Auditions, Dr Flu, Falstaff, and Laser harp

February 17, 2008

Mel, Jeremy, Chris, Dan, Dan and I heard auditions for HOMER IN CYBERSPACE yesterday from 10 to 4. Talented UCLA students from the Theater, and Music Theater programs delivered a monologue and sang one song — either a “long lined song” or a patter song “showing off your articulation.”

Mel sits through auditions all the time. I haven’t done it since Flashpoint/Stonewall in 1994. The majority delivered the SONG to me, and the monologue to Mel. A minority delivered them to some invisible person in a chair. I have to say it’s pleasurable to be sung to. Someone looking you right in the eyes and singing. I do it all the time when I’m singing this music to my pals, but no one does it to me. Cool karma.

There were two guys with warm voices, they’ll sound like Bing Crosby when they are older; four of the gals were Disney mezzos — the kind that flash big smiles and sing “It’s a Whole New World!” and blink; there were a couple of “bratty little girl” voices so popular these days; lots of very useful musical theater type voices that one normally hears in music theater shows across America; and then there were, what we all referred to as the “American Idol song” — musical platforms for showing off belting, and hysterical gospel embellishments (think Whitney Houston at the end of an up song).

One issue I was struck with in the monologues was that the actors chose for the most part highly moving situations, ones that can very easily veer toward crying. And once you do, you can lose the power and momentum of where you were going. The actor and singer have to let the audience cry. The ability to resist tears will cause the audience to cry even more.

The spasms involved in crying do NOT help singing or speaking. I’d love to learn what actors are taught to avoid crying. The only trick I’ve ever learned is the BREATHE deeply through your nose. The minute you stop breathing, it’s very easy to trigger tears.

We have another batch of auditions Monday evening, and then we will pick the cast and I’ll start adjusting the music by transposing or tweaking the melodies here and there. This is always an interesting part of the work, not unlike tailoring a garment for a specific body.

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After three days in bed, spending a day auditioning walloped me back a few steps in my battle with Dr Flu. I went home and collapsed. Daniel got me some matzo ball soup from Greenblatts, I curled up and watched two movies, and then crashed. Four days of no composing, oh well. I’ll make the deadline. Six more songs by the end of March. Mel is very happy with everything I’ve been doing. Our emotional knock em dead song that is sung once by Penelope and in the closing scene as a love duet by Penelope and “O” is called “I Used to Be Beautiful.” Bring your hankies.

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In that Dr Flu is refusing to leave, I’m going to have to miss seeing Peter Kazaras’s terrific UCLA Opera Workshop production of Verdi’s FALSTAFF. I saw it last week and loved it. But dude, where are the tunes? In this opera shows us how hip he can be with harmony, texture, counterpoint, and to hell with the memorable tunes. As I listen to Sondheim’s recent musicals, I keep wondering whether we are witnessing the Verdization of Stephen Sondheim? Isn’t this what happened in late JS Bach? and Beethoven? and Mahler? and, well, not Rossini.

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Here is a very cool video of Jean Michel Jarre playing the laser harp in Rendez-Vous 2. The video is from the Twelve Dreams Of The Sun concert (Giza plateau, Cairo, Egypt).

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