BWW Interview: PTC's Karen Azenberg on Concert Productions, Including the Upcoming DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
For several years now, each season at Pioneer Theatre Company has included a concert production of a musical, including THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, CHESS, IN THE HEIGHTS, and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Always audience and critics' favorites, they feature a unique production style transported from New York City by artistic director Karen Azenberg. This year's show--DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, playing October 18-19--will surely prove to be no different.
Azenberg graciously took time from her demanding preparation schedule to describe these concert productions and give a sneak peek of what's to come with DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. Photos of the last two shows (IN THE HEIGHTS and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES) further illustrate her explanation.
For those unfamiliar, can you explain what a concert production is and what it is not?
A concert production is:
The whole show--all scenes and all songs
Costumed enough so you have the flavor of the show, but not as fully as a full production
In our case, the orchestra/band is on stage
A concert production is not:
The cast is not completely "off book" because the rehearsal period is about half of what we normally do
People in tuxedos standing at music stands
Concert productions are often performed in New York City, including the high profile Lincoln Center "Encores" series and Manhattan Concert Productions series. What is their appeal?
I think the appeal is that there is a level of spontaneity in these concerts that you don't find in regular productions. The cast has rehearsed just enough to know what they are doing, but nowhere near enough to be giving a completely predictable performance. The adrenaline is pumping, and they are performing at their highest level for the whole show. The performances often have a few mistakes, allowing for "do overs" (or ad libs!) which let the audience into the performance process in a way that they rarely get to when the show is running like clockwork and the actor's job is to make sure that the audience doesn't ever see any of the mistakes.
Additionally, for musical theatre fans it can often be a chance to see a show that they otherwise would not be able to see, because the size and scope of the show prevent a theatre from being able to produce a full production.
Why did you decide to add a concert production to each season at Pioneer Theatre Company?
I love the format and wanted to share it with Salt Lake audiences. Our audience is so sophisticated that I think they can/do appreciate the wider selection of titles the concert offers and the "you never know what might happen" aspect of the performances.
What has the experience been like creating these concert productions?
It is a whirlwind!
For me it is an exercise in utilizing what we have on hand to create a suggestion of a location without getting too technically involved because there is only two days to do all the tech of the show. For the cast it is like being shot out of a cannon. They have one pass at music rehearsals and one pass at staging rehearsals, and then we try to put it all together, and before we know it we are on stage and the orchestra is joining us, and after just 10 days of rehearsal we have an audience!!!
What has the audience reaction to these concerts been like since you started?
I think the audience has a blast. Many of our audience members had no idea what to expect before they came and are completely blown away by the level of talent, and they fall in love with the way that they are able to connect with the actors.
Why did you select DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS for this season's concert?
I love the score--it is fun and silly and perfect for the concert construct.
What should audiences look forward to about this one?
Everything! We have a spectacular cast and 16 pieces in the orchestra. The script is so clever and doesn't everyone need a good laugh and good time right about now?!?!
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
I have been told that people feel our title "concert musical" is misleading. As you can see from my responses above, you cannot describe what this performance is in a few words or even a sentence. I can guarantee you that if you like musicals, if you like great singing, if you appreciate live orchestras for your musicals, and if you enjoy the experience of live theatre at its most spontaneous, anything can happen, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fun--then you will enjoy DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Pioneer Theatre Company.
DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS plays only three performances: Friday, October 18, 2019 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 19 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 801-581-6961 or visit www.pioneertheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Pioneer Theatre Company's concert productions of IN THE HEIGHTS and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES