Monday, December 13, 2010

Adding Machine, a Musical. Opens January 22, 2011, Odyssey Theater, Los Angeles.

A long weekend of rehearsal. Wednesday we have our 'designer run thru.' To the uninitiated, this is not a run for Calvin Klein and that ilk, but rather a run of the show for the set, lighting, sound and costume designers. It is their first opportunity to see the piece translated from page to stage.

Thursday, if I'm not mistaken, we have our 'sitzprobe.' This is our first opportunity to sing all the music while sitting around the full orchestra.

Josh Schmidt, bless his heart, has written a musical so dense, so complex, so perfectly melded together as to be mind-boggling at times. And difficult. So difficult. I actually stopped a music rehearsal briefly yesterday to ask our music director, the stalwart and always good-humored Alan Patrick Kenny, if he didn't think Josh was perhaps having a bit of fun with us at times. It's hard to describe without hearing the music, but there are moments in the score which seem simply random. Alan assured me he didn't. I could only smile and push on.

I'm reminded of the apocryphal story about Shakespeare and his leading actor, Richard Burbage. It is oft repeated in the acting world. The story is that Shakespeare and Burbage were getting drunk together one night and Burbage, known to be a huge egoist, claimed that Shakespeare could not write a part he couldn't play. Shakespeare then wrote Hamlet. The inside joke is that Hamlet is a character that, as Olivier says in the opening of his film of the play, 'cannot make up his mind.' The one thing an actor cannot play, at least for long stretches, is indecision. The reason being that generally speaking the most important thing an actor does is make choices, make decisions. It is at the very heart of an actor's 'intentions' and 'motivation.' So there's Hamlet, unable to do so.

The reason it reminds me of this story is because there are moments, musically speaking, in the play that seem completely haphazard, intentionally random. Yet they're not. They fit together perfectly. It's just not readily apparent.

So all of us, not just myself, but all of us - Kelly Lester, Christine Horn, Rob Herring - all of us that have some solo stuff, find ourselves occasionally just stopping the proceedings now and then and saying..."Is that right? Is this a misprint? Do you actually want me to sing a C there instead of a D?"

Josh, if you're reading this, you've written a slice of sly genius. God forbid an actor should try and get comfortable singing one of these songs. If the others are like me, just when I start to think I've got this, I realize I don't. It's maddening.

But brilliant.

After a marathon couple of rehearsal periods this weekend, I'm back at the drawing board all day, listening to this stuff, singing along with it, making notations in the score, doing it again, trying to shove it into my muscle memory, trying once more. Repitition is the soul of art.

Sometimes, after a show, I get this question from an audience member: How do you remember all of those lines. Well, I'll tell you how. I say them 10,000 times before you ever hear them for the first time. It's that simple.

Due to complications beyond anyone's control, we've added a couple of new ensemble members into the show as of yesterday. They're both very good. The show just notched up a bit because of their contributions. Very exciting.

Two of my best friends, John Bader and Jim Barbour, are both off doing gigs of their own right now: Jim in NY doing his Christmas Concert to full houses at the historic 'Birdland' club in that city and John is doing a flat-out, no-holds-barred holiday farce over at the Hudson Theater here in LA. Angie and I are going to see John this Friday on my one night off. Unfortunately, we weren't able to see Jimmy this year. We saw his holiday concert tour last year, however, and it's astonishing. James Barbour has one of the finest voices in the world today. Not America, not NYC, not LA...but the world. If you haven't seen him do it, do so immediately. It's awesome. There's a reason Jim is one of the most highly sought-after Broadway leading men around today, and it ain't because he fits the costumes. He's amazing. And Johnny is back on stage after a long absence (John does a ton of film and commercial work these days). It'll be good to see him back doing what he does so well.

Sorry. Had to plug my buddies there. I don't plug mediocre stuff, though. Both Jim and John have more talent than is usually thought humanly possible. I am very lucky to have such talented friends. For one thing it makes it so much easier to talk to them after I see them perform. I don't have to say things like, "You know, I couldn't see anyone else in that role but you." Or, "Boy, you got close this time, didn't you?" Or, "You were wearing the nicest hat I think I've ever seen tonight."

So...back at it. Turn off the TV, put on the headphones, crank up the CD, pull out the score, dim the lights, concentrate, George, concentrate...see a perfect tree...

See you tomorrow.