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The Drowsy Chaperone: A Rough Guide For The M.D.

December 10, 2012


A LITTLE BACKGROUND:
I’m assembling this rough guide having just finished a terrific run of this show at Villanova University, which was directed by Father Peter Donohue, PhD OSA, choreographed by Kevin Dietzler, with important assistance and insight by Dr. Valerie Joyce. If there are good ideas in this essay, they are most assuredly the result of collaborating with these incredible people. If there are lousy ideas, I claim them as my own. We were very fortunate to have Bob Martin and Lisa Lambert join us for a talkback, which was really informative. They were incredibly nice people; I’m really looking forward to their further projects.
BEFORE YOU START:
1) Listen to the Original Broadway Cast Recording
2) Read the script. It’s short and funny. You’ll like it. You’ll want to play Man in Chair.
3) Our Dramaturg, Ashley Leamon put together some incredible notes for the cast, which I am including for you to use. Thank You, Ashley! Drowsy Chaperone Actor Packet
4) Watch some Marx Brothers comedies (always good to have an excuse to do that) and/or listen to some of Tommy Krasker’s restorations of some actual Broadway comedies from the 20s and 30s.

ABOUT THE SHOW
In many ways, this is a perfect show for young performers. With the exception of Tottendale, who is supposed to be old, and perhaps Drowsy and Man In Chair, everyone else makes sense with younger performers. The show is basically light, fairly clean with only a small number of potentially offensive moments (some of which could be ‘tweaked’ in a very conservative venue), and audiences love it. It’s also pleasantly short. It does have an Into The Woods style casting problem, in that it’s a show with a large ensemble cast and virtually no chorus. So if you did it at a High School, you’d have to beef up that chorus of servants and be very creative about where you put those extra actors.

AS YOU’RE CASTING:
General Notes:
The characters in the show-within-the-show should ideally be able to act presentationally, as in the period. This can actually be a tough thing for a trained actor. Normally you’re looking for the sort of honesty between characters that projects to an audience, but doesn’t particularly acknowledge them. This kind of acting is the sort of arch performance style that plays the scene, but is really focused at selling the characterization to the audience. These characters are big, comedic, and play for laughs. Stock Gestures, which are normally to be frowned upon in modern Theatre, are actually just right here, because they make the stereotypes very specific. There is a kind of honesty in this very ‘fake’ acting, but it takes a while to find it. The actors are also playing actors playing characters, so there is a layering of delivery that’s fun, but challenging.
Man in Chair:
This is a tour-de-force role for a comic actor. He has to be able to sing, but only enough to just carry a tune at the end. The important thing is that he can command the stage for the whole show; he makes or breaks the evening. There is a tricky monologue at the end that pivots from tragicomedy to tragedy to comedy on a dime, and not everyone can pull it off. When he came and spoke to our Villanova audience Bob Martin said that he considered the show a tragic monologue interspersed with some funny numbers. An amusing remark, to be sure, but it really is a story about the Man In The Chair and his relationship with a record. That record has replaced any kind of functional relationship in reality. It’s hard to play that well, and if you have somebody just playing it for laughs, the show has very little meaning.
Tottendale:
The joke is that she’s old and has no memory. In lieu of an actual old person, you can either make someone up to be old, or just play her as zany and forgetful. You do need someone who can dance a little and who has excellent comic timing. It also helps to have someone who can spit in a mist, not a stream, but I’m not sure you can ask for that at an audition. It’s also helpful to have someone who can play the ukulele. If she doesn’t play, almost anyone can learn the uke in a hurry.
Underling:
Your typical stuffy butler/maitre d type, with a high baritone voice. It doesn’t have to be a terrific voice, but he does basically open the show-within-the-show, so it would be unfortunate if he couldn’t sing at all. Underling does tap very briefly in Cold Feets, but it’s not complicated. Mainly you need someone who can play haughty and put-upon well, and someone who doesn’t mind being spit upon repeatedly night after night.
Robert:   
This is potentially a very difficult role to cast. It doesn’t require great comic timing, although that’s nice. It does require a strong tenor with at least an F chested/mixed. (If Robert doesn’t have the F, George has to.) Robert also should be a strong dancer, who can tap and skate blindfolded. Villanova’s production had a great Robert, who was sidelined with kidney stones for a performance. Our choreographer slipped into the part, but we had to eliminate the skating, because it was too involved and risky to learn in a short amount of time. (Bob Martin, the original Man In Chair told us he was also struck with kidney stones before both the New York and West End runs. Maybe there’s a curse)
George:
George was originally a high tenor, but I’ll show you a way around the very highest notes. He needs to be able to tap. A small part which was played by our choreographer in our production. This proved very convenient many times.
Feldzieg:
There are a number of ways to go with this role, because the stereotype of the producer isn’t as specific as it used to be. Sometimes the producer is played as a thin middle-european type. Sometimes he’s a more substantial businessman type. Feldzieg (switch the syllables to get the joke…) dances a little, sings a little, but mostly acts as straight man to a lot of goofy types.
Gangsters:
These guys are called dancers in the show, but they’re more of a comedy team that dances a little. They have to be able to carry a tune, but they needn’t be fantastic singers either. It’s that pun filled dialogue they have to be adept at.
Aldolpho:
Aldolpho needs to be a strong comic actor with a flair for over-the-top accents, moderate dancing ability, and a sustained G above the staff.
The Drowsy Chaperone:
Of all the characters, Drowsy needs to be the most archly aware of her audience and the most presentational in her performance. She needs to have a very strong stage presence and a very assertive singing style. In order to be playful with the material, she needs to know it cold. This is not a role for a weak performer; she winds up being the lynchpin of the show. Young people might want to look at Tallulah Bankhead for inspiration.
Trix:
This role is tiny and fun. Originally the role was played by an African American, and there’s a line about that which needs to be rewritten or cut if you cast it any other way.
Janet:
This role will always bear the stamp of Sutton Foster; adorable presence, dancing, and most of all a belted treble C that goes on for days are the mark of her roles. Janet is all about glamour. She needs to be able to present herself as glamourous, she knows she’s always being watched, and is always trying to be seen at the best angle. You should ask your Janets if they have any special skills. There are a lot of ways to go with Show Off depending on what your Janet is able to do.
Servants/Chorus/Bit Parts:
Originally these were only 4 people. You could have 8 or 12, but try to keep the parts balanced, and don’t do more than 12, or the scenes they’re in will be bloated.
A few things to note about the Music Director’s Materials:
The Piano/Conductor score is pretty well put together, although there are a few mistakes and numerous discrepancies between the score and the script. Rather than listing the errors here, I’ll list them in the Trouble Spots section. One of the great benefits of working in a quality graduate theatre program is that I could turn to my very capable Stage Manager and ask him for a list of the discrepancies, and he in turn could turn to one of his Assistants, who compiled for me a pretty exhaustive list, which I will pass on to you one at a time as I write about each number. There are also very few cue lines indicated in the score. I’ll include the ones I used in our production.

TROUBLE SPOTS AND ADVICE:

A Couple of General Notes:
I didn’t notice this until I brought the orchestra in, but there are MANY places in the show where the singer begins a phrase in the clear with no orchestra on a musical pickup phrase, and the orchestra comes in on the next measure. Actors have a tendency to sell these entrances with an allargando, which is fine, but it makes it hard for you to align the entry, especially if you’re conducting from the piano, because you can’t predict when they’re going to hit the downbeat. To solve this problem, you have to either drill these entrances to make them consistent, or work from the very beginning to get the actors watching you for the downbeat. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself muffing the orchestra entrances. I’ll list some of these as we go.

As in Thoroughly Modern Millie, the men’s parts are generally divided into 3 parts, where the women are only divided into 2. In this case, that’s because the cast is predominantly male, and there were good high voices in the original cast. If you have augmented your chorus with extra people, you may be able to tweak some of these harmonies, moving the high tenor part into a 3rd women’s part range.

2 Arcane but important details:

1) A tiny bit of this music is music in the show. Most of the music is coming from the record player. This music is diegetic, meaning it comes from the world of the show, not from the character’s expression. When a record plays or a radio is on in a movie or a play, or even when someone sings as part of their daily life, when they actually would sing, we call that music diegetic. When a character sings in a play or a movie and we are meant to see that as an expression of his or her emotion or state of mind, (not reality) that’s not diegetic, that’s mimetic. Be clear which music is on the record and time your entrances to the needle drop. In our production, I had a video feed that only looked at the record player, so I could get those cues. If the record weren’t playing, there would be no music for most of the show. Remember that as you go.

2) A conceptual point that doesn’t affect your music direction, but will very much affect the production is this: Are we seeing the actual production from 1928 acted out in front of us, or is the visual part of the production only in Man in Chair’s mind? If it’s the latter, (a much more interesting route) how does his imagination change the reality of what we’re seeing? For example, Man in Chair has a drink in the middle of Bride’s Lament, and then things go haywire. Is that the original production we’re seeing there, or his alcoholic version? I think a good production is going to have to answer that question at some point.

1. Overture
As you work out this number, you will need to be involved with the blocking and timing from the very beginning. There are a number of complicating factors: Firstly, the original Broadway cast  recording does not reflect what’s in the script. At measure 42, the tune is much further extended on the CD. There’s also more at 54. If you were looking to reinstate these measures, I think the first chunk doesn’t appear anywhere in the score, but the section around measure 54 is in the Exit Music.

The more important discrepancies are in the script. The script does not match the score, you can’t just have the actor read the script and play along with him out of the score. This is the list of discrepancies in this number the Stage Management team at Villanova cooked up for me (the formatting in WordPress isn’t doing what I wanted it to, but you get the idea) :
Sheet Music                                                              Script

You hear the static?  I love that sound.  To me, it’s the sound of a time machine starting up.  Now, let’s visualize.

You hear the static?  I love that sound.  To me, it’s the sound of a time machine starting up.  Alright now, let’s visualize.

Imagine if you will, it’s November 1928.

Imagine if you will, it’s November 1928.

You’ve just arrived at the doors of the Morosco Theatre in New York.  It doesn’t exist anymore.  It was torn down in 1982, and replaced with an enormous hotel.  Unforgivable.

You came by horse, I suppose.  I mean, a horse drawn carriage..  You weren’t actually riding the horse.

Anyway, it’s very cold and…

A heavy grey sleet is falling from the sky but you don’t care…

because you’re going to see a Broadway show!  Listen!

You’ve just arrived at the doors of the Morosco Theatre in New York.  It’s very cold – remember when it used to be cold in November?  Not anymore.  November’s the new August now.  It’s global warming – we’re all doomed –

anyway…  It’s very cold and a heavy grey sleet is falling from the sky but you don’t care

because you’re going to see a Broadway show!  Listen!

Isn’t this wonderful?

Isn’t this wonderful?

It helps if you close your eyes

It helps if you close your eyes

A kettle on the stove begins to whistle.  MAN runs over to the stove and dances while he makes himself a cup of tea.

Don’t you love overtures?  Overtures are out of style now.  I miss them.  It’s a polite way of beginning the evening.  It’s the show’s way of welcoming you.  Hello, welcome.  The meal will be served shortly, but in the mean time, would you like an appetizer?  A pu-pu platter of tunes, it you will.

Overtures?  Overtures are out of style now.  I miss them.

It’s the show’s way of welcoming you.  Hello, welcome.  The meal will be served shortly, but in the mean time, would you like an appetizer?

That’s what an overture is, a musical appetizer.

A pu-pu platter of tunes, it you will.

Oh!  Something new!  What could it be?  Sounds like a dance number.  Kind of rollicking.  Maybe involving pirates!  Don’t worry.  There are no pirates.

Oh!  Something new!  What could it be?  Sounds like a dance tune.  Kind of rollicking.  Maybe involving pirates!  Don’t worry.  There are no pirates.

He runs back to his chair as the music segues from a mono recording to a live orchestra.

Now.  This is it.  This is that special moment when the music starts to build…

and you know you’re only seconds away from being transported.

And the overture builds and builds to it’s climax…

Now.  Here it comes.  The moment when the music starts to build and you know you’re only seconds away from being transported.

The overture builds to it’s conclusion.

and the lights dim and you settle back in your seat…

The curtain is going up.  I can’t wait!

and as you’re sitting there in the dark you think to yourself

A new Gable and Stein musical.

Aren’t you excited?

I suppose since both sets of words are in the materials you are sent from MTI, you can pick and choose what you like to say. You do, however, have to align the following things:

a) I believe the music starts after “…time machine starting up”
b) I think “You’re going to see a Broadway show” ought to go around measures 14-16
c) I think the part of the monologue about Overtures needs to come around 39. There isn’t really enough time, but…
d) The “Oh! Something new!” portion of the monologue needs to come around 45. You’ll find it’s hard to get through the lines that come before in time.
e) The real Orchestra begins playing at around 63. You can take all the bass out of the cast recording and put some crackle on it, (and then you get some more time before 45) or you can record the pit like I did. Be careful, though. You’ll probably wind up recording it at the Sitzprobe, and then for the run of the show, you’ll have to listen to it every night, the way you were playing it before you knew it very well.
f) At 75, the band is just getting ripping, and they have to play under the monologue. It’s kind of a drag.

1A. Opening Scene
The cue to go on to 2. is when Underling says: “It’s a miracle, Madame” (go on)

2. Fancy Dress
This number does just what it’s supposed to do, but I can’t help thinking that it isn’t really a ‘20s number in terms of what it does theatrically. I can think of lots of examples of shows before the 60s that begin with a chorus singing “We Are” and numbers in which characters say “I Am”, but this number, in which everyone comes out and says “I am”  or “he, she is…” one after another feels like a post-Hal Prince thing to me (Fiddler, Cabaret, Into The Woods, Ragtime,). Lisa Lambert and Bob Martin came and spoke to us at Villanova, and Ms. Lambert mentioned something in passing about the number being related to a Marx Brothers opening number, but I can’t remember which movie she mentioned. Whether it’s anachronistic or not, it does the job far better than a more typical ‘30s chorus opening would do, (like Bon Voyage at the beginning of Anything Goes for example) and if it has that zany Marx Brothers madness going on, it’s the perfect opener. There are a few errors and omissions in the score: Underling is supposed to say “Ah!” in measure 27. There is a mistake in Reed 1 in measure 58. The top note, which is clearly a concert D, is marked concert Db in the part. 69-72 is a repeat, not a vamp. At measure 84, Feldzieg sings “I gotta stop this wedding or I might get shot” in the score, and “I gotta stop this wedding or I’m not worth squat” in the script. Even though the script version doesn’t sound very ‘20s, you must use that version. Kitty’s next line ends with ‘shot’ also and you can’t have an identity. If you find yourself arguing with me, I’ll just say, trust me. There can be no identities in musical theatre that is pretending to be from the ‘20s. (identity rhyming is a disease of the modern musical theatre which had not begun to spread in the ‘20s)  At Measure 128, the script has everyone singing this part. The score says ‘staff’. I guess that means it’s up to your discretion. At 144, resist the temptation to slow down. In measure 177, the cue in the score says “Champagne makes me deliciously drowsy.” Take the deliciously out. There isn’t enough time. At 189 there is an elaborate figure in cue notes that isn’t in the parts at all. Don’t play any of it in rehearsal, it’ll drown out Trix and confuse everyone when the band shows up and doesn’t play it. The figure at measure 208 for Feldzieg and the Baritones could be up the octave. (and probably should be) Same at 216. At 206, be sure your Man In Chair knows to turn the record down, and drill your chorus to drop the volume way down there. An important detail here is that the record has been turned down, but their performance has not gotten less energetic. The choreography and the energy ought to be as big as ever, because they are still performing ‘full-out’ on the record! (meta enough for you?)The script has this moment in a different place. Decide for sure where that happens with your director. At 209, Man in chair says the characters have been introduced. The script says all the guests have arrived. You’ll have to decide which you prefer. Note that 219 is a different figure than it was at 179. Make that difference explicit early in the rehearsal process. At 221, the Double Bass book has a rhythmic error. Check against the score. I did 225 twice, and used the NEXT measure as a vamp. Reed 1 has an error in measure 227; I think that first note is marked as a concert G natural, not a concert G flat, as correctly indicated in the score. Budget a lot of time for 229; for some reason it’s very counterintuitive for the principals (particularly Trix and the Gangsters). It can also be a little counterintuitive for your drummer, because the swing eighths go away without warning. Make a big deal out of a clean cutoff at 251, and if possible, have your choreographer put some movement at that moment so that they can lock in on that beat.
2B. Macaroons
The cue is marked as “…macaroons”, which must have been the cue line at one point. Now the line in question ends with macaroon (singular), and it must have been a completely different line to have been plural. Maybe at some point Feldzieg said it about the gangsters? It’s just a drum punctuation to a joke.
3. Robert’s Entrance
I did this number twice, adding the reeds the second time only to keep it from sounding like a repeat. We used the line “I always thought that number was overplayed” as the cue, but you could also use “Let’s go to the groom’s room”.
4. Cold Feets
This number has a lot of ideas from minstrelsy, Lisa Lambert mentioned the Gershwin’s Slap That Bass as a cousin of this piece, I hear a number of other classic rhythm numbers in there too. The first section of the song actually presents some challenges. You have to play a little of that trumpet line in during rehearsals, because it fills in spaces and does a kind of call-and-response with the singer. There is a stinger right at the top of the number in the brass that isn’t in the score. Make sure you give a good cue for that. It’s marked colla voce, but I think after measure A, you ought to be in a slow, but steady tempo. The phrases are actually in 6/4 when you think about it. Whatever you wind up doing, Measure 6 ought to be in tempo, because the trumpet answer phrase lines up with the bassline, and you need to be in tempo to do that. I took a slight ritard at measure 7. There is a line in measures 9 and 10 that isn’t in the score. Robert says: “You know what you got?” Measure 19 is rhythmically different from what happens before, make a note of it. In the script, George says “You don’t say?” before he says the rest of the line as written in measure 63. There is a cut around measure 73 in the Original Broadway Cast Recording. Cueing out of 85 can be tricky. By the time you’ve run it a million times, it should wind up being the same amount of times through, more of a safety than anything. Make sure your drummer doesn’t drown out the lines being spoken in 85, or you won’t know you’ve missed your cue until it’s too late. Measure 88 should read What do I want? Not what do I got? At 94, I think the tempo should slack a bit. This is one of those tap moments where the dancer sets the tempo for what follows. Make it clear to the dancer that they’re stuck with whatever tempo they establish there. At 104, the tempo picks up a bit. At some point in there, the script has them saying:

Robert: “George! Look at you! You’re dancing!”

George: “I am? I am!”

The score doesn’t have those lines or indicate where they go. Some of the trombone work at 112-127 is a little awkward. If you’re compiling a list of things to pay particular attention to for that player, that’s the most exposed Trombone work in the show. 133 on is a much faster tempo. Make sure you and your choreographer are in agreement about the tempo here. It’s easy to run away with this section. Underling has a very funny moment in the fermata at 158. Again, after that the dancers establish the tempo at 159. Make it clear to them how important it is that they establish it correctly, or conduct their 5…6…7…8… yourself. Obviously the higher voiced singer of the 2 can sing the A flats in the passage at 161. I think 183 must be a misprint. It should be an octave higher or spoken. And line up that button at the end on beat 3.
5. Wedding Bells No. 1
The Cue for this number is: “And no more tap-dancing!” The phone message has an extra bit in the score that’s kind of funny. (or at least I thought it was funny, but it didn’t really get a laugh) Call your director’s attention to it, and see if you want it back in. Measure 8 says ‘slow 4’, but that feels really wrong. For me anyhow, the section feels like it’s mis-notated, that every note value should be doubled, that every bar should really be broken into 2 measures, and that the piece should be conducted in a fast 2. It has the same vibe as 3. Robert’s Entrance and 6D Janet’s Bridal Suite, both of which are in 2. I’m not suggesting you rewrite it, I’m only saying if you don’t mention that it’s weird to the band, you’ll do it a couple of times before you get it right. If you have a George who can’t really sell that high B flat, (um, who does?) change the notes in measure 8 to D flat, D flat, D natural, D natural, E flat for the long note. And finally, be diligent about where the button goes. If you are successful in feeling the beat correctly, you’ll get it in the right spot. But it won’t feel like a 4. Play through it, you’ll see what I mean.
5A. Janet By The Pool
Fairly straightforward scene change. I repeated the first 8 measures 3 times to buy us more time. The last 4 measures work pretty well with a poco a poco rit.
6. Show Off
This is one of the major show-pieces of the musical, and you might want to watch a you-tube video of it, to see all the stunts they managed to put in for the first production. Musically, it’s your classic Sutton Foster number, climaxing on her signature belted C. There is a lot of ground to cover in this number, so you’ll have to bear with me as I lay out all the issues.

Right off the bat, there’s an issue of whole-steps versus half steps. The figure in measure 1-4 and measures 9-12 has a half-step motion; the figure in 5-8 and 13-16 is a whole-step motion. It’s very easy to do both of them as half steps. This distinction continues throughout the number. Watch the cutoffs for the chorus in measures 36, 38, and 40. Don’t speed up at 42. The marking Faster (wild charleston) is not in all the pit books at measure 48. Make a note of it. If you don’t do the snake-charming bit at mesure 74, you’ll have to cut that section or it doesn’t make any sense. Again, see a youtube video to see what the music initially went with. Some of the dance sequence is very specific. There is a huge copy-paste error in both the vocal books and score. The second vocal entry “don’t wanna show off no more” that starts at 99 is wrong, and should be deleted. It isn’t in the cast recording and doesn’t match the harmony the band is playing. If you look at the vocal book, you’ll also see some other funniness there that proves it’s in error. There was initially some business in the drum fill at 105. If your production has nothing in particular going on there, cut the measure and go straight from 104 to 106. The section beginning at 106 is a place where you’ll wish your Janet wouldn’t listen to the CD. The Original Broadway Cast Recording has this section in another key. This is another open spot where the singer could establish a tempo you don’t like. (See my earlier notes) Make sure you get the tempo you want there. Again, the chorus parts are wrong at 113-116. There’s nothing for the chorus there at all. At 123, the fermata on that chord will feel odd. Play with it until it makes sense to you. I suspect it’s a seam from an earlier cut. At 124, the Original Broadway Recording is in the correct key again, but it may still be odd for your Janet, who may hear the key relationship from the cast recording. And once again, 124 is another place the singer has potentially too much control over the tempo. 125 is clearly in your traditional ‘stripper-tempo’, a tempo which doesn’t work if too slow or too fast. It should be slow enough to dig in on the stride left hand without being so slow that it lacks any energy. I took a little accelerando at 131. It’s unclear from the score what’s happening at 142. You’ll need to carefully tape the actress singing that phrase and play it back during the show at that spot while she drinks a glass of water. I can’t remember why at this point, but I gave the low men a B natural at the downbeat of 144 and changed the low girls to a G. Take 145 through the end as fast as you comfortably can. The end of the number is an applause segue into the playoff.
6A. Show Off Playoff
Very straightforward playoff. If you want it shorter, start at 7.
6B. Show Off Encore
The cue for this number is “I’m surprised she didn’t do an encore”
There is an alternate lyric in the script, that I suspect may have something to do with whether you have a trap-door or not:

Script: “Make the audience roar no more. I don’t wanna show off.”

Score: “Disappear through the floor no more. I don’t wanna show off.”

Again, this number has 2 places where Janet could speed you up or slow you down with her pick-ups. If your Janet has a high C, that works as a last note. But whatever happens there, I would advocate for a head-voice position on the C in measure 10, so we don’t hear a huge crack on the way up to measure 12.
6C. Spit Take
The cue line for the second half of this should read “Make myself a Gimlet”, as it reads in the script. They both have Vodka in them, but Gimlet sounds funnier than Bloody Mary.
6D. Janet’s Bridal Suite
I repeated the first four bars to extend this scene change.
7. As We Stumble Along
This is a Kate Smith style rousing anthem. You need to build the performance carefully to a fever pitch; work to pace your actress properly, so it isn’t just a hot mess. The Chaperone character is capable of many levels; be over the top, but a specific over the top, not a sloppy, indistinct one.
The cue lines vary from script to score:

Script: “Really, you’re not the least bit helpful. Couldn’t you at least allay my fears with a few choice words of inspiration.”

Score: “Well, perhaps you could allay my fears with a few choice words of inspiration.”

Be sure the word changes are clear to the performer early in the process. The first time it’s “…and the best that we can do is hope a bluebird will sing his song…” The second time it’s “…but as long as we can hear that little bluebird, there’ll be a song…”
There is a slight discrepancy between script and score at measure 33 too, and a missing line.

Script: “That was quite nice, Chaperone, but I don’t see how it pertains to my situation.”

Score: “That was very nice, Chaperone, but I don’t see how it applies to my situation.”

Followed in the script by:

Script: “ Oh, really, that’s not necessary. I suppose I’m just looking for a sympathetic—“ (This happens around measure 35 but the score does not list anydialogue)

At 35 I had a lot of fun accompanying the singer. I think it got lounge-ier every night. Measure 38 is miscued in the piano score. The clarinet in the reed 2 book has that figure. I got a funny look from my trumpet every time I cued it until I started remembering. At 43 there is a line for Man in Chair, who echoes Drowsy “Antarctica, Oh, Please.” He should say it EXACTLY as she says it. After all, this is his favorite record; her delivery is important to him. Our two actors had a great time changing it up every night, she’d pitch him something different every night and he’d say it just the same way she did. Measure 47 should be straight eighths. At the Bolero in 50, I found the articulations counter-intuitive. Make it a game with yourself to play the accents without making them staccato, and play the staccatos without making them accents. Once the band shows up, if you’re a good enough pianist, you can add a lot of Liberace style piano flourishes all over the section starting at 66. Change the choral parts to a half note at 73, a quarter at 77, and cut a quarter note out of 81, in each case to leave clear space for Drowsy to be heard. You’ll notice that the accompaniment really comes down at 78, then builds back up. It isn’t in the parts, but if you build that piano in and make it a strong crescendo, it adds one final level to the number. When you get to 82, do those hits colla voce with the singer, as written, but to land the joke, you’ll need extra space before ‘plumble’, and then hit those next 2 chords in tempo. It isn’t written that way in the parts, so tell the band too. We put a big fermata at the end of 84, and a portamento down to 85, and as a joke, our Drowsy took a big breath before “-long!”. I cut the E flat out of the ladies part in measure 86, and moved the cutoff for that chord to the downbeat of 87.

7A. Stumble Playoff
Start this playoff as she’s bowing. There is a discrepancy between the script and score in Man’s dialogue:

Script: “Basically, she sings a rousing anthem about alcoholism.”

Score: “She shoe-horned this song into the show. I mean basically she sings a rousing anthem about alcoholism.”

Janet’s entrance is on measure 15. Make sure that happens.
8. Aldolpho
I think this is one of the numbers that has been with the show since the very beginning. It works very well, and always gets a terrific response from the audience. One thing to shoot for in Aldolpho’s character is that it’s kind of unclear what ethnicity it is, vaguely hispanic, but also gypsy and Eastern European. There are a couple of places to throw the audience off the trail of that ethnicity, and it’s fun to find them.

I removed measure 2 entirely. I think it originally took place during some stage business we didn’t do. I also took out the fermata in 6. The passage from 10-12 is also underlining some stage business. (probably Aldolpho falling down) Be present and alert when that’s being staged. The upbeat to measure 13 should either be cued by the MD or in tempo; you want that entrance to 13 to be together.  The rhythm in the brass is notated incorrectly in the piano vocal score at 24 and 26 It ought to read Quarter rest, eighth rest, eighth note, eighth rest, eighth note quarter note. The piano part should be changed to match it. 31-35 isn’t that tricky to get through, provided your players are paying close attention. At measure 35, there’s a marking in the reeds that doesn’t work. It’s marked fp crescendo, which would drown out the lines. I told them to mark it piano. The clarinets trade off the trill there, so provided you have more than one, it could last as long as you like. At 40, I told my first trumpet to play that figure with a fat, unfocused, mariachi tone. It was funny. Measure 45 is the one spot in the show where I missed the second keyboard. That trill just isn’t the same without a guitar patch. Our percussionist added it into the mallet part. There are a lot of dynamic details to observe. Begin playing them in rehearsal and make sure your band sees them too. The fermata in 55 should be really hammed up. On an unrelated note, am I the only one who has trouble giving a downbeat with my head while music directing from the piano after I’ve just played a big ascending glissando on the previous upbeat? Try it. Your right hand sweeps across up the piano while your head goes up and then you play the downbeat chord while your head goes down, all in one fluid and easy-to-read movement. I muffed it until I just told the band to come in on the downbeat and I wouldn’t cue them. There is a direct segue to the next number.
8A. Aldolpho Playoff
The first part of the playoff is pretty straightforward.
8B. Accident Prereprise
I played measures 1-4 3 times to accommodate a scene change. Robert will be making his entrance at the pickup to 9, and he’ll need to learn to hear that ascending triplet figure in 8 as his cue. He’s entering blindfolded, by the way. On roller skates. Now the blindfold can be seen through, naturally, but you can see how you’d want to know the tune pretty well. 🙂
9. Accident Waiting To Happen
This number is your typical 20s-30s mid-tempo ballad, like How Long Has This Been Going on? or Embraceable You. Performance practice for these songs requires a flexible tempo for the verse, the lyrics of which provide the context for the chorus. The chorus is generally performed in strict tempo. So the section of the number that begins in measure 2 should be a flexible tempo, coming to a pause at the end of each line. In the intro, be sure to play a little of that flute line in measure 1, to help the singers know what they’ll hear when the band is there.
The chorus of this song is very cleverly and idiomatically scored, and is a joy to play, particularly with the winds and percussion playing along with that jaunty accompaniment figure. Again, colla voce at 28A. (by the way, colla voce doesn’t mean slow, it means flexible. There’s a difference. You classical people, it’s more like recitative) There’s a section in the Original Broadway Cast recording that’s been cut; hence the awkward transition at 71. In that fermata is a bit of dialogue that doesn’t appear in the score:

Janet: “And then what happened?”

Robert: “Well, then…we kissed.”
Robert’s part at 74 lies in a potentially tricky place for a tenor. Head voice, or a light mix is the way to go here. This number is much better with the skates and the blindfold. It’s a daunting task, but one well worth the hours and hours of rehearsal time.
9A. I Sure Did!
I have no idea why it’s titled this way; it must have been an earlier draft of the cue line. The real cue now is, “Oh, no! What have I done?” Then it’s kind of a keystone cops vibe until around 12.
9B. Kitty, The Incomprehensible
This underscore is easy, but the score hasn’t been edited since the whole scene was rewritten. The cue line is all wrong now. The script has it right:
Kitty: “…and don’t forget to shave your legs”
In the parts, the winds share the figure in the piano right hand. First it’s flute, then clarinet. If you didn’t hire all the books, just tell the players you do have to repeat that figure.
10. Toledo Surprise
I’ll be honest and say that this is the number that kept me up nights. There’s one part which runs like clockwork after you teach it well, but it’s not easy to teach or play. You’ll know it when you see it. This is one of the numbers where you miss reed 4 if you didn’t hire it. The Bari sax part is priceless. The cue to this number is the SECOND time Feldzieg says “One more time!” We tried it cold, but I wound up giving Feldzieg a bell tone D flat to start, because the Dadadadadada needs to be in the right key. If he cues the MD to give the bell-tone, it’s funny. This is yet another case where the actor is potentially giving the tempo for the next section in the clear before the orchestra comes in. Be aware of that upbeat phrase being too slow or too fast. I’ll point out that the rhythm for the melody in the cast recording is not what’s notated in the score. Most of the time it winds up being Quarter, eighth eighth, instead of Eighth Quarter Eighth for the figure that begins in measure 3. I gave in; the way it’s written winds up sounding fussy. I moved the G flat in measure 18 down an octave. Can your gangsters hear harmony? Have fun with 21. If not, don’t be a hero. Have them both sing the bottom line. Again, at 35, you can drop that G flat down the octave if it’s just too high. At 36, my drummer and I checked in with each other to establish the tempo for the next section. If things had dragged at all, we fixed it there. In 36, the dialogue is:

Feldzieg: “You boys are naturals.”

Gangster # 2: “Honest?”

Feldzieg: “Keep it up, I’ll go work on the contracts.”

Gangsters 1 & 2: “Hey!

Feldzieg: “A-5-6-7-8.”

That 5-6-7-8 is your cue out of 58. Observe the subito piano in 61, so that you don’t cover up Kitty’s line:

Kitty: “Mr. Feldzieg. Oh, what’s going on here?”

Feldzieg: “Kitty, I’m developing a new act.”

Gangsters: “TOLEDO SURPRISE”

Then around 91:

Kitty: “You mean you’re putting gangsters in the show and you won’t put me in? They’re not even in the union.”

Feldzieg: “Shh. You got it all wrong. The new act—it’s for you, Kitty. And these boys are your back up dancers.”

That’s your cue to get out of 98.

Kitty: “Back up dancers? Holy cats!”

That’s your cue to get out of 98A. Ideally, Holy is on a downbeat, cats is on a downbeat, and you’re right out into 100. By the way, at 100, the new Half note is the old quarter. It isn’t marked. Tell your band the PRISE of SurPRISE is on the downbeat of 108 and we’re off in tempo. The original cast album has more music after 116. Don’t let them rehearse to it; it’s not in the score. In measure 126, go on after “What a wonderful, wonderful tragedy!” If 145 and 150 are low or inaudible for your Feldzieg, you can put 145 up and leave 146 down, or put them both up the octave. The section between 147 and 162 had a tendency to rush when we did it. Don’t let the train slow down at 187-188 either; Strictly in tempo. Watch some youtube versions to see what to do in that moment. It’s an opportunity for a good laugh! Which brings me to 218, the crazymaking record skip section. Let’s hope I can make this clear to you; it’s potentially very confusing. I found 218 much easier to think about from the pianist/singer perspective as a bar of traditionally subdivided 9/8. In other words, THEN you GOT a TO-le, with three strong beats. I rehearsed it that way, only playing the top notes of the right hand and the left hand. Then after the 7th time through, (and you need to drill it into their heads that it’s 7 times and out) I really whacked that full chord on the downbeat of 222, which I thought of in conjunction with 223 as one long bar of 7/4. You mustn’t slow down at all in 223. Then 224 is in cut time, really. After some confusion, this made sense to everyone. It did not make sense to all my pit members, particularly the drummer and the percussionist, who preferred to think of it as it actually is, namely 2+2+2+3 eighths. The drum book certainly is that way, basically a bar of 4 with an extra eighth. I still feel the subtlety of that beat distinction will be lost on most casts, who will almost certainly not be paying any attention to your beat pattern at that point anyway. In practice, I wound up just giving a strong head nod on the downbeat of 218 each time, I carefully counted to 7 times through, and gave my drummer instructions to really whack the snare on the downbeat of 222. Hey, as long as it consistently works, any solution to that measure is legitimate. My hat is off to you! It’s an applause segue into the next number, BTW.
10A. Act One Finale
Okay, here’s another place where the original cast recording will lead you astray. On the recording, 10-13 are double-timed. It took us a while to figure out what was going wrong there. Also, it isn’t clear in the script or the score, but context clues tell us that the dancing should continue briefly from measures 1-6. (otherwise the lines don’t make sense) By the way, the script has an “Oh, Robert” before Janet’s cue line.

Should you add an intermission? No! The monologue isn’t as funny with an intermission, the show is only an hour and 45 minutes long, the second act isn’t long enough to justify an intermission, and your need to sell candy isn’t great enough to mess up the flow and the proportions of the show. Okay, I’m off my soap-box.

11. Message From A Nightingale
So the whole point of this number is that it’s horribly racist. So there’s no point in backpedalling on it. Gotta go whole-hog, with the ‘Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting’ style parallel 5ths and the gong and the horrible pronunciation and all. Make sure Man in Chair gets all the way out of the room before you start playing or it doesn’t make sense that he doesn’t come back on to stop it. There was evidently some business at 17, but we just had an entrance, so I made no tempo changes and played straight through in tempo from 16-18. There are a number of ways you could sing the section starting at 10, but a Julie Andrews delivery is quite funny, if slightly anachronistic. When Man In Chair runs in from offstage, he interrupts measure 37, preferably with a record-scratch sound cue. In rehearsal, I always had to play that F+7 chord much too long, and sometimes wound up playing a Bb chord just to keep it from sounding wrong. But when the band showed up, we put that TamTam at 36, and the ringing went on so long, the F+7 chord seemed just right.

12. Bride’s Lament
This was another number that struck me as out of place in a 1928 musical, (mad scenes aren’t really the thing until Rose’s Turn from Gypsy or maybe Lady In The Dark at the very earliest) but when you realize things start going off the rails when Man In Chair starts drinking, everything starts to make sense. Once again, the number begins with a colla voce verse. It shouldn’t be too self indulgent, but it should have room to breathe when the audience laughs. (and they will if they have a pulse and speak English) The opening instrumental should be slow. There’s a lot of dialogue to get through, not all of which is in the score, by the way. The underscore at 30, though, should be faster, piu mosso as marked. At 45, you also need to be moving ahead. At 84, the left hand of the piano is initially hard to play, but 15 minutes with the metronome will put you on the right track. Drill 90-94 until it’s solid as stone with your Janet. You need to say “ding” or something for the triangle note at 105, or Janet will blow through it in rehearsal. I also recall that it wasn’t in the drum book? Triangle parts are in both books, so you never know where to cue them. The section beginning at 109 is so fun, but it helps to know a few things ahead of time. Look at that harmony part at 114, it’s strange at first. There is a monologue at 110 that isn’t in the score. That means your chorus will have to be at a lower volume than you will probably like. I was all ready to have them going full bore until I found out about the monologue. This is what Janet says:

“Oh Robert! What a fool I’ve been. A hapless fool! I know now that I love you, but I’ve thrown it all away! I love you monkey… but is love enough Is love ever enough?”

Clearly you want people to hear that. There is also some business with cymbals there. The score indicates measure 123, but we put a few more in. The sooner you can get them in rehearsal, the sooner you can be aware not only of how to get them to play together, but how LOUD they’ll be. If you have any say in the matter, recommend cheap, small cymbals. The reed 3 book has a concert D flat in the and of 4 of measure 117. Should be a concert D natural. The last measure should clearly be a half note fermata in the vocal parts. They ought to cut off at the button.

13. Vaudeville Entrance
I had this number starting at the moment Man In Chair yanks the phone cord out of the wall.

14. Love is Always Lovely
The cue to start this number is “That’s just the nature of love” During measure 8, this exchange happens:

Underling: But Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy, madam.

Tottendale:Oh, I never read reviews.

At measure 17, this exchange happens (also not in score):

Underling: Might I remind you, madam, that Anne Boleyn lost her head.

Tottendale: Yes! She was in love!

That’s your cue to go on. I found that one difficult to time. The score says “Love was good for Eve and Adam”, but I’m pretty sure it should read “good to Eve…” Underling is supposed to say “Here we go again” after “…Adam” and before “..and Samson and Delilah too.” Before he says “May I pose a question Madam?” he says “good grief!” on beats 2 and 3 of measure 22.
At 27 there are some funny sound effects in the percussion book you should make the choreographer aware of, or they’ll be quite a surprise! At 45, I had Tottendale on the top line, and Underling on the bottom. I suppose it works either way. In the vamp at 46, this line happens in the repeat before she sings “Love sneaks up behind you”:

Underling: “Oh. I found that quite taxing. Excuse me, madam, while I pour myself a glass of ice water”

At measure 60, I had Underling on the top line, and Tottendale on the bottom. The original Broadway cast recording has a different ending here. If you need a scene change, you can go back to 58 for it.
14A. Incidental
In our production, we decided this underscore wasn’t on the record. Our cue line was “for the benefit of the young people.” It’s all about the trombone gliss in, people.
15. Accident Underscore
Much of the scene this underscores was apparently cut. Now the dialogue ends earlier. I cut it when Feldzieg enters with Kitty.
16. Kitty, The Incredible
The cue here was when Feldzieg says “MY mind” the second time. I had the band cut to Measure 5 on Kitty’s cue. (wherever they happened to be in the measure)
17. Wedding Bells #2
The first chunk of this number really only exists to cover the costume change for the girls to get into their wedding gowns. (I have that on the authority of the writers) Since we didn’t have 4 dressers backstage, I wound up writing and scoring another 45 seconds of music for George to tap to. No, I won’t send it to you. The cue in is “Hip Hip Hooray!”  Also, it should be played in cut time, even though it’s written in common time. The score at measure 4 says “That’s George” instead of “He’s George” again, which I like better. As I recall, the Original Cast Recording has much more harmony. If you want to transcribe that and teach it, you’re welcome to, but I don’t think it adds all that much. At 24G, I cut out the middle note of the ladies part, and the high a out of the second half note in the men’s part. At 24H, George says:

“Minister you may begin…Oh no, I forgot the Minister!”

That’s your cue to go on. I don’t know how your production will solve the problem of the plane coming on stage. But the tempo of 25 is determined by how long that transition takes. At measure 50, write Tempo Di I Do I Do in your part. You’re establishing the tempo of the next number there. Make sure your dynamic drops under that dialogue. 54 is the only place in the score you may miss the 3rd trumpet.
18. I Do, I Do In The Sky
The cue to start the number is “Wait! I Got it! Trix!”  Be careful when you teach the section from 21 to 28. That melody line is tricky, and you don’t want to learn it wrong. Trix is missing an “I” on the last beat of measure 48. Write in courtesy natural signs in the men’s part at 59. That passage that begins there is fun to play, but don’t go on autopilot; it changes slightly at 62 and 64. Don’t be intimidated by the power failure at 90. It’s actually really easy. A small, but important point: The singers aren’t wind up toys, so they shouldn’t flop over on the ground when the power goes out. They just drop in pitch and stop. Then when the Super says: “Here we go!” and the lights come back up, they start scooping up and you cue them for “SKY!”

19. Finale Ultimo
The cue for this number is: “…a little something for when you’re feeling blue. You know?”  In an ideal world, Man In Chair remembers that pitch and just starts singing. (You can’t really get it from the previous number, which is in A flat, not C, and which in any case has a monologue between) I turned down the volume on my synth, struck the G and turned it up just loud enough to be heard. The uke chords at measure 8 are Dm7, G7, Dm7, G7, Em7, A7, Am7, D7. In standard gcea  tuning, those chords are (sorry for my lousy cutting and pasting):
If Robert can’t sing the low notes in 16, you can either throw the whole phrase up the octave, (not the best option) or sing these notes in measure 16: G, F, E, D, C, D, E, F. Your cast will likely want to breathe between the first and second beats of 45. Take an 8th rest before “will” and let them do it. At 50, I moved the 1st tenor part up into the alto, cut the Bb out of the first chord for the guys, cut the Ab out of the chord on beat 3, and cut the Bb out of all 4 men’s chords in 51. The script has the second word of 51 as tumble, but I think crumble, as written is funnier. At 52 you may want to explain to the band that the chorus comes in on 2. Otherwise they’re likely to misread your chorus cue as a cue to them. On the last note, I played the chord and told the singers, “Pick a note that feels right and comfortable and loud”. After all, every note in the D flat major chord is there, and there’s bound to be a Soprano and a tenor pulling that high A flat.
After the number, Man in Chair says, “Goodbye Everybody!”, which is your cue to play the:
20. Bows
You’ve played this before, but the section at 15 is in a different key than before, so don’t let your fingers go on autopilot. If you need a repeat, you can repeat 25-32. It took me awhile to trust the slower tempo of 51, but if everyone is digging in and the trumpet is really playing out broadly, it does work well.
21. Exit Music
I’m pretty sure this got faster every night. It’s a good chunk of the overture, really. Don’t wait until opening night to look at 28-30. It’s not quite the same as the overture, and the differences can throw the band off when it re-enters.

Instruments You Should Get For Your Pit
This is a dance show. You need a pianist, a drummer, and a bass player.
The reeds do a lot of work. Reeds 1 and 2 are most important, 3 is good, but less important. You only miss Reed 4 during some of the Bari sax work and a few Bass Clarinet place.
Trumpet 1 and Trombone are very helpful.
Trumpet 2 helps round out the sound, but has very few exposed parts.
We did not hire a trumpet 3, and I only noticed 2 places where an exposed 3rd trumpet part was missed. I didn’t even bother re-assigning them, I just played them on the piano.
I didn’t hire keyboard 2, and didn’t miss it.
The percussion book adds a LOT of color and silliness, but it’s very very hard, like all the mallet books orchestrated by Larry Blank. My percussionist Mark Cristofaro programmed the changes into his Malletkat, and it really made a lot of the show pop, but again, the mallet work is very hard, and if you have a player who isn’t great, or isn’t committed, don’t bother using the book.

3 person pit:
Piano, Bass, Drums

6 person pit:
Piano, Bass, Drums, Reed 1, Reed 2, Trumpet
9 person pit:
Piano, Bass, Drums, Reed 1, Reed 2, Reed 3, Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Trombone

Then add, in this order:

Percussion
Reed 4
Keyboard 2
Trumpet 3

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9 comments

  1. Hello, I want to thank you for this wonderful post – I am using this as my bible going into our present high school production! Any added notions are certainly welcome.


  2. What a WONDERFUL post.


  3. Okay, doing this show this spring. Going with an 8 person pit…would you I have to decide between Reed 3 and Trumpet 2. Any thoughts?


    • Oof. Tough call. I’d pick reed 3. And hire a good tpt. 1.


      • As a reed player myself, that was kind of my thought. Already have a good trumpet player hired, so that is set. Now to find another doubler….too bad I can’t play and conduct. Thanks!


  4. I’m MD for a spring 2016 production of Drowsy. Many helpful hints and suggestions here. Thanks so much for posting.


  5. I had the joy of Assistant Music Directing this show for my university this past October, and this post is just so wonderful!!

    I am Music Directing my first full show this spring, (In the Heights), and because the style of music is somewhat outside of my field of expertise, I am a bit intimidated! If you have any knowledge of the show or have absolutely ANY tips to give, please please send them my way!

    I know it would be a lot to ask for you to do an entire post like this on the show, but oh how I wish something exactly like this existed for In the Heights!


  6. I am MD for this show now. The choreographer used the Broadway recording and the missing measures in Accident are a problem. Do you know of anyone who has scored this–or do I need to do it?
    Thanks for all the info!!
    Sue Stuart


  7. A tremendous gift for all of us out here. Now I could only borrow someone’s piano/vocal score for a few days.

    lyricjay@gmail.com



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