Anticipation – Dog and Pony: Part 1
When you’re expecting a baby, you go through a range of emotions. Excitement, anticipation, abject terror and, about five or six months into the pregnancy, utter boredom. But, by and large, babies take as long as they’re going to take to “cook.” No matter how much you want the little nipper to show up, opening night is a date known only to the baby. The upside to human babies is you know, going in, that you’re talking about nine months, give or take. The same cannot be said for giving birth to a musical.
The distance between soup and nuts, so to speak, can be, and usually is, years. In many cases, the proverbial nuts never show up at all, but if they do, we of the musical theatre writer ilk consider ourselves very fortunate. By the way, all of these metaphorical shenanigans have nothing to do with whether or not the show is successful. We’re just talking about getting a full production. Success, as they say, is “a whole ‘nother bucket of chicken.” So, given that I find myself feeling very excited – and fortunate! – to have my newest musical going into production soon, I thought I’d do a few blogs about the process “from the inside.”
For starters, some background. The show is called Dog and Pony with music and lyrics by me and book by Rick Elice of Jersey Boys and Peter and the Starcatcher fame. Barry Edelstein, the new artistic director at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, to our great good fortune, read and loved the show and made it a part of his debut season at The Globe. And so I find myself having casting discussions amongst ourselves and with our wonderful director Roger Rees and casting agent Tara Rubin and making rewrites to the show ahead of our April 22nd first day of rehearsal!
The funny thing about giving birth to a musical – setting aside the obvious episiotomy jokes – is that gestation can be long but, when the contractions begin, they come fast and furious. I’m anxious to get into the studio with the amazing cast we’re assembling – much more about them in future blogs – and it seems like April 22nd will never come. But at the same time, there is a great deal to do between now and then. Just from my perspective as composer/lyricist there are contracts to finalize, creative discussions about many aspects of the show (the characters, the orchestrations, the songs, the cast, etc), logistical discussion about all of that stuff and the list goes on and on. And all of this is before one note is taught, one line of dialogue spoken, one costume sewn, one light lit…well, you get the idea.
As for the show itself – more specifics on that in future blogs as well – but writing it with Rick has been a very enjoyable process. He and I spent – and spend – hours talking about the characters and the story, the book scenes, the musical moments and on and on. It has been invaluable in ensuring our characters have the same voices when they speak and when they sing – not the kind of thing you would consciously notice in a show, but when it’s off, you can tell it’s off!
Of course, this is the “honeymoon” blog – the show is headed toward production, everybody is working together, pleased as punch and no dramas have popped up yet – the show is a comedy, so, while it has dramatic moments, even it is not “a drama.” I’m sure there will be difficult moments, disagreements and setbacks ahead as we bring the show to life for the first time – that’s part of the process. But for now, there is anticipation, and work to do – always work to do! But that’s birth for you. Some are rough, some are easy but we go through it anyway knowing that bringing a new “child” into the world is worth the pain, sweat and…occasional blood-curdling scream!