Ever wondered what it’s like to be a fly on the wall in the rehearsal room for a major musical in Australia? Or better still, inside the mind of an actor in a rehearsal room for a major musical in Australia? Performer David James is currently rehearsing the role of Max Detweiler for the upcoming Australian production of The Sound Of Music and he has been keeping a diary of the process just for our AussieTheatre readers!
This is the second instalment of his regular column – Uncle Max’s Diary – keeping us updated on the creative process and progress from The Sound of Music’s rehearsal room!
Uncle Max’s Diary
November 16 2015. Day 8.
We celebrate the first of many birthdays, our associate choreographer and children’s director Jonny Bowles. Tiramisu birthday cake and Happy Birthday sung in 26 part harmony. Splendid.
* note to self- always demand Tiramisu Birthday cake.
** Second note to self- disregard first note to self.
Then the party scene. An extended session of waltzing from my clever cast mates, although the air conditioning is on the fritz in the rehearsal room and it’s 38 degrees outside! An hours waltzing is more akin to a session of Bikram Yoga – the hills are alive with perspiration by the end. Bikram Waltzing in a sauna anyone? The children sing ‘So long, farewell’ – another ‘Ah’ moment.
November 17 2015. Day 9.
Another music call with Marina, this time for ‘There’s No Way to Stop It’, a lesser known song, wonderfully simple in construction but quite tricky to place correctly in performance. PC and Luke suggest it’s all about holding onto the strength of the intention. The song isn’t serious in tone but it can’t be so light as to be flippant. We do a lot of speaking the lyrics before singing them; it’s very helpful. Later in the afternoon, we work this song on the main floor and much of what we discussed in the morning feeds into the staging now. Gavin is of a like-minded to us regarding the song. The process feels very organic. Nothing is imposed or preordained and yet the vision for the show is crystal clear; it’s all very impressive.
November 18 2015. Day 10.
10am. A media call
The media pack is here and the buzz must be on because there’s a strüdel load of them. Let’s hope it translates into many tickets sold. A full day from 11:30 am on the floor. The first four scenes of Act Two. The kids run rings around me, literally, in the chaos that opens the second act. Their energy astounds and invigorates! The extra work that Jonny, PC, Luke and many of the female ensemble members put in with the children is first rate. They are so prepared each time they hit the rehearsal room floor.
November 19 2015. Day 11
The Nazis are getting closer. We do the scene where Herr Zeller, played with an edgy sneer by mate Anthony Harkin, comes to the Von Trapp villa demanding to know why the Nazi flag is not flying above the house. Max and Frau Schmidt the housekeeper, played by the wonderful Lorraine Bayly (what a gift to the show to have her with us), try to placate him. When he suddenly does the Nazi salute with a loud accompanying ‘Heil’, he scares us both so much that Lorraine jumps in the air and shrieks all at once. We dissolve into laughter. In a later scene when Max has to fess up to having secretly entered the children in the Festival concert, Amy remarks that Maria reacts like a stage mum to the news- ‘really Max, what did they say?’ and ‘Georg, did you hear?’. It’s a wonderful observation and makes us all laugh. She’s a delight to work with is Amy – this will be a triumph for her. Later I watch as Amy and Stefanie Jones, who will knock ’em dead as Leisl, do their duet reprise of the song ’16/17′. It’s a lovely relationship they’re developing between Maria and Leisl; more like sisters each day. It’s terrific to watch.
November 20 2015. Day 12
Amy, Stef and the purple group kids do a performance on Channel 9’s Today Show. It looks and sounds brilliant.
We revisit the Herr Zeller scene from yesterday. This time Zeller elicits an unexpected name change from Lorraine Bayly. Captain von Trapp suddenly becomes Captain van Tropp – v funny. The Nazis have everyone on edge! The day ends with Marina bringing in a perfume. In every production, she finds a scent that reflects the character she plays. We all line up for the sniff test; we all think it smells great. Marina remains unconvinced- the search goes on.
*note to self – I must institute such a tradition for characters I play… maybe a new car!
November 21 2015. Day 13
We spend the day working through the show. This is the best bit. We have a spine, now we get to put some meat on the bones. It’s a great rehearsal process; open, methodical and considered… and it’s a happy room. The cast are a delight to a man and woman and I’m starting to know the kids are little better too. Looking forward to a day off tomorrow; it will be much needed.
November 22 2015. Day 14
Not a day off for everyone though…
Nearly the entire female cast drive two hours south of Sydney to visit an Abbey. They have an extraordinary and moving day, meeting the nuns, talking to them, observing them. The cast sang for them in the Abbey – gloriously I’m sure – and the nuns replied by singing our female cast a blessing. A priceless time according to all.
See more at: soundofmusictour.com.au