Thursday 29 November 2018

Rhymin Time

Just now on CBC Music I heard the Paul McCartney single "Come On To Me" then, streaming Hit Musicals, heard "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof.  I invite you to compare rhymes in the two songs. You might find that too many rhymes like McCartney's drive you nuts. If so, you are convinced that precision of rhyming--the search for pure rhyme--is essential for the selling of any song to its audience. A musical theatre audience, that is. If a character has broken into song, it had better work.
Of course, I have nothing against consuming some good Paul McCartney and listening to pop hits. But when I'm writing a musical, I need to work in a different way, rhyme-wise.
A related point, re Oak Floors! Once in a while someone asks me what style of music I've written. I say, well it's a mixture, or some such thing. Not a great answer, I admit, but I can't think of what else to call it. Until now. It's pop--songs that are simple harmonically, rhythmically, melodically (yikes, enough of that list) but work, maybe, if they have the right drive. Maybe I've held the piece back by trying to make the music for it.
The maybes come thick and fast, in the Oak Floors! trip.
Speaking of which, tomorrow I start a week of determined tour though the whole piece, checking scenes, lines, tunes and lyrics and the rest, preparing for the workshop on December 8th (those seven actors I've hired, if you remember, Dear Reader).
But tonight, The Hobbit opening at Globe Theatre.

Monday 26 November 2018


I caught a cue-to-cue day at rehearsal for The Hobbit at Globe Theatre. "Costume Parade, 4:30" said the schedule. A chance for director, designers, wardrobe people and stage management to see the costumes under the lights. There was much tugging at hairpieces, collars and hems. Many vests and cloaks held open for a fastener check. Show boots tested for ease of movement. All of this happens in a series of conversations in one corner of the stage. When the parade is over, the actors go back to the dressing room. They get the supper break before it's time to get ready for tonight's run of the full show.
I'd learned before that for actors whose aim is to get the show into their bodies, the arrival of the costume--often not until a few days before opening night--is another hill to climb. Imagine working out precisely what your body should do, then tacking on extra weight, re-distribution of balance, wider footprint, more noise, and increased danger of snag. No wonder actors like to get the final versions of their costumes and props as soon as possible in the rehearsal process. 
My introduction to this idea was observing the actor who played Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins in 2015. When everyone else wore all manner of work-out or dance footwear, this actor wore points, as we used to call these long, thin dress shoes that seemed half again as long as our foot. Turns out, these were Mr. Banks' shoes. Might as well start wearing them right now.
During the costume parade the other day, the director wondered if they could try a different wig for Bilbo. Someone from Wardrobe went to get the wig worn by a certain Romeo. As soon as Bilbo put it on, he was inviting the ladies back to the dressing room, etc. All in fun. At this stage in the rehearsal journey, everyone can use a laugh.

Friday 16 November 2018


I'm hearing a director say "find the magic." As in, block it, let it go, find it.
It's what the story needs, what the experience must provide all who build it. Including, as always, audience.
Could be a change of pitch or pace, a move, a new line of sight.
When they do find magic, everybody feels it.

Case in point.
The dragon, Smaug, must die by arrow from Bard, the Master Archer. 
The first idea is to have Gandalf carry the arrow across on its fatal flight to the underbelly. They try this once or twice. One actor tells how they rig it in the circus so that a hard snap of elastic, released from the bow, strikes the arrow home. Probably not enough time to build the rigging, all understand.
This is what they try: Bard the Archer loads his bow, Thrush hovers. Three things happen when the archer lets fly. (1) Thrush whips the bow backwards out of sight. (2) We hear the sound cue: arrow thunking target. (3) Arrow appears from within the massive, five-segment puppet that is Smaug. It works pretty well for first pass or two.
Work continues. The final version may be different. But today they made the killing happen, found the magic that the scene must be.

Friday 2 November 2018


I blurted out at the Smith-Robinson "Affirmation Station" session at the SWG conference recently (oh my god, syllable overload), "Right now two people are reading my new work. They haven't said anything yet, but I'm thrilled."
Truly a writer's best friend, dear readers.
Yes, and then they spoke. Both theatre pros, one provided serious notes on structure, rhyme, purpose, story, musical theatre conventions. The other spoke at the level of feel.
I was grateful for both. Together they found the piece worthy of serious commentary, and affecting.  
Their responses may hinge on what they want from a story in a musical. Every song must move the story along by wrenching one or more characters in a dynamic of wanting and/or not getting. Or the story accumulates rather than systematically builds. (Already these words are hopelessly inadequate. If those two readers read this, they won't recognize the ideas.)
So I'm back to the beauty of having readers. I've noticed--it doesn't take many, especially in the long-term route I seem to be taking with this work, when a single response from a respected source fuels the next chunk of work.
To close on a more specific note, I want to write one more song before I send the script to those actors early next week. I want the song to do some persuading. (Note to self: I'll leave the music out of it for now. Maybe the music dumbs me down!)