There’s No Rest for the Wicked
The Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! of Mamma Mia!’s closing night’s performance was still reverberating out at the theater when the Beehive musicians assembled for their run of band-only rehearsals, followed in rapid succession by tech week and the show's opening weekend.
And with that, the pace of this summer’s TourAlongAtHomeTour was kicked into overdrive.
Performing 28 nights in the pit for Mamma Mia! during the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s (ISF) repertory season meant we played a couple of nights here, a couple of nights there, but never more than three nights in a row. Performing for Beehive-The 60s Musical, the September show, is different. We perform every night of the week with the exception of Mondays, when theaters are “dark.” This condensed schedule makes touring at home much more like touring on the road because road touring implies a certain routine: Wake up, eat, drive, set up, eat, perform, tear down, sleep, rinse and repeat, day after day. The performing part lasts 30 minutes if you’re the opening act, or 90 minutes if you’re the main act. The routine can become numbing, so it’s a really good idea to like the performing part of it!
A Musical in Sync with Our Times
ISF’s production of Beehive features a cast of six crazy-talented actor-singers delivering a celebration of the women who made our music—women like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Janis Joplin and many more. Underlying this musical revue is the rise of the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s. And, though created in 1985, Beehive's message is right in sync with our times—more than three decades later—when women are at the forefront of change once again. And that’s good!
The cast of Beehive laying it down! From left to right: Christiana Perrault, Hannah-Jo Weisberg, Adrianna Cleveland, Camille Robinson, Annalise Griswold, and Shelby Griswold. Photo courtesy of ISF, DKM Photography.
The show clips along at a furious pace, pausing occasionally for dialog to set the next scene—and to let the actors catch their breath. I’ve been told that the choreography and costumes are something to see too, but from my view behind the drum kit—in the pit under the stage—I can only imagine the experience the audience soaks in. Just once, when Janice Joplin takes the stage near the end of the show, do I get a glimpse of actor Shelby Griswold performing Me and Bobbie McGee. I also get to see the audience’s reaction. Janice/Shelby crushes it!
Music Director Charlie Ray warming up for the show! Charlie and I share the same birthday! Well OK, the same day, but not in the same century. If only I had had the same degree of competence and direction at his age! Get this: Charlie's still a student at Baldwin Wallace University. Clearly, BW has something good going on!
Did I Mention a Drum Kit? I Did!
Loyal readers may recall that I played an electronic drum kit for Mamma Mia! and that I mentioned it was a wee bit challenging to play. Put it like this: Imagine riding a bike with deflated tires. You get where you need to go, but it’s not as much fun getting there. So it was a relief to be back behind a set of acoustic drums with their wide range of sounds and dynamics back in my toolbox—along with nine microphones strategically placed to bring the kit’s sound to the audience.
As a side note, I haven’t asked the rest of the Beehive band how much they like the volume of my rock drumming in an enclosed space. I think if I did ask them, I would pose it as a survey question… like this!
How much do you like the volume of Todd’s rock drumming?
A. I like it! The volume is just right!
B. He can play as loud as he wants. I can’t get enough of it! He’s awesome!
C. WHAT? CAN YOU TALK LOUDER? MY EARS!! THE DAMN DRUMMER!!!
Well, I don’t really need to ask the question. The answer is clearly B.
Rinse and Repeat
Every musical’s band is tailored for the show. For Beehive, five musicians and a drummer produce a powerful ensemble sound. Playing nightly accomplishes something really important—we get tight, fast, and it’s sooooo satisfying. And that brings me back to the routine of touring…
The rinse and repeat of playing Beehive goes something like this: Wake up, have coffee, work my day job editing documents, pack dinner, and drive to the Y at 5:00 to work out. Arrive at theater no later than 7:00 to warm up. Start the show promptly at 7:30 and end at 9:05 (95 minutes, including intermission). Drive home, have a beer while watching an episode of Better Call Saul, sleep, rinse and repeat. And don’t forget to eat your vegetables! Getting sick on tour is a poor choice. Feel a flu coming on? I’m sorry to hear that! See you at 7:00 for the show, and bring a bucket!
Did you notice I mentioned the length of the show with confident precision? Here’s a little-known theater factoid for you: The length of a show is set by the director during the rehearsal process. Once a show opens, the director is no longer present. The production is now under the full control of the stage manager, who records each performance’s length. If a show begins to vary by more than a minute, long or short, it’s a sign that something’s off and needs to be brought back in line. This is one way the stage manager ensures the integrity of the show remains consistent with the director’s vision and direction.
The Beehive band's favorite pastime at intermission? Working through decks of Trivial Pursuit cards. We absolutely suck at the Lord of the Rings deck. Gandalf or Aragorn are NOT always the answer!
All Good Things Come to an End
So there you have it. A week from today Beehive—and this summer’s TourAlong—will be in the bag. Between Mamma Mia! and Beehive—from late June to the end of September, including rehearsals and performances—I’ve been “on the road” 62 nights.
Inevitably, while playing the last tune of the final performance, a melancholy knocks on my door announcing that something so fun, and so challenging, is ending; every show gets under my skin.
Once you’ve caught the touring bug, it never goes away. It’s an itch that needs a good scratch now and then. Thanks so much to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for taking care of my itch this summer!
Coming up? Unexpected 2018 summer travel experiences and Jellystone National Park in fall!
Until next time… Make Your Own Kind of Music! Ciao!
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