To the Barricades, Vol. 21
Dinah Washington did an amazing jazz standard called "What a Difference a Day Makes". The jukebox in my mind starts playing it every time there is a dramatic positive turnabout from one day to the next - "twenty-four little hours".
With a few clear directions and suggestions from director Claude Giroux, and the patience of the cast members involved with the killer scene change in Act Two of Les Mis, what felt like "crawling up a mountain"on Wednesday, felt synchronous and elegant last night. Maybe I'm being a little hyperbolic, but the difference was significant, and we were able to move along to a run of the show by 8 pm.
Behind the scenes, we are still "storming" and "forming", as people figure out their personal track through the show. It's especially onerous on those who have lots of set piece movements, intermixed with anticipated costume changes and prop requirements. As we go through cue-to-cue starting tonight, we will emerge unscathed into the land of "norming", journeying on to "performing" when we hit the full tech-dress rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"We are in a great place," said Claude at the end of last night's run. "There were moments when I was emotionally connecting in a way that was surprising this early. I'm still buzzing from the Epilogue."
I was the lone adult huddled around the choral microphone in the stage left wings singing "Drink with me". Alexandra, Emily, Holly, Nathalie, Amrita and Noah were there, along with several other youth members of the cast. I had shivers as they sounded so beautiful. I closed my eyes and sang the male part along with all the revolutionaries on stage. I'm still buzzing from that moment this morning.
The choral mics, placed on both sides of the stage, allow those of us not in scenes to supplement the voices. A video monitor allows us to see Susan Lexa conducting from the pit, and a speaker plays the music. At times, it's a little squishy at both locations, especially when there are a lot of us trying to crowd around the microphone and still keep a line of sight to the video monitor. But we make it work, even as ASMs, props and set pieces are moving hither and thither.
Last night's run wasn't perfect. The house units ended up in the wrong spots on a number of occasions, some blocking got changed, and there were some microphone challenges. But we made it through unscathed and a wee bit triumphant, especially after the train wreck of the night before.
"I have to publicly acknowledge the work of Scott (Weber - the audio technician)," said Claude. "This shows sounds better at this point, than any other show I've done here. In fact, there are several moments when it sounds absolutely heavenly. And I'm not exaggerating."
Tonight we begin the cue-to-cue tango, a convergent dance when all the pieces come together for the first time - actors, music, set, lights, effects, flies - and we work through every single cue, sound and lighting shift, and scene change.
"If we get it done and are able to do a run on Sunday, I'll consider that to be a home run," said Claude.
The truth of it is that cue-to-cue rehearsals can be a little unpredictable and excruciatingly slow. The good news is that this is where the actors gets to nail down difficult costume and scene changes, little annoying bits that have been elusive and hard to remember. When we are on the other side of cue-to-cue, the show, and all its intricacies, will have settled in our bones.