BWW Blog: Eric Ulloa of Goodspeed's THE MOST HAPPY FELLA - Applause
Standing backstage in the wings of the theatre, you begin to notice that your pulse has increased and you're a little sweaty despite the freezing AC coming down on you. "Rosabella" is singing the last 16 bars of "Somebody, Somewhere" and you can feel the vibration of the automation kicking in that will soon roll the diner off and take the audience from San Francisco to the Napa Valley. You check and recheck that your prop comb is in your pocket and that your prop newspaper is tucked into your waistband and ready for use. The actors next to you are doing similar actions, whether checking their own props or running lines in their head, looking at times like a manic person on the New York City subway talking to themselves. The song ends and since the scrim is down in front of you, you only hear muffled applause, therefore unable to gauge how things have gone these first 15 minutes of the show. The scrim lifts, the lights blare into your eyes and you see the once vacant seats now full of strangers who have paid to have a great evening of theatre. The time has finally arrived...ladies and gentlemen, it's time for your first preview.
Friday was our first preview and after an exhaustive week of tech rehearsals, we finally had the chance to see what audiences thought of what we had created these past five weeks. Theatre, though a public art form, is still very personal and though we can't wait to finally stop rehearsing, there is comfort in just keeping it to ourselves. What if people don't see what we see? What if we're blinded by our personal experience with this show and can't see beyond it? I like to think that at one point Miley Cyrus thought that licking her face and grinding on drugged out teddy bears was something special and a form of high art. And we all know what a bum decision that was.
All fears were soon alleviated as the audience jumped aboard for the ride and were on their feet within seconds of the curtain call. Though standing ovations, in my personal opinion, have become annoyingly common, there is something to it when it feels impulsive and as if the audience has no choice but to stand and show their appreciation...and that was what we experienced Friday night. The Most Happy Fella is a tricky show and has inherent problems within its structure. Though most show people rank it in their top ten, there are also those who find it too long and at times incoherent. Director Rob Ruggiero has wisely trimmed away the "fat" and found the core of the story within. He has made a three act hybrid of music theatre and a bit of opera into a little over two hours of powerful succinct storytelling. I can guarantee you a poignant and lush evening of theatre with one hell of a cast delivering the goods in front of gorgeous Napa Valley skies. I also couldn't think of a better season than Fall, to sit back and be washed over with romance and soaring arias.
There is a tradition here at Goodspeed that your "Opening Night"Cast Party lands right after your first preview. Now, God knows I am one for a party, but after a week of pretty much never leaving the theatre, all I want is a couch, chips, hummus and a Golden Girls marathon. Nevertheless, a party was being held in our honor and so off with the costumes, into the shower and on with the fancy suit. The party was right next door at the Gelston House and immediately upon arrival, we were whisked off to the press area for "step and repeat" (aka lots of flashes, posing and smiling) and group shots with the lovely Jo Sullivan Loesser who came back to see how it all came together. Though we were all ready for bed (and a five show weekend), a good time was had by all and it was nice to just sit for a minute with a glass of wine and celebrate this next step in the process. For by no means are we done and just running the show, in fact our press opening is set for October 9th. Until then, we do our eight shows a week and also layer in rehearsals to refine moments that may still need tweaking. And then one day, one glorious, glorious day, the show is "frozen" and we settle into our performance schedule and resume having a daytime life.
Cast at party after first performance
As promised, you sent questions to www.ericulloa.com, and here is this week's answer. This week I was asked "How big is this show musically, being it is very similar to an opera in many respects?"
The easy answer is this...it's HUGE! I can't think of more than two minutes in the show that pass before music is brought in again. The orchestra is earning EVERY penny of their salaries as those instruments are pretty much super glued to their lips and hands.
If you have a background in music, you will appreciate this musical fact.
Hello, Dolly! the last show here, had 2500 bars of music. The Most Happy Fella has 3500 bars of music and that is AFTER we've cut 830 bars. It is a massive undertaking. So much so that I recommend you bring a nice stiff drink down to Michael O'Flaherty in the pit during intermission. He deserves it...he BEYOND deserves it.