by Brett Ryback
Note by note. That's how musical scores are written and that is how they are learned. Over the last two days, our fearless musical director Matthew Meckes has taught a week's worth of dense, ensemble-heavy music in less than 11 hours. The score for Passing Through, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is heavily influenced by folk music, but it also has the layering of any modern pop/musical theatre score. There are a lot of moving parts.
Hello, by the way! We met a couple of posts ago, I'm Brett Ryback, the composer/lyricist for Passing Through. I'm taking over for Eric today because, well, musicals are about the songs after all, and that has been our focus during the first two days of rehearsal here at Goodspeed.
The initial period of any rehearsal process is intense for the actors. Fitting their voices and mouths around new music and lyrics is physically draining. Our ensemble is also extremely featured, playing multiple important characters each with their own scenes and songs to take on. It's an actor's dream/nightmare of a show to learn.
But it's absolutely thrilling for this songwriter. Hearing melodies and harmonies that have existed only in my head being sung by gorgeous voices is nirvana. I could almost go hometomorrow and be done after the first sing-through. Alas, the real work has only just begun.
After speed-teaching the 12+ songs in act one, we gathered the cast together and read through the first part of our musical. Now the tables are turned and the writers are the ones with information overload. This thing that we imagined is laid before us, naked and raw, and we finally get to see just what it is, and how it compares to what we think it wants to be.
And "think" is truly the word. Shows are seldom masterminded into existence. Rather, they are a series of choices made with a certain goal in mind. This word or that? This pitch or the other? Does our main character go here, do this, say that? Or is it one of the other million possibilities?? It's decision-fatigue on steroids.
So thankfully nature intervened and gave us something else to focus on today.
That's Eric and me enduring the Bomb Cyclone in 8 inches of snow. Taking a break to shovel our way out of a different mess, not of our own making, was a good distraction, even if Eric did worry that I would catch pneumonia. (Frankly, I'm still not convinced the whole storm wasn't orchestrated by Disney as a marketing ploy for the upcoming previews ofFrozen.)
Anyway, the important thing with any organic undertaking is to let your creation breathe. Take some time away, give it room - allow it to stumble. Listen and see what it teaches you about itself.
As we move forward to staging our presentation and digging into the scenes and songs with the limited time we have, we will be listening to the book, music, and lyrics over and over again, turning each syllable over in our hands like the lump of clay that it is. And when we make changes, we'll do so with new inspiration, clarity, and confidence - note by note.
By the way - if you're curious to hear some of the inspiration for the music to Passing Through, we put together a Spotify playlist. Check it out and let us know what you think!