Theatre New Brunswick’s holiday musical enters its final stages of rehearsal.
By Matt Carter
The days began with a few pots of coffee. Always with coffee. One by one the office staff arrived, followed closely by the actors, designers, directors and a full team of production and supporting staff ready for a new day of rehearsal. Most of them have been putting in eight-hour days, six days a week since the middle of November, shaping what may be the most significant professional theatre production of the year for many New Brunswickers – Theatre New Brunswick’s annual holiday show. This year the company is staging a production of Little Women – The Broadway Musical, and everyone is excited. It might be the season or it might be the show. I think it’s a little of both.
Following a cup of coffee and a little friendly chit-chat, another meticulously scheduled workday would begin. Usually with vocal warmups. A lot of them. As the days went by I came to find a unique comfort in listening to the cast cycle through their morning routines as they prepared to dive into a script they’ve been collectively absorbing for some time now. It came to the point where I could almost identify each member of the show’s ten person cast by the sound of their warmup routine. Some sang scales and others spoke phrases at varying volumes. It was a fun way to start the day and I’m going to miss it.
This production was the fourth one to rehearse at TNB HQ this season, but it was the first musical. When we have a play in rehearsal, I occasionally hear a line now and then when an actor raises their voice. Over time I create my own “inner-monologue theatre show” to accompany the phrases I hear most often while working at my desk. It’s a fun game. But musicals bring a completely unique vibe to our studio space. I hear songs. Actually, I hear every song since my office and the rehearsal studio are separated by a single wall. I’ve become accustomed to the songs and sounds of a musical in rehearsal, but this show is different for me. I never grew tired of the music, the voices and the rough storyline that played out in my head as short scenes grew into full acts over the past few weeks. It was a fun hearing Little Women take shape and I really enjoyed having our office alive with so many great people.
All the actors have now moved from the rehearsal studio to the stage at the Fredericton Playhouse. This is the week it all comes together. All the pieces are sliding into place. The production staff have shipped the props and wardrobe and carpenters have installed the set they’ve been constructing piece by piece over the past few weeks. Lights are being positioned, focused and designed. Things are in high gear and each day is charted out minute by minute.
It takes a lot of people to pull a show like this together. More than twenty paid professionals have invested time and effort into making this production happen before it’s even loaded into a venue. When combined with the staff at the Fredericton Playhouse, the Imperial Theatre in Saint John and the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, TNB’s production of Little Women will have been shaped and delivered through the efforts and skills of over 50 people. And by the time the curtain rises, the cast will have invested close to 120 hours of rehearsal time (not including the hours spent individually rehearsing lines, songs and movement) into a two-hour show they’ll perform a total of eight times. How’s that for perspective? In short, it’s a big show.
Last Friday I missed an opportunity to sit through a complete run of the show, one of the last to take place in the rehearsal hall. I wanted to be there to get the full “working draft” experience before set, costumes and lights were applied, but I changed my mind at the last minute. It felt wrong to me. It would have been a farewell to the people and the sounds that have defined my working day for the past month. Having to sit through a final performance of those songs sung by those voices, before seeing the show on the big stage – let’s just say the emotion in the room would have been peaking. And who wants to cry at work? Especially on a Friday.
Things are quiet in the office now. There is no longer anyone singing. No more piano. I sing to myself sometimes but it’s not the same. It will be another month or so before the lobby here at 55 Whiting Road will be once again filled with the excitement of new friendships. I’m already looking forward to it.
But right now, there is an amazing group of people downtown putting the final touches on the biggest show of the holiday season and I can’t wait to be there when the curtain finally goes up on Thursday night. See you at the theatre!