Sitzprobe is a rehearsal when the actors get to sing with the orchestra for the first time, instead of just a rehearsal pianist [though major props to all rehearsal accompanists!].
So I guess since today was sitz and tomorrow starts tech, it’s time I finally talk about Into the Woods! For those who don’t know, ITW is a Stephen Sondheim [king of modern musical theatre] show from the mid-1980s; act one is some fractured fairy tales, act two is what happens after happily ever after.
I first learned this show early in my sophomore year of undergrad, before we did it as our winter musical. I went to a college without a theatre degree program, we just did shows. It was a great way to gain leadership skills and a bit of technical theatre knowledge. Though don’t ask my actual tech friends how little I know that’s applicable in 2022.
Our director for the 1999 LVC version of ITW was an actuarial science major. Actuarial science uses math and statistics to determine risk. I only passed stats my freshman year because my professor and his wife thought I was adorable as Minnie Fay in Hello, Dolly!, so I will forever be in awe of the dude who accidentally took a hardcore theatre class his semester abroad and made a whole production plan for ITW. At the time, I was just in love with the show in general and very happy to be cast as a stepsister. Although… The Witch. She gets to start as a stereotypically ugly witch, and morph into a stereotypically hot witch, with music that goes from big and belty to super soft and pretty — and the soft and pretty music actually fit my range. My weirdass, super rough, never got to sing a ballad range.
Over the years, The Witch became one of my bucket list roles. She was originally played by Bernadette Peters who I like to think I am basically the taller version of, and more recently played by Hannah Waddingham, of Ted Lasso fame, who I like to think I am basically the shorter version of. Before COVID, a new community theatre in the next town south was to do ITW. I had heard rumors they were trying again, so when Sir Stephen died last November, I reached out to the guy in charge to confirm — because if you can’t ask a self-centered Sondheim show question to honor Sondheim’s death when can you.
Fast-forward, and I missed a Ragtime rehearsal to audition. Earlier in the week, my dear Pauline, who was Emma Goldman in that show, convinced me to do a different song than I had planned. They wanted something from Sondheim or two other equally loquacious lyricists. So I went with Pauline’s suggestion, “Everybody Says Don’t” from Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle. There is a line on the 32-bar cut I chose that says, “if you fail, you fail.”
I proceeded to fail on said line and paused and said “you fail” in time and just rolled with it. And walked out of the room with a callback appointment for both the witch and another major female role.
Callbacks were… an ordeal. The director worrrrrrrked me. And it felt… amazing. It had been a really long time since I was really directed, on an individual level, and pushed to take a role I have *known* superficially for years to the next level.
The next morning, I got an email from the director asking me to call him at my convenience. I figured he wanted to give me the “thanks, but no thanks” message in person. I prepared myself for it. I messaged friends about it. So when Tommy said, “We want to cast you as the witch”, I legit said “wait, what??” He went on to say all the most flattering things including that I was a combo of Bernie and Hannah and Donna Murphy — another Broadway goddess who has also played the part and when I found a bootleg of her singing it… ok, yeah, I get it. I mean, 100% not trying to say I am on their level, but I am very happy to be the community theatre version of this type.
Happy enough to go from the Ragtime matinee to our first table read:
So, yes.. here we are. Headed into tech week for a one-weekend-only production of my next-to-last bucket role.
If you’re free next weekend, tickets can be found at this link. Tommy has a really neat and very strong vision for this show and the other leads are just outstanding. It’s a joy to get to watch them every night at rehearsal. This is not just going to be another cookie cutter community theatre version of this classic show!
Because I usually leave straight from work for our 6 p.m. rehearsals, dinners have been very sporadic, bordering on non-existent. However, because today was also the Kentucky Derby, I invited some friends over at the last minute for a hat-optional pony party. Ok, I invited two friends and then one of them had to babysit so it was just the one friend upon whom, after that super exciting race with the underdog — errr, underhorse? — winner, we forced the first two eps of Our Flag Means Death. Cannot recommend it enough for silly humor, some serious pathos, and well-done diversity.
Our Derby menu:
— Hot Brown Sliders: no comment needed. (Except we left off the tomatoes.)
— Bourbon-Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon: these were… not particularly exciting? I expected more of a glaze. Probably operator error. So if you have any tips, please let me know. Otherwise, never cooking sprouts on the stovetop again.
— Duck-Fat Roasted Potatoes: a house standard.
— Benedictine Dip: subbing Trader Joe’s ranch powder, Everything But The Leftovers, and 21 Seasoning Salute for the onion.
— boiled peanut hummus: Hampton’s one request when I went to the beach without him last weekend was to bring back boiled peanuts. With some of the bounty, he wanted to try to emulate a sauce from a no-longer-existing meat shop/lunch counter we once visited in Charleston. And got pretty darn close.
— mint juleps: no recipe because Hampton is a good southern boy who was once a bartender.
And now, we sleep.