Blog Archives

Closer to CLOSER: Getting the big picture

Guest Blogger: Andrew Gerle is the author of The Enraged Accompanist’s Guide to the Perfect Audition. A post from Andrew Gerle’s blog on Theatre Music Directors.

So now you have a great cast that is perfectly suited to all the musical challenges the show presents. Congratulations! Time to think big.

When I am music directing a show and am in the middle of rehearsals, I find it is very easy to lose the forest for the trees. I get caught up in the nuts and bolts of preparing actors’ performances on a vowel-to-vowel, cutoff-to-cutoff level and neglect the show as a whole. Most audience members won’t notice if a few diphthongs don’t match; most everyone will notice if whole sections of the show are sluggish, if every song has the same feel, or if the musical energy or style of the evening is lifeless, anachronistic, or simply workmanlike. Starting the rehearsal process with a clear vision for the overall musical through-line of the show will guide every musical choice you make on smaller issues, and will keep actors from ingraining feels, tempi, and stylistic choices that then have to be adjusted near the end of rehearsals when you start doing runs and realize the flow of the show isn’t working.

Musical tone and dramatic tone are intimately related. The entire creative team, from MD to director to all the designers, must be working on the same show. Is it a naturalistic show with characters who are consistently in the moment in their reality? Musical choices for that show would come solely from the dramatic moment – the music is there to express their inner emotional life and must be motivated from the text and the dramatic beat. Is the show a breezy farce, firmly rooted in musical comedy tradition? In that case, musical numbers will very likely be referencing well-known styles, composers, dance crazes, even specific songs and actors. Is it a show that mixes somewhat naturalistic scenes and songs with moments of heightened reality, perhaps including dance sequences? The music must act as the glue or foundation to hold all the disparate parts together and create a unified whole.

I compare the score to Closer Than Ever to a series of ballroom dance routines. Besides having a lot of Latin and other dance influences, this score perhaps more than any other I can think of is a masterpiece of grooves. In a professional ballroom routine, every finger, every angle of the head and turn of the foot must be meticulously rehearsed and set, but in the end feel effortless, unstudied and organic. If I can identify the rhythmic heartbeat of each number, I can be aware of how it plays against its neighbors and control the pace of the evening, moving ahead when the audience is ready, relaxing the feel when they need a break.

Keep reading at Theatre Music Directors.

The Enraged Accompanist’s Guide to the Perfect Audition

Award-winning New York theatre composer and pianist Andrew Gerle pulls no punches in this irreverent, fly-on-the-wall guide to everything you’ve never been taught about auditioning for musical theatre. From the unique perspective of the pianist’s bench, he demystifies the audition process, from how to put together your book and speak to an accompanist to the healthiest and savviest ways to approach the audition marketplace and your career. By better understanding the dynamics of professional auditions, you will learn to present yourself in the strongest, most castable way while remaining true to your own special voice – the one that, in the end, will get you the job.