You will probably not be shocked to learn that musical theater consists of both singing and acting. Then there is dancing, and the real trick is to be able to do all three at once. Chewing gum at the same time is not recommended. Trying to learn all three at once is definitely not recommended, and this brings us to our first step -
the music rehearsal.
A typical LOGON chorus rehearsal
OK, so it's not exactly like that. You will notice, however, that the men and the women are separated (no mechitza required). This is done in choirs, traditionally, not out of sexism so much as out of a desire to organize the singers in such a way that those singing the same line (parts) of music are standing together. Our chorus is divided into six main sections: the women with the high voices (sopranos, mezzos), women with lower voices (altos and lazy sopranos), men with higher voices (tenors; we aren't even going to discuss castrati here), medium voices (baritones) and, last but not least, the men with the really deep voices (basses).
This arrangement has the advantage of making it easier to sing your line, as most of the people sitting around you are singing, or at least attempting to sing, the same as you. My neighbor helps me tremendously - as soon as i hit a wrong note, she covers her ear with her hand and closes her eyes (oh, the pain!), thus giving me instant feedback.
The disadvantage is that while the musical director is working with one group (la la la la la, basses, not la la la la la), the other five groups are bored. And talking. Or knitting, or reading the newspaper, or practicing their dialogue, or texting, or playing games on their smartphones, or catching a late lunch, or - well, you get the idea. Our long-suffering musical director, David Waldmann, is hard put to keep such a rowdy mob under control.
Another typical LOGON chorus rehearsal
(that's the musical director, on the ostrich)
David, a British import, is famous for his dry wit in these situations. We sing a section of music, and we get:
* That was interesting! This time, let's try singing the notes that are actually written on the page.
* There were some lovely harmonies there. Too bad we were supposed to be singing in unison.
* Very nice, basses - but what show was that from?
* Well done, ladies. Now let's have all the men - and the tenors.
* OK then! The diction was quite good. The notes, not so good.
* Well, not to worry, it's still months\weeks\a few days until the show opens.
* Could we try that again please, with a little less shouting?
And so on and so forth.
But now here's the really cool part: we work and we work and we work. Old mistakes are replaced by new mistakes. We get it almost right one time, and the next time it's .....basses, basses, basses (sigh) - let's try that again. And then, it's almost 10:30 pm, let's try one last time, standing up please - and it works! The harmonies come out exactly right!
The soloists come in exactly on time, and in the right key!
You not sing now, this my solo
It's hard to convey how exciting it is. To be a part of a bigger, better whole. To have succeeded. To feel the collective energy surge. To create, just for a moment, something so beautiful and so rich.
And to know that soon, once we have it down pat (yes, even the basses, sort of), we'll leave the chairs and go down to the floor, mix up the different voices, spread out on the 'stage' and sing our hearts out as we begin to block out the scene.....
and we'll forget almost everything and have to start all over again. Are those tears i see in David's eyes?
And we haven't even started dancing yet.....
MAN OF LA MANCHA opens in Beer Sheva on February 27, 2014. That's 19 weeks from today. But who's counting?
ps We love you, basses, each and every one of you. <3