And STILL more things that will happen at rehearsal…

The score won’t match…

When doing a MUSICAL…. or even a Play with Music… I promise you that whatever they have said in the script or written in the score – IF there IS a score… will not match any of the following…

a) the CD

b) the current script

c) the director’s vision

e) all of the above

Add to that… the cd won’t match…anything. Frequently it is a concept CD and that means it is very, VERY different from the production you are doing. The production that got altered before Broadway, before the Tour, after the Tour and before the release to amateur companies. It will be extremely different. Don’t count on it – in fact… the best advice is don’t use it. At best it is a basic, simple reference. Move on.

The script will NOT make sense… why would it? I mean, you paid for it, so it should… but believe me, it won’t. There will be typos for sure, but then there will also be ridiculous stage directions – that can only be done on MASSIVE Broadway budgets – and even then they are probably stupid stage directions, so Ignore them and do your own thing. Aside from that… there will be lines attributed to the wrong character or a missing character or someone you didn’t know was in the show… (seriously… ALL of these have happened in shows for which I have paid royalties to perform “their script word for word”) There may EVEN be stage directions that appear as dialogue… yup.

$h!t will be missing… Like a song you expected… or a character in the description list will be missing from the show… or an ENTIRE scene.. yup, once a script went from scene 7 to 9. We all wondered “What happened in Scene 8?”

Here’s the thing…. you roll with the punches, you do what is necessary to create your vision, you IGNORE the stage directions – and if possible, get your cast to ignore them as well and you make the best show you can. Even if it means you have to tweak a few things. Tweak away and get that show done!


What makes the best…?(Part 9)



“What I really want to be… is an Actor.”

Really? Are you sure?

No really? Are you? Cause here’s the deal. It’s a tough job. Sure it can be fun, rewarding and at times even lucrative, but acting is one of the toughest gigs in the whole business of show. Here’s why…

You have to be ready for rejection. Lots of it. Daily. You not only have to be ready for it, you have to almost crave it. You have to be prepared to seek out criticism so that you can grow from it and improve. Not everyone has the guts for that. It’s tough to get rejected at your work on a regular basis and still want to do it each day.

You have to know how to act. And no, people are not just born with “it”. I don’t believe that. You can learn it. Sure, some folks have an innate quality that draws us to their performances, but if you want to be good, and I mean really good, then you’ve got to practice and learn and study and get rejected. And then start all over again. That is the only way to get really good.

You have to do it all – especially these days as film, television and stage demands are so much greater. You have to act, sing, dance, tumble, do voices, fight, crochet, whatever! You’ve got to be able to do it. And not just SAY you can do it, you’ve got to be skilled at it, or don’t say that you are.

You’ve got to be ready to take risks. No everyone was born with a voice ‘like buttah…’ but if you want to act, you’ve got to sing. No actor made a good living staying away from singing. Get some lessons. Learn some repetoire, develop a taste for musicals and Gilbert & Sullivan and all the rest. Know the material and know your strengths and then keep practicing them. Ditto for dance. And whatever other skill you want to put on the bottom of that resume.

When you do get a part, be fun to work with – for heaven’s sake! You want to work again, don’t you? Be on time, be organised, take notes, be prepared and learn your part. Come with ideas and be willing to play, but be ready for a vision that you weren’t expecting and go with it! Nothing pleases an artistic team more than a flexible actor who is willing to grow.

So, if out of all these roles in the 9 parts of this series, if THIS one still stands out for you above all else, then go for it. With gusto. Cause that’s the only way you are going to have any success!

Break a leg!

What makes the best…? (Part 3)

Set Designers are crucial the a show’s success. They are also crucial to the creative process of the director – at least they are to my creative process. No matter what the play or musical is about, if I don’t have a set design, then I can’t see the show coming to life in my head and in turn I will have difficulty in bringing that vision to the cast for them to give it life.


I’m a pretty visual person, but I work kinetically on a play. This means that I need to be able to feel in my gut what is the crux of a scene and give it some truth in the physical relationships of the characters involved. That holds true if it is a musical number or a dramatic, tension filled scene and the spatial relationships of the players can really affect the kinetic feeling of the scene.

A great Set Designer will read the play. Then they’ll read it again and then they’ll talk with the director and eventually be able to give them some plans, either 2D or 3D – preferably both –  to help them show the entire team the world that they will be living and working in for the life of the show. The sooner a Set Designer can provide this, the better. If you don’t know the layout of your apartment, for example, how can you go shopping for furniture?

A superb Set Designer will solve script problems. Sometimes problems that you didn’t even realize were there. They’ll be able to give you solutions to scripts that read more like movies – many authors seem to forget that it is hard to transition from the dining room of a tavern to a seaside in a matter of seconds. Your Set Designer can have creative tools up their sleeve to help to tell the story in a seamless manner. They will also help to tie in the colour palate of your show and give the whole world a real sense of belonging.

Aside from knowledge of building and a good aesthetic sense, a flexible personality is necessary for a great Set Designer. They need to be able to take their artistic sensibilities and skills and apply them to the whole vision of the show. They will consider the movement of the actors, the potential difficulties of costumes and the location and operations of lighting and sound equipment. They can give a director levels to play on and moveable pieces to bring an imaginary world to an audience. And they will probably finish their design long before the other members of the crew will finish theirs. A good set design will inform the whole production – and the whole production’s process.

It’s a big job. And we always need someone to do it. Could that someone be you?

What makes the best….? (Part 2)

Stage Managers are so vital to the success of a show. As many of you dear readers know, we have a little phrase we use to honour our regular Stage Manager, “No Joe, No Show!” And that literally came from the fact that without our talented and organized and discpilined SM, we wouldn’t have a show. But how do you know if you’ve got a good one or not? Or if the show you are watching had a good one? That can be tough, actually.


It’s tough because if the show has a really good SM, then it’s likely you wouldn’t give the job another thought. Many young actors shy away from the responsibility of SM, some for their knowledge of what the job entails, but many for their lack of knowledge of the importance of the role. If anyone ever wishes to direct, then I say, they must first Stage Manage.

A good SM is disciplined, organized and creative. They know how to put their bible of the show together and how to keep track of all the minutia of details that can make or break a rehearsal. An exceptional SM has their binder ready before first rehearsal with media release forms, health and safety forms, extra copies of first rehearsal schedules, contact lists and whatever else might be necessary to answer questions and keep everyone on track.

A good SM can keep the cast AND the crew in line – this includes the Director. So, and exceptional SM has the respect and admiration of the director. They can work well together and the SM knows that if they call a halt to rehearsal for whatever reason, the Director will understand that it was for the good of the show and not meant as a slight to anyone involved. An exceptional SM will be that moderator, note-taker and interpreter of the Director’s vision. Often Directors and Actors (and other creators as a matter of fact) will get caught up in their creation and what they are trying to say or do – so caught up in fact that they may need a translator. If your SM is really good and has been really paying attention, then they already know what you are trying to say even before you say it. And they help make it happen.

In the end, the show belongs to the Stage Manager. It won’t happen without them. No calls are given, no audience is admitted and no curtain goes up without them. You hand over the keys and they control the destiny of the show, so find a good one, nuture them – and while you’re at it… find another one, because the really good ones get snapped up fast!!!

Do you want that kind of responsibility and knowledge of a show??? Then get out there and join a production to learn what it takes to be a Stage Manager!

5, 6, 7, 8!

The beginning of the rehearsal process is filled with trepidation and not just for the actors. The creative team have a lot of questions that they have to answer and they’ve got to be ready for all manner of problems with the script, the score, the rehearsal space – whatever… but hopefully they’ve got a handle on it all and have begun their plans, right? Of course they have.

They’ve copied their scripts, they’ve got the scores, (or at least they are on order), the set is sketched out and costumes are being measured and the choreography is… well… in the choreographers head.

That’s right, there’s generally no guide for the choreographer. No score, no script, no nothing. Except those words in the script that say… [they dance], or in the case of a Shakespeare… [they fight]

So, where does it all come from? And how can you be sure it’s gonna be good? Where’s the inspiration? How is it written out, taught, rehearsed, remembered? Well, sometimes all that’s a tall order to fill.

Just the other week, I began giving some choreography to a group of actors and before I’d begun a step, one of them said, (not too quietly either), “Oh, no, not another jazz square…” Well, the following step was NOT going to be a jazz square, but that little statement epitomizes the challenge of choreography. If an actor’s line in a script is silly or a note is difficult to sing, it isn’t the Director or Music Director’s doing. Sure, the actor can discuss it with them, and perhaps a solution can be found, or sense can be made of it, but if the actor doesn’t like the choreography, well, generally that came directly from the choreographer. Sure, some shows have film versions and some choreographers will lift directly from that source, but generally, I find, they like to create anew, and it can be a pretty daunting task. There’s nothing in the script to guide them – save for the odd stage direction. The only thing they’ve got is the music and often there isn’t a complete version of that. If there IS a complete recording, that can be a godsend. Otherwise it’s just the score, but some choreographers don’t read music and that will make it even more challenging.

It’s always fun to surprise people with something fun and inventive – your cast, your crew, your audience and your colleagues. I know how to read choreography and if I I’m surprised or thrilled by something on a stage, then that means I had an entertaining read at that performance. I’m always striving to provide the same for my colleagues who choreograph – and that means as few jazz squares as possible. And if you don’t know what a jazz square is… well then, you’ve probably never done a musical.

So, now… I’ve got to go find some inspiration for a dance number – again. With NO jazz squares.

Dance a Cachucha – Gondoliers Choreography MTP 2009