[title of show] :
A Musical Director Guide
A helpful compilation by Philip Eames of advice and difficult corners for the musical direction of Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen’s [title of show]
Late in 2019 I was involved in a production of the remarkable musical [title of show] with a fantastic cast and team but a short run. It featured as a double bill alongside Ordinary Days (the MD Guide for that show is also on this website) and the effort level of detail that went into the production strongly suggested it was worth putting down some of the show’s idiosyncrasies and corners for use in future productions.
[title of show] or [TOS] here for short, is a clever meta-musical about the act of writing itself. Two friends, Hunter and Jeff (actually based on the real life Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen) decide to write and submit the show as an entry into the New York Musical Festival with the help of Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell, and later aim to take it further to Broadway without sacrificing its unique qualities. It explores the creative process: themes of self-doubt, artistic frustration, perseverance, and ultimately about finding one’s place in the world. The plot is structured as a series of vignettes and montages from the writing and production process, and places great emphasis on portraying a ‘genuine’ candid and often informal atmosphere. As such, naturally witty characters that engage in quirky yet relatable banter in a Seinfeld-esque fashion make the backbone of this show.
In terms of musical categories [TOS] arguably stands alone, a fact referenced on stage. It is a watershed moment in small-scale musical theatre, proving highly resonant with creatively inclined audiences. The iconic self-aware element has been explored in more recent shows and song-cycles (often student works) but rarely with the same degree of success, if for no other reason than because [TOS] first explored it so thoroughly. This strikes me as somewhat ironic as one of the show’s themes is about overcoming the doubts associated with creating self-indulgent and derivative work.
For all its cult-like status, the weaknesses of [TOS] are considerable and organically stem from its strengths. Highly dependent on the need to relate and connect, [TOS] often fails to resonate with an unsympathetic general population, who may find it mismatched to their own experiences, ideals and ambitions. This even applies at times to those acquainted with musical theatre. It is well worth bearing your target audience in mind, as an appreciation of the ingenious reference tapestry, high popularity in musical theatre circles, and close-to-home topics can easily blind production teams and casts to the actual limited appeal of the show. As such it is well suited to University/College societies and smaller quirky niche companies due to its low overheads and the access to enthusiastic patrons.
The dialogue can also be quite esoteric at times, and even though this fact is addressed and justified within the show, it may leave audiences confused or disgruntled at missing apparent in-jokes. As it is usually staged in front of relatively small crowds, there is a risk that not enough [TOS] aficionados will be present to provide waves of contagious laughter. If you haven’t already, try watching scenes from Seinfeld with the laugh track removed on YouTube to get a sense of what this is like. To this end it is important that the theatre atmosphere highlights the rapid-fire humour and light-hearted context otherwise audiences may not even get a clear sense what they are watching is comedic. This can lead to an unresponsive house and a very tough performance situation for the actors, who may then rush and leave even less time for laughter breaks.
Finally, the somewhat artificial and rushed conflict/resolution, several false endings, and continuous self-aware concept risk the final act overstaying its welcome. A tight, snappy show is an essential part of the antidote, but combined with any uncertainty about what the show ‘is’, it becomes a flaw that unsympathetic crowds are unlikely to forgive. I mean to be objective here as I truly love the show, and I realise this is all quite critical. But as I said before these weaknesses are largely because of the strengths. The show would not be anywhere near as incredible if it made the kind of necessary concessions to widen its attraction, as prophesied in the closing scene and Nine People’s Favourite Thing. Therefore the main takeaway is to not expect wild attendance or that everyone will enjoy [TOS]. Rather, treat it like a cult classic and aim to perform for those who will find it a hilarious, possibly inspiring theatrical experience.
Firstly, note that there are often major differences between the Cast Recording (CR) and the score, often due to the fact that the recording was made before the show went to Broadway. Listening to the cast soundtrack is a good place to start, however be aware there are some major deviations between score and recording, particularly with the Medley numbers.
Further, multiple revisions of the script exist with minor variations and sometimes these may be sent in the same packet (in the batch we were sent this was the case), so make sure everyone is up to date with the definitive changes.
[TOS] pays off extensive research, as the score and book are packed full of references, some very obscure (one of the things that the characters fret about). Nothing is critically urgent before you begin, but it is an enjoyable exercise for the cast discovering the explanations and learning about the external people/shows being referred to throughout the rehearsal period.
The pianist is assumed to also be the MD in this guide. For a keyboard-only show, [TOS] is generally easy to play. A lot of the accompaniment is simple, repetitive and intuitive. The limited difficulty comes from sudden shifts in tempo, style, time/key signature and some awkward page turns, but once expected and negotiated are not challenging. There is also a unique acting role of the pianist as Larry/Mary and some factoring of comedic nuance into both playing and dialogue is necessary. While the audience will be tolerant of the natural acting limitations of the pianist, a totally withdrawn or robotic dramatic performance will be a problem. This is particularly true of college productions, and as it does not take much attention from a director to improve Larry’s few moments, bad acting and forgotten lines diminish the polish of the show. However, the story won’t be critically affected if you only have access to a good pianist without acting chops. Notably, the on-stage role means the same pianist should be involved with the production throughout, and last minute substitutes will be much less effective.
As listed in the notes below, some songs are better notated than others, but most of the major numbers are essentially fine and the incidental music poses no real challenges. The more difficult songs to practice include: Part of It All, September Song, Development Medleyand Nine People’s Favorite Thing. A familiarity with the sudden shifts in Die Vampire, Die! will help too
The show is a challenging sing, particularly for the men. In order of preference you are looking for:
1) Character suitability
2) Supremely confident part-singers
4) Comedic timing
5) For Hunter/Jeff: Strong high belt and falsetto
For many of these aspects, in an audition doing a reading excerpt is equally important as testing the vocal ability.
***CASTING RANT ***
Perhaps the biggest danger with [title of show] is that it is deceptively simple. On the surface there is a lot of logistical and aesthetic reasons suggesting it is a good production choice:
1) It is a very funny show that music theatre nerds adore.
2) The cast recording is well known and the lyrics and melody are relatively easy and memorable.
3) It has low overheads (four characters, four chairs, four simple costumes, a keyboard and only needs a small theatre).
4) It is a show where the central message is to make the kind of art you want, despite the doubts and opposition.
With this in mind there is a very observable temptation for a small group of musical theatre friends to say ‘Hey, what if we put on [title of show]?’ The belief that they all know the music well, may have had a transcendent experience seeing it live, and that it resonates with them artistically makes it seem like putting on their favourite ‘kick-ass musical’ is an achievable, awesome goal.
However, there are some major problems with this that lead to some very lacklustre productions. Firstly regarding Points 1 and 2, despite the apparent familiarity, [title of show] is actually a very difficult musical.This often means a massive underestimation of the rehearsal time required. It’s the kind of show that once it eventually gets to the point where it runs smoothly, it then needs at least another month to settle. [TOS] contains very complex harmonies (that aren’t likely to be achieved singing along to the cast recording) and extensive dialogue that needs to be perfectly and tightly paced. It also requires above-average levels of stamina and nuanced comic timing.
Despite its small practical scale (Point 3), I have seen productions where the performance space required was also vastly underestimated; it doesn’t reduce well to a Cabaret-style show, but needs clear spaces for each apartment and inventive and dynamic choreography in all major songs. Even the small-scale prop and costume demands require careful thought, as well as the inclusion of staging and technological elements/sound effects.
Finally, regarding Point 4, there is an important contradiction inherent in the show. While it is literally a story about four friends deciding to make their art, it is still a staged production and is totally bound by the rules of good casting. As with all shows casting should be about getting the best available talent, particularly in regards to character suitability. The biggest problem in the above ‘lets put it on’ situation is the temptation for the group of friends to implicitly cast themselves.
Unfortunately for [TOS] there is an extreme dependence on character, more so than any other factor, and being a music theatre nerd who loves the show and enjoys bantering does not at all qualify one for a role. Think of applying this kind of process with a set group of random music theatre people to show like Avenue Q or Les Mis, where someone is shoehorned inappropriately into playing Nicky/Valjean because they simply wanted it, or just needed a role. Hunter, Jeff, Heidi and Susan are all based on their real-life counterparts, not tropes, leaving a notoriously narrow spectrum of character interpretation and chemistry.
So the moral is to HOLD SERIOUS AUDITIONS! Or at the very least invite those who you honestly and objectively believe would fit the characters. The distancing of the producers from the cast in [TOS] is essential, because it is highly unlikely that four friends will suitably match all four roles, to say nothing of also needing the ability to self-direct. If you are dead-set on being in your own production, have some external/unbiased adjudicators/mentors give you their opinion on if you are indeed the best choice.
I realise this advice may attack your [TOS] dreams but, being brutally honest, the worst productions are consistently those that are founded on nepotistic casting and a serious underestimation of the show’s difficulty. Approach these carefully and the show should come to life by itself.
Range: C3-B4 (Belt) with (D5 Falsetto*) *Interchangeable between Hunter and Jeff
Hunter is arguably the central character of the show. Impulsive and intense, he is the author of the book. Hunter leads the show’s creation, bounces off the others, and fuels most of the tensions. Larger than life yet somewhat directionless, he often needs both prompting and reigning in. Although Susan rivals his wit and penchant for absurdity, the sheer stage time of Hunter’s character makes him the show’s driving force.
It is not surprising that Hunter is a challenge to cast well. He is required to portray the widest array of moods, play additional ‘characters’ (e.g. Original Musical), and have impressive stamina. In an audition particularly check out his upper tessitura, falsetto and do a read of some of Original Musical. You are looking for someone radiating barely-contained energy, yet able to capture sullen and frustrated well.
Range: B2-G4 (Belt) with (B4 Falsetto*)
Jeff is the foil to Hunter’s boundless enthusiasm. A talented, fastidious composer, Jeff is resistant to Hunter’s literal flights of wild abandon, more often than not offering sharp rebukes. Unbending, he ultimately serves as the defender of the musical’s integrity in the face of commercial pressures.
Jeff needs to deliver his best lines with pedantry, sarcasm and innocent optimism. Unlike Hunter he will be direct and particular. Although generally assigned the lowest harmonies a strong upper register will still be needed, as is a good ear for part-singing.
Range: F3-F5. Technically low E3’s are used in the Development Medley but these are supported by everyone else. A good low G3 is workable for casting Heidi)
Heidi is the established performer of the group and a Broadway veteran, albeit in minor understudy roles. Newly inducted into the group by Jeff, her friendly awkwardness is endearing and she soon fits right in. While not as deliberately outrageous as Susan, her direct, innocuous comments are still hilarious. However as per her character, Heidi shines most in the singing, she is almost always the upper part (usually the melody), and is given the only two solos in the show; Way Back to Then and I Am Playing Me. Interestingly, while the others are hoping to ‘make it big’, Heidi has a unique choice to make, being torn between her moderately successful Broadway path and ‘downgrading’ to the group’s risky venture.
To a decent singer, Heidi’s part will not be considered difficult or extreme in terms of range or harmony, but her voice is very prominently featured and must be the most polished and assured. She should stand out clearly as the better singer against Susan for character purposes (or at least have a Susan who can hide it). Once those requirements are met, aim for someone who epitomises sweet, awkward and down-to-earth.
Range: E3 – C5 (comically up to F/Gb5)
Susan is the outlying member of the cast. Essentially the very opposite of Heidi and an office manager by day, Susan views the show as a creative outlet. She is plagued by self-doubt, particularly about her singing abilities, and she shields this with her loud, flamboyant attitude and madcap wit that meshes well with Hunter
Although she needs to sing in close harmony, Susan’s featured material is often spoken or relatively straightforward. Die Vampire, Die! is a great song to test this all out, combining the monologue and singing. Pay very close attention to her comic timing and style, like Hunter she should be a ball of creative energy, creating a fiery pair that contrasts against the more reserved Heidi/Jeff duo.
Range: Some basic singing ability.
As noted earlier, they will be onstage ‘acting’ as the Larry/Mary the pianist for the duration of the show. Apart from playing, singing the starting pitches in Filling Out the Form is required, as well as the occasional engagement in the dialogue
[TOS] is a little unusual in that despite having a small cast of just four, there are still two main protagonists in Hunter and Jeff. This means that for both singing and dialogue Heidi/Susan feature considerably less, particularly in the show’s first half. It is also worth noting that both the guys will be required physically on stage for almost the entire show with only one small break during Secondary Characters.
Most rehearsals will need all four characters there, but there is some room for dedicated Hunter-Jeff sessions, both in learning music (Two Nobodies, Original Musical, Part of it All) and running their duo scenes. As the joke suggests in Secondary Characters, there is no substantial Susan/Heidi only dialogue, and their two songs are not particularly challenging, and can be worked into general rehearsals. Further, you’ll probably find Heidi manages her numbers on her own.
With the high reliance on snappy banter and chemistry the show has little tolerance for cast absences during rehearsals. At mid-to-late stages if Hunter or Jeff are not able to be present there is little point rehearsing. However, given the small-scale of the production, if you have a flexible venue and schedules, it is very worth keeping times flexible to accommodate. Both dedicated music and dialogue/stage rehearsals are needed for this show, so if you as the MD/pianist can’t make it on occasion, the cast will still have plenty to do.
Due to the difficulty, [TOS] rewards tackling the major ensemble numbers early. Untitled Opening Number works well as an easier first song to work on, but Monkeys and Playbills, Die Vampire Die! September Song, Development Medley and Nine People’s Favorite Thing all pose significant hurdles. Additionally, they are likely to be saddled later with demanding movement; so learning the music solidly should be the first priority. Allow quite a few rehearsals for these to settle and it is worth running them all intermittently to keep them fresh as things progress.
Other minor ensemble songs can be left to the mid-rehearsal process. This particularly includes those that contain lots of vamping under dialogue that requires a degree of script familiarity first. Some of these numbers pose challenges but others are very incidental and won’t need much time at all.
The most important thing to remember is that once the show is off-book and staged, a substantial period of running it is essential to solidify all the elements. I would suggest a rough 30:30:20:20 schedule ratio of Music, Blocking, Revising and Running. As an MD, insist your singers know their harmonies by the next rehearsal and immediately begin testing them from memory.
[TOS] logically follows the production process of a musical and contains two broad structural halves. The first focuses on the creation of the show’s first version, up until The Mailbox. The second tracks its success, frustrations and further development from the Festival until Broadway, implied to be where it ends, but with the implication that it met with more success, given it has reached the present theatre.
Generally, songs are interspersed evenly between ample dialogue and recorded audio scene changes. There is a great mix of musical contrast and dramatic requirements within the numbers as well as the major high-energy ensemble numbers are balanced out by the occasional stand-and-sing duets. Most of the plot development occurs in the dialogue, making dialogue-only rehearsals a great idea to provide a sense of the dramatic arc. In this light, the colourful variety of music serves to punctuate this at pertinent intervals.
However, without an intermission [TOS] is a show that pushes at the limit of audience attention spans. This is not helped by a distinct change of pace after the Montage, with a bracket of dialogue heavy (Keeping the Ball), slower (A Way Back to Then) and less dynamic (Change It/Awkward Photo Shoot) numbers until Nine People’s Favorite Thing picks it up again. In a sloppy show, it can be somewhat tense as the audience sees a return in the Finale to the never-ending low-energy vein that has now overstayed its welcome.
The score’s indications as to which character sings what is generally clear, but are sometimes inconsistent between numbers. Heidi and Hunter are usually intended to be the higher voices, but in a lot of places Hunter and Jeff can be swapped, to give the former a rest from the very high notes, or to share the load generally. If your Jeff is by far the stronger high singer, a lot of this material is interchangeable. The same is technically true of Susan and Heidi, but as the latter is playing the accomplished professional singer (who also sings the only two solo numbers in the show), there are no obvious reasons for this switch.
Nb: C4=Middle C
1. Untitled Opening Number (All)
Untitled Opening Number is a fitting opening to a self-aware musical, with the opening line now somewhat iconic (‘A-D-D-D-D-F#-A will be the first notes of our show’). While not particularly difficult in terms of harmonies, Untitled suitably sets the tone for the show and requires short sharp staging and a high degree of polish. Getting the music learnt early is a very achievable task.
b.8: Ensure the voices drive the tempo fluctuations here, there’s not much in the piano part for them to follow there.
b.32-33: The CR has the D Major chord on the 1st beat of b.33, which avoids a lot of confusion with the landing of ‘So.’
b.51: The CR piano part is more embellished. Similarly at b.55.
b.60-61: Double the RH octaves up on ‘co-pa-tion.’
b.64: The women should sing an A4 instead of A3.
b.72-74: It may be more convenient for Jeff to take the upper line here.
b.78: Commence the glissando on the 2nd beat.
b.83-87: Jeff is written as the upper part here, doubling Susan. He could also simply remain with Hunter if range is a problem.
b.90-93: Here Hunter’s line is higher than Susan’s which double’s Jeff. If you want to preserve stamina, an easier option is to have the men double the Jeff line and swap Susan to Hunter’s line.
2. Two Nobodies In New York (Hunter/Jeff)
The first duet between Hunter and Jeff is the easiest, with intuitive harmonic content that repeats consistently and ample unison singing. The biggest challenge will be the memorisation of lyrics after ‘and is art a springboard for fame?’ as it is deceptively similar in intent and melody. This is a good piece to start with in the Hunter/Jeff rehearsals, and they will likely be able to do it justice already.
b.44: The high G in the LH piano part won’t be missed. Similarly at b.48.
b.75: Make sure Jeff is rhythmical with his counting.
b.82: As it requires a sudden chord change, getting out of this vamp requires a clear and decisive visual cue from Jeff.
b.88-89: Finding the pitches after shouting ‘Leader of the Pack!’ requires some practice. As per the CR, doubling the LH D’s in b.88 can assist with this.
b.114-119: This passage can be swapped. A sustained high B is required for the upper line (Hunter) here.
b.118: Repeat the RH figuration of b.114.
3. An Original Musical (Hunter/Jeff)
The score is significantly different to the CR, with extensive additional dialogue and alternate bridges. There are a number of problems with the score, particularly as the structure of the vamps is not very clear (outlined separately below), and the accompaniment is the worst in the entire show by a considerable margin. It includes a lot of wrong harmonies as noted below and makes playing it literally an uncomfortable, alien experience, as opposed to a relaxed funk. I would strongly advise not attempting it until the adjustments have been made. Despite the musical simplicity, it will require a lot of practice and dialogue fluency for everyone involved to feel secure with exiting the vamps. Once the pianist has decided to exit, the pace must be predictably snappy, with no room for dramatic pauses.
b.1-2 (3x or more if dialogue does not start on 2nd time)
b.1-2 (Vamp until cue. Out after b.1)
b.13-15 (Vamp until cue. Out after b.13)
b.25-26 (Vamp until cue. Out after b.25 best, but with fast dialogue b.26 is ok)
4th Vamp (NB: This is the most difficult)
The CR solution:
b.69-70 (Just do the basic b.13-14 vamp here. Out after b.69)
b.71 (Omit this vamp and instead use LH G2, on beat 1, and Octave D2-3 quavers on beat 2, 2.5, 3.5, 4 and 4.5)
b.5: Omit LH.
b.6: Omit Grace notes. RH Harmony is B3, D4, E4, G4
b.7: RH Harmony is Bb3, C4, Eb4 (!), G4
b.8: RH harmony is B3, D4, E4, G4.
b.9: LH Low D1 on beat 1 and 3. D2 on beat 2.5. Remove RH tie between beat 2-3, change the D4 to a crotchet and add a C4 on beat 4.5.
b.10: Add a G4 to the RH chords.
b.11: RH Harmony is Bb3, C4, Eb4 (!), G4
b.12: Play RH G major chord on beat 1. LH omit beat 2.5.
b.13: Omit Grace notes. RH Harmony is B3, D4, E4, G4
b.15: Add a G4 to the RH chords.
b.17: Add a Low D1 to the LH and repeat as five quavers with the RH chords.
b.18: Omit beat 1 chord. RH Harmony is B3, D4, E4, G4
b.19: Omit beat 1 chord. RH Harmony is Bb3, C4, Eb4 (!), G4
b.20: Omit beat 1 chord. RH Harmony is B3, D4, E4, G4
b.21: Add low D1 to the LH on beat 1 and 3. Omit beat 3.5. Add low F/F#1’s on beat 4/4.5.
b.24: RH has four quavers from beat 3: B4, Bb4, A4, G4. LH has a Low D1 on beat 3 and D2 on beat 4. Omit LH beat 4.5.
b.26: Variation vamp has an extra RH chord on beat 4. Similarly with b.28.
b.27: Variation vamp has an extra RH chord on beat 1.
b.29: For clarity as to when the vamp has been exited, double the LH in lower octaves.
b.30: The LH has additional notes as quavers from beat 2.5: C3 G2, A2, Bb2, A2.
b.33: RH has Bb octaves on beat 4.5.
b.34: RH has G octaves instead of triad on beat 1. Omit beat 1.5. LH has additional notes as quavers from beat 2.5: C2, G1, A1, Bb1, A1.
b.36: D2/3 Octaves in the LH.
b.37: An awful bar. LH has D1 on beat 1, D2 on beat 2 and D1 on beat 2.5. The RH beat 1 chord should have C5 and D5 as well as F5, the beat 2 chord should have a C5 and beat 2.5 have A4, C#5 and D5 as well as G5.
b.62-68: Notated RH accompaniment is awful. Either improvise or repeat b.54-61 again, etc.
b.69: The RH chord should be C#4, D4 and G4.
b.71: Ignore what is written, and omit RH entirely. LH Beat 1 is G2. Beat 2-3 is D2/3 Octaves as a syncopated quaver-crotchet-quaver figure and beat 4 is another two D2/3 quavers.
b.72: Add a Low D1 to the LH and repeat as five quavers with the RH chords.
b.76: Add a LH D2 on beat 3 and D1 on beat 4.
b.77: Move the beat 2 chord to beat 1.5
b.78: Play beat 2 chord also on beat 1.
b.79-80: Play LH down an octave.
4. Monkeys and Playbills (All)
This number is quite virtuosic for the singers with its rapid-fire lyric alternation between pairs. While Hunter/Susan sing the narrative lines of a story about a monkey on a speedboat, Jeff/Heidi interject the lyrics that also happen to be playbill titles. It demands considerable stagecraft to coordinate the two groups. If the venue permits the playbill slideshow will make things easier but regardless it should be among the first to be learnt and memorised. If too problematic, certain passages as mentioned below can be made a little easier by having everyone sing everything or moved to just one pair for a moment, but doing this too much will defeat the purpose of the split groups. The score is easy to sight read on piano, and basically serviceable with only minor adjustments, making it a good early piece to work on.
b.1: An A3 on beat 1 is needed on repeats to link the last Bb of b.4.
b.1/b.3: Staccato the first dyad.
b.4: Repeat the low A1 on beat 4 as per b.2.
b.1-36: Make sure the dialogue is well-timed, particularly between singing passages. As it is quite slow and predictable generally this shouldn’t be a problem, the CR repeats the first vamp 5 times.
b.36: ‘Ready?’ does not need to be pitched.
b.37: Make sure Susan is clear on her ‘Go’ direction, for the sake of both the piano and cast.
b.48: The ‘in’ is difficult for Hunter/Susan to get – if it remains unreliable perhaps move it up to Jeff/Heidi.
b.68: As per the CR, play this as an arpeggio before Susan enters.
b.71: Make sure the ‘dude’ entry is well-coordinated, as is b.73.
b.89: Make sure the ensemble is extremely tight with their ‘But’ entry.
b.91: Staccato articulations on both octaves here.
b.96: The last quaver RH is omitted – sounding instead on the first beat of the next bar. Similarly at b.98 and b.100.
b.112-118: The notes are all correct in the vocal parts, but it is unintuitive due to the fact that for the first time in the song it breaks from the on-stage mixed pairs to men vs. women. Adding to this are two formatting errors: For the first 3 bars, the stem-up notes and generally higher notes are actually to be sung by the men and are linked to the lower lyrics in each stave. From b.115, this is corrected and the men sing the stem-down notes, which are aligned to the lower lyrics as normal. Generally (as the CR shows) the women are supposed to sing the slower lines. Highlighting who sings what can help clarify this visually in the early stages.
5. The Tony Award Song (Hunter/Jeff)
This song fragment is a very brief attempt by Hunter at an over-the-top ballad that clearly didn’t make the cut for the show. Just as the song begins to build Jeff interrupts, but it needs to take him a good 10 seconds of genuine confusion to realise what is happening. The CR slightly alters the joke to be a song that was not supposed to be included as a track.
b.1: Arpeggiate the first chord.
b.2: Beat 4.5 contains an F2 in the LH.
b.5: Rather than the semiquavers continue the chord pattern as per the CR.
b.6: This bar isn’t needed in the CR, but it could be useful if a larger stage is used. The music should be naturally cut off before the end of the bar whenever Jeff interrupts.
b.8-9: This is difficult to start up again and stage convincingly. It takes a bit of coordination practice between the piano and Hunter and how you go about this depends on sightlines and how easy it is for them to conspire to start up again. By default the glissando should set if off after a very small pause after the dialogue, and again needs to be naturally cut-off by Jeff before the end. Playing and singing like it intends to be stopped abruptly will obviously fall very flat.
6. Part of It All (Hunter/Jeff)
Part of It All is the final Hunter/Jeff duet in the show, and is slightly more demanding than Two Nobodies, but not by much. Like Original Musical it differs significantly in the CR, with different lyrics, different music, and cuts at various points as outlined below. None of the changes are difficult to learn, but as the material sounds similar it is worth flagging with the singers so they don’t internalise the CR beforehand. While the melody is angular, wordy and uses a lot of semiquavers and tied notes, the overall vibe is intuitive and quasi-recitative in style. As such it flows easily, particularly in the first half. Changes aside the piano part is quite accurate.
b.12: In the CR, the RH C on beat 2.5 is a quaver, with the F sounding on beat 3.
b.16: In the CR, the RH D-Bb-F semiquavers on beat 2 are shifted one semiquaver later, and the G is omitted, as per to the regular pattern.
b.24: Beat 4.5 should have a regular C3 upbeat.
b.25-32: The piano part is the same in the CR, but the lyrics are different.
b.33-36: Has different music and lyrics to the CR, most notably with the 5/4 bars and mention of the musical Wicked. If it is not abundantly clear, the ‘Popular’ line is a reference to this number from the show.
b.46: The CR omits the octaves on beat 2 and 3.
b.53-54: In the CR, the lower line is a solo for Jeff, while the upper F is held by Hunter as a descant as dotted minim – two quaver – dotted minim pattern singing ‘Part of it all.’
b.55-56: The reverse to the above is true here – Jeff sings the same descant while Hunter solos.
b.57-63: These bars are omitted in the CR.
b.67: The ‘Shields and Yarnell!’ mime reference is omitted in the CR. It should obviously be reflected in the staging.
b.79: Omit the piano quavers on beat 4, as per the CR, and let the singers negotiate the ‘and just’ entry.
b.80: The RH beat 1 chord is played as 3 semiquavers (F4-Ab3-C4) in the CR, which better articulates the tempo.
b.81: On beat 4 add alternating F octaves in the LH.
b.84-87: This is a very long and challenging note for both singers – put the most suitable vocalist on the higher note and possibly omit bar 86 if needed.
7. I Am Playing Me (Heidi/All)
This is a fun number that captures the self-aware essence of the [TOS]. Jeff looks on as Heidi sings and he could have a coordinating role between Heidi and Larry, Notably in the CR Heidi sings during the bridge while the Susan/Hunter dialogue continues, which has advantages and drawbacks. In terms of benefits having Heidi sing continues the song rather than just having Larry play while they stand around awkwardly. Even in darkness this can look and sound odd, as the continuity provided by the piano is disrupted by the lack of voice. The downside is the clash of important dialogue and singing. I would recommend Heidi’s microphone be turned down, and as long as she can still be seen and vaguely heard the intelligibility of the lyrics is not important provided the dramatic integrity of the scene is preserved.
The piano part varies substantially from the CR and unfortunately is a poorly simplified reduction at times. For the bridge, to achieve an approximation of this in the piano part means repeating the b.35 vamp 3 times. The CR also winds it down naturally and stops on beat 1, which is less jarring than the random cut-off indicated. However, I would recommend notating the CR’s bridge (or at least vary the score) to get to the full effect.
b.2: Omit chord on beat 4.5 – instead it sounds on beat 1 of the next bar. Similarly in b.3.
b.5: Sound the chord on beat 2 also on beat 1.
b.7: Only play the notes on beat 3, not 2.5
b.10-b.11: Omit both chords on beat 3.5 of both bars, sound on beat 4. Similarly on b.19.
b.12-13: Weakly notated bars, the CR is much stronger, as notated below.
b.14: Play beat 2 RH chord on beat 1 and 3.
b.15: Repeat RH chord of beat 3.5 on beat 4.5.
b.16: Play beat 2 RH chord on beat 1.
b.22-36: The bridge passage (lyrics below) requires transcription or approximation as outlined above. At b.25 in the CR Jeff says ‘Lets hear the bridge’. The Hunter/Susan dialogue here needs to be very snappy to avoid inane vamping. The CR does this well, but as it’s a lengthy speaking passage with no checkpoints, micro delays between lines really add up in practice.
b.36: On the final time this is better if stopped on beat 1, as per the CR.
b.37: Double the bass with lower octaves.
b.39: Repeat the beat 3 RH chord on the last semiquaver of the beat. Also repeat the B on beat 4.5.
b.40: Sound the C major chord down an octave in the RH on beat 4.
b.41: Vocal part error: ‘I Guess I’ll’ should be shifted evenly one semiquaver later. Added CR filigree in the piano with those lyrics: [grace notes D4-Eb4]-D4-C4.
b.42: ‘And’ should fall on beat 3.5.
b.43: As per the CR ‘best of the rest’ will likely come out as triplets.
b.44: LH E octave alternation (high-low) on beat 2.5 and 3.
b.45: Omit RH entirely except for tied first chord. LH starts on beat 2 and ascends in crotchet octaves A – B- C#.
b.46: Major harmonic errors in this bar: Beat 1 and 4 LH should be D octaves, RH chords are supposed to be D Major 1st inversion triads starting on F#3.
b.47: Play the beat 4 RH chord on beat 2 also.
b.48: Omit RH chord on beat 1.
b.51-52: In the CR Heidi has a little filigree here. It’s worth including this to again avoid the standing around effect.
b.52: Omit LH chord on beat 3.
I Am Playing Me Bridge Lyrics:
I insist I could make em’ misty/
Hiding inside Miss Anna Christie/
And lord knows I could raise the roof/
Playing the maid that goofs in Tartuffe/
And I could be awesome playing a dude/
In the title role of the mystery of Edwin Drood/
Ooh, Ooh, Ooh
8. What Kind of Girl Is She? (Heidi/Susan)
This first duet between the girls is laid-back and straightforward, and interestingly the only time in the show when two characters that aren’t physically co-present sing together. The simple bossa nova groove in the piano plays itself, but there are occasional differences to sort out before rehearsal, particularly the middle bridge of dialogue as discussed below.
b.14: In the CR the LH on beat 4 is a crotchet octave C2/3 naturals.
b.16: The RH is omitted for contrast in the CR.
b.17: In the CR Heidi sings repeated D4’s. Don’t bother with the low F#.
b.20: Rearticulate the RH G#3 on beat 4.5 to lead up to the A#3.
b.23: An extra chord is required on beat 1 (same chord from beat 2).
b.30-42: These bars are significantly different in the CR and to be honest, I think they work much better than what’s written, being all dialogue and quiet underscore. The melody notated is awkwardly unintuitive and removes some of the dramatic flexibility of the spoken version. The CR also only takes 8 bars to do go through its similar material. If so the piano part basically restarts the b.27-30 accompaniment at b.29, and repeats it two and a half times – vamping the 2nd bar as a safety.
b.43-44: The piano accompaniment is oddly sparse here in the score, fill it out more as per the CR and take the RH down an octave.
b.44: If this is not obvious ‘I need your shoe’ (not shoes!) is a reference to Into the Woods, (from A Very Nice Prince) and should be said with the same degree of panic to make the joke to land for those who will get it.
b.45: Use the beat 2 RH chord as the chord on beat 1 also.
b.54-55: In the CR Heidi sings and holds a single G4 on ‘she’ while Susan holds an ‘E4.’ While more angular, the score’s more embellished harmony works well too.
b.56-57: Arpeggiate these chords.
9. Flying (Instrumental/All)
This curious, intentionally jarring transition leads to the artistic doubt explored in the following number – Die Vampire, Die! It underscores considerable dialogue and while the notation might seem fairly complex and the whole tone scales take a bit of coordination, as long as the contours are followed the accompaniment does not need to be perfectly literal to be effective. However, ensure the dialogue is extremely snappy and the overall spectacle should be full of imaginative wonderment despite Jeff’s disruptions. As such, the accompaniment doesn’t really add much if incessant vamps are needed.
b.2: Beat 4, the repeated Gb always struck me as disruptive to the gestural flow of the line. I always just omitted it and bounced straight back up technically missing a semiquaver triplet. Similarly at b.6.
b.3: Depending on the dialogue, if you regularly find yourself stuck on bar 3 for a long time, perhaps consider an extra repeat of b.1-2.
b.4: This bar should not be vamped exhaustively – it should be Heidi’s auditory cue to begin ‘flying’.
b.7-16: This is a suitable amount of music for the dialogue if it is tight (NB: The crotchet beat is relatively slow). It is important to match the dialogue roughly to the bars, otherwise the cast will get increasingly out of sync. The piano has some leeway on correcting this, but stress to the cast that there is little room for pauses.
b.17-21: This can be tricky to time and comes only with practice. The duration of the tremolo notes doesn’t need to be exact, however, the cut-off particularly needs great comic timing from both Hunter and the piano.
10. Die Vampire, Die! (All)
Die Vampire, Die! is the second major number blending dramatic contrasts, difficult harmonies, dialogue, staging and choreography, but it does not need to be among the first to be rehearsed. Your Susan should hopefully have/will have most of the dialogue from the CR, and the music is fairly flexible with its pacing. Note the top line here is always Susan, while the other three are together on the bottom stave, with the men actually at pitch. It is notably a very high sing in falsetto for both Hunter/Jeff at times, and swapping parts to whoever is best suited is important. Although there are substantial differences from the CR, particularly the Pygmy vampire section, the score should be the main reference here. However, there is an important vocal readjustment to be made in the second last bar.
b.5: Be clear with your articulation when you are on your last repeat. Have Susan carefully place her ‘help me out, y’all’ at the start of a bar to avoid an awkward pause by having to loop round again.
b.6: Add a G2 upbeat in the LH on beat 4.5.
b.7-8: Repeat the RH beat 2 chord on beat 1, similarly with b. 8, b. 11 and b. 12, b.27 and b.28.
b.8: Add an A3 to beat 3.5.
b.39: Have both Hunter/Jeff sing the bottom part in falsetto (or split if comfortable). The falsetto continues until b.55.
b.47-54: This is very high and requires your strongest falsetto singer out of Hunter/Jeff on the middle part (going up to a high D5). If all else fails, I guess try for some inversions, taking the upper part of two down an octave.
b.55: I found it was difficult for the back-up to remember to ‘Ooh’ after the difficult music prior.
b.60: Also falsetto and difficult to get out of nowhere. Get it solid with practice in isolation.
b.65: This is a tough bar to judge the exit and practice with Susan is required. The pause between her dialogue and ‘Or they might say’ should naturally be quite short, which means you have to be playing b.66 while she’s still talking. However, err on the side of an extra vamp if it doesn’t work reliably, as its crucial she doesn’t rush the rhythm while setting the next tempo for the others.
b.67-74: This section in the score is considerably different from the CR, but should be used. It is too uncomfortably high for the guys to sing so invert the parts – Heidi sings the middle notated line, Hunter the lowest, and Jeff the highest down an octave. You can revert to the usual order in b.73-74 or retain it.
b.75-93: Note that Susan’s dialogue differs slightly from the CR.
b.94: Like b.5, also a little tricky to coordinate with the added problem of a ritenuto and empty beat 4. Follow the cast for the ‘Morte vampir, morte’.
b.118-121: Make sure this whole tone parallel harmonic passage is well-tuned.
b.122-130: The score is confusing in its part allocation. I would suggest Heidi takes the top harmony part and Hunter the middle (the opposite to what is noted). Failing that, have Hunter sing the top line down an octave.
b.131-132: The final ‘Die Vampire, Die!’ is a real mess for voice leading. My transcription of the CR: Heidi sings Bb4 for the first 3 notes, then G5 and A5, Susan sings F4, E4, G4, E4, F#4, Hunter alternates D4, C4, D4, C4, D4. Jeff sings the lower line as written.
11. Filling Out the Form (All)
A fun little number mostly made up of backup vocal underscoring. It also features Larry rehearsing with the cast, where he will need to be most confident and interactive. Filling Out the Form is easy to learn and can be taught quickly, however to run the song in its entirety Hunter and to a lesser extent Susan will need to be fluent with their dialogue.
b.1: Heidi and Jeff commence singing on b.1 in the CR. They won’t have their note here however, so doing as written and starting them two bars afterwards is ideal.
b.4: Although the vamp repeats work well, make sure Hunter is ready and predictable with his cue lines for b.5. Similarly at b.9.
b.5-6: This is repeated in the CR, but for the sake of time there is no need to do this. Similarly with b.10-11, where also in the CR, Susan makes guitar twang sounds, but this is not likely to be needed.
b.11: Note that Hunter’s harmony differs slightly, but this isn’t too critical.
b.14: Susan’s timing of the three ‘Will it?’ is difficult to line up, and having to loop around the vamp again is awkward, but so is rushing the speech to get them out in time. Practice and crystallisation of dialogue from b.13 is the only way to get this solid.
b.16: Larry should not finish this bar neatly, break it off as you would when you have something to say. Similarly at b.26.
b.18-19: The accompaniment doesn’t need to be played in full. As per the CR a single chord for each bar works. The objective is to have this feel like rehearsing is taking place.
b.29: Heidi says ‘me’ rather than ‘Heidi’ in the CR, which seems like an effective and less staged response.
b.40: Repeat the LH chord on beat 2.5.
b.41: As per the CR, have the cast exaggerate the diphthong of ‘ma’ at the end of ‘form’.
11. The Mailbox (Instrumental/All)
The piano part of this underscore is a clear reference to ‘Into the Woods’ (as is Susan’s otherwise confusing line of ‘Don’t say that of course you were meant to have children’.) It should be the same distinctive, brisk tempo and attack despite the 5/4. This ends the first ‘Act’ of the show, marking the end of the script’s initial creation. From this point forward, the show switches its attention to the performance and development aspects.
b.8: There is a lot of dialogue so the tempo here can drop back significantly, likely to be less than half the previous speed.
b.12: Add a rallentando to make this fit with the dialogue if required.
12. Montage Part 1: September Song (All)
The Montage is the third major number, but due to its significant differences to the CR, heavy dialogue requirements and fast paced nature it’s not a good choice for an early start. Rather allocate significant time for it after Monkeys, Nine People’s Favorite Thing and Die Vampire, Die!are solid and the cast is finding their groove. The first and third parts of the Montage (12: September Song and 12B: Development Medley) are related, with 12B effectively a reprise. In the CR, they are adapted and merged into one song for brevity, but this is not an option for a staged show. Short singing bursts frame lengthy dialogue moments throughout, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself vamping incessantly when the dialogue isn’t fluent yet. However once its there, the marked vamp lengths are fairly accurate.
b.6: Note the opening scene flashback and laughter is omitted in the CR but should be included here.
b.34: Omit the D’s on beat 4.5.
b.39: Susan’s cue is strangely spaced out in the CR and takes a full 2-bars. Either make a clear staging decision here to justify if copying this, or aim for it to be more natural. Both will take some practice.
b.52-56: Make sure the metric shift into semiquavers is accurate as the dialogue is quite fast and it is critical to cut off at the punch line.
b.58: In the CR this bar is played twice, on the first time with the RH down an octave. This gives the actors a more natural 4/4 prep bar.
b.61: This is the point at which the CR totally departs, adding an extra verse and then cutting to b.59 of Montage Part 3.
b.66: Add low Bb1/2’s octaves in the LH as well on beat 4.
12A. Montage Part 2: Secondary Characters (Heidi/Susan)
Secondary Characters is an extended scene of the overall montage, where Heidi and Susan reflect on their developing friendship, but the number is not a montage in itself. More practically, it is the only chance in the show for Hunter/Jeff to take a substantial break offstage (although the occasional answering machine messages provide some limited respite or prop/microphone fix opportunities). The opening is substantially varied from the CR and is awkwardly unintuitive, but in the interest of allowing more backstage time, should be included.Secondary Characters, along with What Kind of Girl is She are frequently performed as stand-alone duets outside of the show.
b.3: Susan may be put off by the exposed doubling up an octave in the RH of the piano.
b.14: The RH filigree is omitted in the CR.
b.21: This bar is omitted in the CR, and probably should be.
b.48: Susan’s run as notated is by far the highest thing she does in the show, but if she can’t reach it any ridiculous alternative will work.
b.50-end: Heidi and Larry effectively improvise from here. Make it extravagant but don’t feel like it needs to be a note accurate performance. Earnestly prepare to go on indefinitely, and honestly be cut-off by Jeff whenever he appears.
12B. Montage Part 3: Development Medley (All)
Harmonically and rhythmically this is one of the hardest pieces in the show, so prepare to spend a lot of time on fine details. Firstly divide and conquer the musical interludes and work in the dialogue later. Bear in mind a lot of the most difficult matter will be entirely new to a cast who are only familiar with the CR.
b.6: Playing alternating LH Eb3/4’s on both quaver beats to keep the cast together and accommodate the sudden tempo shift is a much safer option than leaving this bar unaccompanied.
b.9: This harmony is quite challenging.
b.11-15: This timing is tricky, but once the dialogue is secure cutting out on the cue should become more effective.
b.18-22: This is also a very difficult passage and rehearse this extensively. It is great fun once it comes together though!
b.30: Once the cast is secure, you shouldn’t have to vamp this much. If you do, they are not snappy enough.
b.32: This is probably too low for the women to project this effectively against the men, but they should still do it for timing purposes. Similarly at b.36.
b.32-39: This passage is awkward and challenging.
b.44: Note this bar is extended in comparison to the equivalent from Montage Part One.
b.47-54: The gathering round, breathing and rituals of the cast may take an unpredictable amount of time in order to appear sincere. Prepare to drop back on the tempo with a gradual rallentando. In the worst case that you get to b.54 and they are still going with the dialogue hold the first beat with a fermata.
b.59-65: This dialogue must be extremely snappy (more than anywhere else in the show). The repeats are somewhat ambiguous in notation but in practice are: b.59-62, b.59-62, b.63, b.63, b.64-65 Then back to b.59-62, b.63, b.63, b.64-65.
b.63: The beat 1 RH chord is played in the CR on beat 1.5, which is more interesting and makes b.64 clearer.
b.65: In the CR, this last bar is a 2/4 with crotchets only on each beat. This is a better option to set up the coordination of the b.66 section.
b.64: If the cast need more time, b.64 can be vamped briefly.
b.66-69: Listen to the CR to get the rhythm of the greetings. I seem to recall that these were included in the script, but they aren’t in the score.
(Hunter) ‘Heidi’ (Heidi) ‘Hunter’ (Jeff) ‘Heidi’, (Heidi) ‘Jeffrey’
(Hunter) ‘Susan’ (Susan) ‘Hunter’ (Jeff) ‘Susan’ (Susan) ‘Jeffy’
(Heidi) ‘Susan’ (Susan) ‘Heidi’ (All) ‘Yay!’
(All) ‘Party Line!’
b.73: This bar is repeated in the CR.
b.74-75: This is difficult to time for the cut-off joke, but err on the side of a little more vamping and Hunter can intuitively slow down to fit it.
b.76-77: Note the lyrics are different to the CR, as they are now ‘Off Broadway’ rather than ‘festival’.
b.80: In the CR this skips back to Montage Part 1 b.63-71, then to Part 3 b.113.
b.80: There is a lot of dialogue and the half time tempo shift can be even slower to fit everything.
b.99: If the vamping is too much due to timing, you can simply stop playing.
b.101-112: The harmonies here are challenging and will require practice.
b.113: The presto marking is somewhat misleading as the crotchet pulse is quite steady at about 70 per minute.
13. Keeping The Ball in the Air (Instrumental/All)
After the montage, the show hits a brick wall and the easy momentum of success abruptly stops and cuts to almost a year later. With Hunter determined to kick it off again and finally get to Broadway, this music underscores a long montage build as the cast grow interest through publicity campaigns and invited appearances. This eventually secures an offer from a Broadway producer. The piano part needs no alterations and requires only dialogue fluency from the cast to get a feel for the timings, but with single bar vamps and backgrounded sparse texture it is generally forgiving. As there are often scene transitions involved, err on the side of extra vamps.
b.1: Ensure the shaker for the next number is set in easy reach before you start, due to the immediate segue. After bar 7 there won’t be any opportunity to do so.
b.7-12: This does not need to be vamped in its entirety and can cut out easily at b. 9 or repeat b.11-12 to fit with the dialogue.
b.44-45: Add a slight rit. to land together with the cast on ‘Yay!’
14: Change It, Don’t Change It (All)
Providing some interesting contrast, Change It, Don’t Change it is chanted rather than sung, Larry takes up a shaker for most of the accompaniment. It is fast paced, and quickly builds tensions as the cast begin to adapt the show for Broadway, negotiating the fine line between the demands of commercial viability and the fundamental esotericism that got them so far. Interspersed and overlapping with dialogue, the number typically allows for unlimited vamping of the shaker bars, with the chants occurring during the montage transitions. Though it can be left until later on in the rehearsal process, bear in mind the main difficulty comes from the cast remembering the various lengths of the fragmented chants.
b.10-b.23: It goes without saying that these bars aren’t necessary measured, but serve as rough guides. Play the LH octaves of b.23 on a strong beat whenever the dialogue ends and the cast is ready to progress. This applies similarly throughout the number.
b.113-132: Given the length of Hunter/Jeff dialogue this section underscores it may require more or less repetition (I recall an extra repeat was sometimes needed). Heidi/Susan should be on autopilot until the shaker stops on ‘thing’. There is a fair amount of buffer dialogue immediately after, so err on the side of an additional repeat rather than having the girls doing nothing for too long.
15: Awkward Photo Shoot (All)
The dramatic climax to the show as tempers flair and reach breaking point (but arguably it resolves by itself a little too smoothly). Unlike the previous number, properly anticipating the timing of the dialogue is important. As always, this number requires the cast to be totally familiar and snappy with their dialogue before it will come together and the proper vamp exits work reliably. This is made more difficult by the staged photography going on throughout the scene, necessitating freeze frames and synchronised lighting/sound effects. It won’t really feel at ease until the dialogue timing is perfectly regular and the vamps become reliably set repeats. The piano part is fine as it stands, and the singing can be looked at in isolation at an early stage.
b.5-9: At the fast tempo, it is difficult to match the end of Heidi’s lengthy dialogue to the musical climax, particularly as it depends on being ready to move on after Susan. It is generally better to go on during Susan’s line or even slightly before, making sure Heidi is quick in her delivery.
b.31: This is also difficult to time, but it is a good idea to get to this bar sooner rather than later.
b.32: Place accents on the crotchets to make it clear the accompaniment has moved on.
b.32-36: There is dialogue after the ‘borrowing money’ line that is in the script but not in all score editions, which makes it difficult for singers to launch straight onto their notes. Try making the dialogue/singing connection in isolation a number of times.
b.36-37: The part-writing is unnecessarily inefficient here and not in the most logical tessituras. A much easier solution is: Jeff can simply sing the D4 the entire time (taking it over from Susan in b.37). Hunter (entering on an E4) then takes over Jeff’s lower line at b.37 (Eb4, F4) then swap to the upper part at b.38 (thus remaining on F4). Susan simply takes over Hunter’s line at b.38 (G4, A4) and then reverts to her own again (a nearby G4). Heidi remains as written. This might seem complicated, but it is greatly simplified with intuitive voice leading and less vocal strain for Hunter/Jeff.
b.39: Larry should be convincingly annoyed here.
b.48: Don’t let Susan cut off too early or tentatively as good musicians will instinctively do when they realise they are not meant to be singing.
16: A Way Back To Then (Heidi/All)
After the very quick (almost instant) conflict resolution, A Way Back to Then effectively underscores Hunter’s reflections on his childhood theatrical attempts with Heidi’s own journey as a performer. As Heidi’s second solo it is more substantial than the first and is the best stand-alone number from [TOS]. However, the CR omits lengthy and frequent dialogue between Hunter and Jeff, so the flow of the ‘song’ will be quite disrupted in the staged version. The piano part is workable, but is a little simplified at times.
b.1-2: It’s better to repeat bar 2 if the Hunter/Jeff dialogue is not quite finished rather than start the vamp again. Similarly at b.11 and b.19.
b.22: Curiously, the CR has the LH as all Bb3’s. Also the last LH note is shifted to beat 4.5.
b.23: The last not is shifted to beat 4.5.
b.31: Beat 2.25 is a dotted quaver long, effectively tied to the next semiquaver. Similarly at b.32.
b.34: There is RH filigree in the CR from beat 3: B3 C4, D4, semiquaver-quaver-semiquaver syncopation and a dotted quaver B3 beat 4.25.
b.36: Beats 3.5 and 4.5 have G4 quavers in the RH.
b.37: In the LH repeat the octave D’s on beat 2.5.
b.38-39: Repeat the LH Octaves on beat 2.5 and 4.5 of both bars.
b.40: In the CR, Heidi sings an A4 on ‘ing’ extending it to an F4 on the last semiquaver, before placing the G4 of ‘for’ on the first beat of b.41.
b.47: The LH has an Eb3 on b.3.5 and Eb2 on beat 4.5.
b.51: Arpeggiate the dotted crotchets in the LH freely. Similarly in b.53
b.54: In the RH repeat the beat 2 diad on beat 3 and beat 4. The LH is an Db3 on beat 1, Ab3 on beat 2.5, an F3 on beat 3, and an Ab3 on beat 4.5.
b.56: Spread out the final chord of beat 3 in a slow arpeggiated fashion.
b.57: Place the LH Ab3 on beat 1.5.
b.58: Arpeggiate the chord.
17: Nine People’s Favorite Thing (All)
Nine People’s Favorite Thing is the last major song of the show, where the cast reflect on their journey and commit to staying true to their unique artistic vision at the expense of wider appeal. It also serves as a kind of dramatic ‘finale’, and while I understand and appreciate the subsequent closing scene, to be honest I believe if the show had concluded with this song it would preserve some unsympathetic audience goodwill. The first three quarters of Nine People consist of four substantial solos, one for each character, with combined singing at the end. This later section is relatively challenging musically and is a good early passage to look at, even if the cast don’t yet know their solo material. Like the previous number the piano part is workable, but at times is oversimplified. Overall, Nine People makes a great warm-up/mic check song, as everyone gets a chance to shine.
b.18: Double Jeff’s line (technically up an octave) in the RH for ‘Hundred People’s ninth.’ Also add a low Eb2 on beat 4.5.
b.24: Tie the two consecutive semiquaver G’s on beat 4 in the RH.
b.31: Add the Bb4 in the RH doubling the ‘I’d’.
b.32-34: Play the RH chords also on beats 1 and 3 (staccato as per the CR).
b.41: Repeat the RH chord on beat 4.25.
b.44: Heidi omits the ‘Broadway’ in the CR.
b.47: The filigree in the RH should simply be quaver Bb, A, G (4/5) octaves from beat 3.5.
b.53: Add a rall from beat 2.
b.58: Rearticulate the LH E4 on beat 1.
b.60: Don’t rearticulate the LH E’s – tie them from the previous bar.
b.63: Omit beat 2 in the RH.
b.64: Arpeggiate the entire chord on beat 1.
b.65: Repeat the chord for both syllables of ‘velvet.’
b.67-68: Double the LH in lower octaves.
b.69: Don’t accelerate until b.70.
b.72: Repeat the LH C as even quavers for the entire bar.
b.74: The chord at the end of the bar actually commences on beat 4.25 and is three semiquavers in the RH arppegiating downwards (D5,G4,D4) with a LH rearticulation of the low G’s on the last semiquaver.
b.77: In the RH The second beat is actually the D major chord on beat 2.5 only.
b.79: Omit the RH after the initial beat 1 chord until the quavers of beat 3.5.
b.85-89: This is a particularly tricky harmonic passage for the cast. Spend a fair amount of time getting it secure.
b.88: Repeat the low LH F2’s as repeated quavers for the entire bar.
b.89: Add a RH Glissando from beat 2 to beat 3.
b.94: The third note should be an F for everyone on the ’ple’s’ of ‘people’s’
b.97: Play LH G2s on beat 1 and beat 2.5. Omit the ‘we open’ doubling octaves in the RH.
b.102: Rearticulate the LH G octaves on beat 2.5.
18: Finale (All)
This number is less a traditional finale and more of a brief postlude, being the shortest complete song in [TOS]. As mentioned earlier, by this point the show could be at risk of overstaying its welcome with unsympathetic audiences, who may feel exasperated at the seeming prospect of yet another long ballad after Nine People’s Favorite Thing. The inherent joke is that the characters are still stuck on stage after the impressive conclusion of Nine People, unsure how to end and resigned to a quieter stepping off. However, when the audience doesn’t know the Finale’s duration, it seems like yet another self-indulgent song, creating a sense that the show just isn’t ending clearly. To mitigate the negative dramatic impact, the director should be doing everything in their power to signal that yes, [TOS] is in fact wrapping up, while preserving the sweetness of the moment. From an MD standpoint don’t milk the finale music and keep the accompaniment pushing along despite its sparse texture.
b.7: As per the CR, placing the ‘d’ of road on the 4th beat of the next bar aligns better with the women’s voices. Similarly with b.11.
b.12: Added left-hand in the CR which fills out the piano better. F2’s on beats 1, 3.5 and 4.
b.13: Continue the LH accompaniment: F3 Beats 1, 2.5 and 3.5, F2 on beat 2 and 4.5 and C3 on beat 4.
b.14: Double the Susan line in the piano part (A3-B3).
b.16-17: The RH tie on the last quaver of b.16 is missing.
19: Bows (Instrumental)
With only four characters to get through (plus Larry and the tech people), the music provided should be more than enough to do all the bows. The bows should begin very soon after the lights dim from the final number and I would caution again overstaying the welcome here. My old piano teacher would always advise getting straight offstage after bowing, reasoning it is preferable to leave the audience wanting to give more enthusiastic applause than risk having it diminish awkwardly while you’re stuck on stage. Don’t presume how the audience received [TOS] and plan for a tight finish. Then, if the crowd obviously appreciated it, additional bow time can be added on the spot by the cast. Finally, get Larry/Mary offstage ASAP and in character, as he/she is indeed a character and it won’t feel like the show is over until the stage is empty.
b.1: Perhaps add a glissando in the lead up.
b.1-4: It is easy to add minor vamps as needed (also 15-18) until the final build from b.21.
b.25-27: These chords require filling out with tremolos and really milk the glissando with gusto.
I hope that all helps! Enjoy your journey into [title of show]!
21 July, 2020