
We’re just about to finish the second week of rehearsal, and it’s going very well. Because of the difficulty of the music, we have really taken our time learning the score. For those readers that don’t do musical theatre for a living (that means you, Jack Tamburri), you usually get less than a full day to learn the music and then off you go into staging. However, in assembling Caroline, we spent a full day just reading the lyrics out loud, two full days discussing all of composer Jeanine Tesori’s musical markings, and then three full days actually learning the twelve complex scenes. Now, as we stage each scene (we finish scene six tomorrow), we review music at the start of each day. I’m so proud of the cast as they are patient with themselves. I started several rehearsals saying “No one here is dumb, no one here is untalented” just so no one felt defeated by the high level of musical difficulty.
I’m thrilled we were able to take this time (many theaters have much shorter rehearsal processes than Court), because it means we are not only going to perform the score accurately, but we are taking the time to figure out WHY Tesori and Tony Kushner made these compositional choices. For example, if the score says we should get softer and faster, we’re not just executing it, we’re discovering the character and story-telling reasons to do so. I’m proud of Charlie on his journey in directing musicals, because his eyes and ears have become very sensitive to these kinds of things and it’s wonderful how he reflects them in the staging and character work.
It goes without saying that being back in the room with E Faye Butler is a thrill. We’ve done two Court galas together, as well as Chicago Shakespeare’s production of Seussical. One of the things I love about Chicago theatre is the diversity of roles our actors get to tackle. I don’t think you’d ever see Tonya Pinkins as the Cat in the Hat or Cathy Rigby as Caroline Thibodeaux! The great thing about tackling a score this intricate with an actor this wonderful is that you really feel like you are working together, discovering each nuance and dynamic. As E Faye memorizes the material and gets the pages out of her hands, she is amazing to watch. Her Caroline is already fascinating and deep (and amazingly sung).
One musical highlight is the quartet in scene eight between Melanie Brezill (Caroline’s daughter Emmie), Rob Lindley (young Noah’s widower father Stuart), Harriet Nzinga Plumpp (the omniscient moon), and Kate Fry (Stuart’s new wife). It is a perfect blend of pop and Jewish and classical styles of music, and the four singers work so well together. Dennis Kelly, our Mister Stopnick, commented that it’s refreshing to hear young singers sing in the center of the pitch. I would add that, beyond the perfect singing, they’re all working together so beautifully, following every dynamic in Tesori’s music and every twist in Kushner’s words.
Tomorrow we finish staging scene six, working with our terrific young performers Malcolm, Jack, Donavan, Micah, and Greg as well as Harriet, Melanie, and E Faye. We’re working toward a work through of Act One on Sunday, which will be very exciting.
Thanks to Jack and everyone at the Court for setting up this blog, so those of us involved with the production can share our excitement about this production.