Another Musical

Isa told me that her friend invited her to see him perform in a musical. I said sure, get the time and place, and we’ll be there. Sunday rolled around and we trekked out to the valley to see the show.

As luck would have it, I was treated to yet another all-white performance of The Wiz.

The show, comprised of children 8-17, was decent. But like every other student-based performance in L.A. I’ve seen, it had two serious flaws:
canned music and wireless microphones for each singer.
I understand, having a band adds to the expense of a production, but the synergy between the performers and the band makes the show come to life. Performers having to project their voices into a theater keeps the audience engaged.

I sat there in the darkness of a beautiful, intimately-sized theater and watched each young person sing with a mic strapped somewhere to her. The voices weren’t belting out lines or bursting into gospel-type songs; instead they were singing along to canned music that popped on like a karaoke machine hiding somewhere behind the curtain.
Because the energy between the singer and music was lost, the relationship between the audience and the cast was lost as well. We were merely watching children on a stage singing random songs, in the spirit of American Idol.

Even our small Pennsylvania high school managed to scrape together live music for their musicals. In 1986, Barbie Andretti’s Dorothy taught me the challenges of singing in a musical. At times a line was dropped, a cue missed, a glance to the band was needed. Sometimes Dorothy sang too fast; the band scrambled to slow her down, and in her final number, her last word of “home” had to ursurp the band and seemingly last forever. The conductor’s baton was up high, ready to crash down when she finished the word.

It seems technology has rendered this unnecessary for some directors. Worst moment in 2007: watching the Nutcracker Ballet, with music from a cd crackling in the speakers. I was in a beautiful theater at Pepperdine University. I looked in vain for an orchestra pit, and realized I was in for three hours of sheer hell.

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