I’ve set up this blog to try and give helpful information to people who are music directing school shows. I’ve also expanded the mission to include guides to shows for Music Directors operating at every level and to examine interesting things I’ve run across in various musicals. I’m hoping that the mistakes I made can be avoided by other people, and that people will be able to pick up tools they can use to make kids and adults better performers. I’m also hoping the comments section will become a clearing house for other people’s creative solutions to the problems involved in music directing school shows, or indeed any level of musical theatre. There are also some posts about the history of Music Theatre in America, where I’m posting some of the things I’ve been finding on my Journey. I hope it’s useful to you!


  1. This blog is really awesome! It seems really well put together/helpful! I think its really awesome that you took the time to do all this!

  2. Your two articles on Piazza are incredibly helpful. I have the opportunity to work on it next season, but it would be with Guettel’s 5-piece reduced orchestration. I have some concerns since part of what makes the music work is the lushness and Rimsky-Korsakovianness of the original full orchestration. Have you performed only the full version or also the reduced version, and/or have you heard the reduced version performed by strong players? (I’d imagine the “only hire the best” is even more important with the very spare 5-piece orchestration) My recollection from the one time I did hear the 5-piece (TheatreWorks as I recall) is that some of the stuff that works well with agile woodwinds sounds a bit clunky when moved to piano. I’m classically trained and have the chops to play the book, but I wonder if the chamber version will be able to sweep the audience along as the full version does. Any advice?

    • Armando-

      Glad you liked the posts! Hope they continue to be helpful. The reduction is actually excellent. The missing guitar is the main problem. As I mentioned before, adding the guitar book to the 5 piece would be the best of all possible worlds, and perhaps if you beg better than I did, you can convince R&H to let you do that. Apart from that issue, the coverage of the main material is spot on, as I recall, and in that sense, the reduction is a much better option than piecemeal omission of parts from the larger orchestra. You will also need some excellent sound reinforcement, particularly if you’re not in a pit. A big part of that sweep of the orchestration is the overwhelming body of very busy sound coming over the audience in a wave. If some or all of that sound is coming out of speakers, you’ll need a decent stereo separation, even audience coverage, and people who aren’t afraid to let the music be loud at times.

      On another note, I’m sorry to say that today’s audiences are often unable to tell the difference, and are frequently perfectly happy with thinner versions of things. In the case of Guettel, some of your audience will be deaf to the incredible sweep of this gorgeous music no matter which orchestration you use. Time will change that, I think. Good luck on your production!

      • btw, i love that your blog is targeted at fairly advanced MDs. i wrote something targeted at people just sort of starting out, and would love your opinion/feedback on it. i’m happy to send you a comp copy of it:


        i spoke to our AD and he believes he can seat 8 musicians, which means things are looking up 🙂

        cheers, and send me your mailing addr if you’d like a copy of the book,


  3. This is a fantastic blog – so useful for so many shows!!! I take my hat off to you, Sir!

  4. Regarding your query about Gilbert and aunts on the Patience article, I have no historical sources to point you to, but Gilbert did not get on at all with his mother. Both parents were always very distant, but when they separated he seems to have taken his father’s side, and things got even worse between him and his mother.

    The film “Topsy Turvy” goes into it a little, but it seems clearest of all in Bunthorne, that Gilbert took a deliberate course to avoid ever really demonstrating personal experience of having a mother in his plays, so that she would never detect a mellowing if she was ever to see one.

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