My Vision?

On Friday, I got an email from Bill asking that I come to the paper tech rehearsal that night.  A paper tech rehearsal is a meeting between the director, the lighting designer, the stage manager, the producer (sometimes) and from what I learned that night, the choreographer, too. During this meeting, lighting cues are discussed while combing through the script, and sometimes other issues like set change problems.  Well, as I said before, I had no idea that I was supposed to be part of that, and I sent him a reply email that I  had made plans for Friday night.  Those ended in disaster, thanks to parking issues.  I did go to the meeting beforehand, but only could stay for an hour.  I felt like a jerk for leaving, even though they said that it was fine that I leave.

Today, Bill sat with me for a few minutes before (he’s an intense fella; see the video at the end of the post), we began our cue-to-cue session (it’s basically, setting the lights for the actors through out the show, and a lot of time is just the actor standing) and told me that next time I work on a show,  (The fact that he thinks I will do another show in this capacity is encouraging, I think)  I should think about what I wanted the “look” of the number to be.

I never really thought about that aspect of the numbers.  Because of this, I spent the rest of the day analyzing the dances of the show.  I know that I made some choices that a lot of people will stand on their soapboxes and decree as blasphemous, because I didn’t copy the original show.  Here’s a couple of examples:

Big Spender:  Bob Fosse kept the hostesses behind the bar and singing in their poses until they got to the chorus in which they would then explode with energy.  For 95% of the number, the ladies have blank expressions on their face showing their jaded disposition regarding this life.  It’s genius.  However, I wanted a more visceral and predatory in your face type of number. Watch closely, and you will see some of the things that the ladies refer throughout the show.

Something Better Than This:  When I see this number, it’s always a huge dance number, but it hardly ever has any meaning behind the steps. In the original production and the movie, the dance builds as each of the characters begins to believe their dreams and dance with glee.  To me,  the hostesses are in their situation because they either don’t have a choice or like Rosie, they go into the business just to earn some quick money, and then get comfortable with that life.  Because of this, they find it hard to leave.

Rhythm of Life: Bob Fosse almost always pokes a fun finger at religion.  In the movie, when the assistants roll up the doors to allow the congregation in, there are a few people walking and sounding like zombies.  When other people have done this number, it’s usually just about the hippie-ness of it all.  For me, I find that religion is a little crazy with a pops of logic sprinkled in for fun.  I’ve tried to show this, I hope you can see it.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I just figured that this wouldn’t be something the public would get to know.  Since that’s what this site is all about, why not give you some of my thought process.

But back to my thoughts about my vision…while the numbers are sort of what I want, but I had to simplify a lot of what I really wanted.  The changes were made for varying reasons.  So, while I am pretty satisfied with the project so far, I think once the show opens I will be SOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy.  The cast has been wonderful to work with and I would love to do so again.

Speaking of people that I would love to work with again, Bill Starr is a great guy to work with.  I’ve learned quite a few things from him this go round. I worked with him back in 1995 when I played Tulsa for his version of Gypsy.  It was so much fun, but so much work.  Late nights during hell week, and would find me sleeping in the wings or the isles.  Pretty much anywhere that was flat.  Even though, it was 15 years ago, Bill is still intimidating.  And active!

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Big Spender…

Hello Patrons!!!

I figure that since enough time has passed, I can post some things about my ideas and concepts for this number in Sweet Charity.  Jeez, where to begin…

I performed Sweet Charity with another local group back in 2000.  I was one of the trio that start the Frug and Daddy Brubeck (after the original guy that was cast for it left the show).  I loved performing in the show not only because it’s great campy fun, but because of the Frug.  However, when it came time for the choreographing of this number, the staff decided that cutting out the middle section of the song was going to be the best way to go.  I was so disheartened by this.  You see, I am a great admirer of Bob Fosse and the unique style that he created.  I jumped at the chance just to perform some of these songs.  Little did I know that I would actually be doing the choreography that was from the movie.  So I guess I have to call it more of a re-staging than actual choreography.   I say this because to choreograph something is to create movements to a piece of sound or music, and to restage is to take something that is already created and teach it to new people.  And at the time, I was okay with that.

Then last year, when I found out about this show, it made me think of all the potential that it could have had.  The direction of the 2000 production was full of gimmicks. The costumes were stunning. And the dancing was fun, but unoriginal.

One night in the beginning of summer, I had a dream where music filled my head.  It was the da dada da da da of the trumpets at the beginning of Big Spender.  I was sitting in the audience, and the dance hall hostesses came down the isle talking to the men with their lines, “Hey good looking you wanna talk? What’s the harm in a little talk?” and all that jazz.  There was this mood of anticipation, excitement and yet unease that hung over the crowd because they were no longer safe in the separation between voyeurs and participants.  They were in the show. This feeling is something that I felt needed to be addressed but it never does.  It’s a great feeling to sit in a show and physically feel the vibe. Bob Fosse was able to create this sort of atmosphere ever so slightly in the movie by utilizing camera shots full of shadows, smoke and lipstick.  Unfortunately, in the amount of time we have in theater, this is not something that can be properly conveyed.

After the proposals, the hostesses head behind the bar (which is cut in the middle) , slightly upstage.  A safer distance from the audience and as they go behind, the bar slams shut behind them, in a small way symbolizing the fact that they are stuck in this life.  Incidentally, Charity isn’t in this number, and if you know the ending, you will know why I believe this would have been a great idea.  Unfortunately, the bars we have aren’t incredibly easy to move, so open they stay.  A small hint to the audience that this show is more than just a comedy about love.  As the hostesses sing the first verse and chorus everything happens behind the bar, but when they ask for some time to be spent with them, the genie is out of the bottle and isn’t secured until the end of the number.  It’s in your face.  It’s sexy.  It’s sassy.  And it’s a little dark.  But hey, they aren’t exactly innocent church ladies are they?

It was when I woke up from this dream that I kept thinking about this show.  I kept thinking, can I actually try to work on this show and create something Fosse-esque?  I thought about it so much that I finally got the nerve to ask the producer.   I started thinking and researching and planning right away even though I had almost 5 months time.  I found old Vogue photos that became my inspiration for some of the poses in the number.  Here are some of my faves:

These models were sexy yet classy.  Yet, I needed something a little more intense.  So the angles of the models are a little sharper and so are the attitudes.
I can’t decide if Big Spender or Rich Man’s Frug is my current favorite.  Although I’m A Brass Band is coming along quite nicely!  So at this point I am torn, and I hope that you are too when you see the show!
Until next time,  break a leg!