Recently, MCLA’s Harlequin Theatre Club put on a performance of Company, a play beloved by many generations. There was a lot of work put into the performance, and it came out better than we could have hoped. Not only am I a member of the Harlequin Theatre Club but I also worked with the musicians to play in the pitband.
For those of you who do not know, a pitband is the group of musicians playing the score, or music, for a show, musical or opera. It originated when the band was below the stage, in a pit, so the conductor could see both the performers and the musicians.
Being a part of pitband was not at all what I expected it to be. As a flute player, I did not have as many parts to play as most of the other band members, such as the bass guitar and the saxophones. At first I thought it was lame and annoying; I can play just as well as they can. Why did the director want to cut out so many of my pieces? I realized the answer had nothing to do with me.
The band had rehearsed only a few times before meeting and rehearsing with the entire Harlequin actors and actresses. We had the music down, that was the easy part. The hard part was matching the performing we had practiced with the Broadway recordings that the cast had been rehearsing with. It is because of this that most of my parts got cut. The flute parts lined up with the lead singers’ voice parts. With only a week before the show, it was too hard to match up my lines perfectly with that of the vocalist.
Instead of feeling bad for myself and being miserable, I used my newfound free time during rehearsal to observe. The pitband, when they weren’t rehearsing or playing, played on their phones, ate food or chatted. During this down time, I bonded a lot with some of the other players and by the end of the week we had a strong friendship.
During Tech Week, the week before the show where every element of the play is lined up (such as lighting, sound and costumes), there was a lot of starting and stopping. Throughout this week, I saw only bits and pieces of the show. Most of the time, it was never in order either. I had no idea what the play was about. I also knew that they hadn’t run the whole musical from start to finish. Did they have to do that before the first performance? Would they have enough time? Two days before the first performance, we realized another important factor: We were missing a pianist.
Some people may think, if we had other instruments, why was a pianist so important? Well, the pianist played almost every single moment of the musical, even during transitions. To not be rehearsing with a pianist was very difficult. Having only half the band (as the piano was worth an entire half of the band) messed up the actors; it was very hard to figure out the timing and sometimes they weren’t sure when to enter or exit the stage.
The day of the first performance, the pianist arrived. The performers and band had been struggling a lot during the end of the week, some people even wanting to back out. Thankfully, the arrival of the pianist solved all of the problems. We were able to run a few songs with the pianist before the performance and it made all the difference. The musical ran smoothly and everyone was delighted. It was magic to see everything come together.
That night I watched the musical from the corner of the room from start to finish. It was an entirely new experience! The play made sense, it was funny and it was emotional. Each night it was a little different. Lines were told with different tones, laughter from the audience excited the actors and everyone had a blast. I am so happy and thankful that I had this experience and I am proud to have been involved. I can’t wait to do it all again next year!