BWW Interview: Preeminent Music Director Anne Puzey of CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at Good Company Theatre
A music director plays many vital roles in the successful musical theater production. As experienced producers know, the contribution of a music director matches the importance of a director, and each must be carefully selected before even auditions can begin.
The music director can be connected to the musical until its final performance, as orchestra conductor, and tasked with upkeep of pretty much everything related to how a show sounds.
Anne Puzey is arguably the state's most-in-demand music director, with experience working with Will Swenson, Marin Mazzie, Jason Robert Brown, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, along with more productions along Utah's Wasatch Front than surely she can count. And 16 seasons of a musical version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at an area theater company. She is widely known for her professionalism, attention to detail and congenial ability to work with a variety of artists, and Puzey is partner in the powerhouse Audition Advantage private vocal studio.
She's now lending her talents to Good Company Theatre's eagerly awaited production of CAROLINE, OR CHANGE. Written by Broadway giants Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori, the musical combines spirituals, blues, Motown, classical music, and Jewish klezmer and folk music. In its review of the original production Time magazine called CAROLINE, OR CHANGE "a 'breakthrough' that almost seems to have discovered a new genre." In the story of a black housekeeper for a white family in 1963 Louisiana, close emotional naturalism is combined with metaphysical flourishes.
In what way are music directors the unheralded heroes of successful musical theater productions?
Music directors, especially in productions like CAROLINE, OR CHANGE which are sung-through, can affect the tempo of the show. They also make decisions about instrumentation which can enhance the production as a whole. In the case of this show, [orchestrator] Cheryl Blackley has condensed the full orchestration down to clarinet, saxophone and bassoon. As far as unheralded goes, sometimes tracks can make a music director overlooked. But in this production, Cheryl and I are onstage.
High-school music and drama instructors can have a questionable foray into semiprofessional let alone semiprofessional theater. Yet as a junior high teacher, you've totally broken free of that stigma. How have you accomplished this feat?
I started my music directing career 30 years ago about the same time I started teaching. I feel like I was able to establish myself as a music director in the theater community without a pre-established teaching background.
What pleases you most about participating in this production of CAROLINE, OR CHANGE?
I love this show. I music directed it 10 years ago with Wasatch Theatre Company. When Alicia Washington, founder of Good Company, asked me to be a part of this production, I was honored and excited. Alicia was in that production with Wasatch. I'm also loving doing a show with the director, Teresa Sanderson. It's also been wonderful to work with Dee Dee Darby-Duffin [in the lead role].
What has been your most satisfying event in musical theater, and most challenging?
There have been so many wonderful shows I've been lucky to be a part of! I think one of my favorite shows is MAN OF LA MANCHA. I've done five productions of this musical at theaters including Rodgers and Hale. As far as my most challenging, every show has its challenges. That's what keeps it interesting, right? After 30 years in the business, there's always something new for me to learn.