Fresh Eyes on CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS, 2nd Installment
After a week and a half of rehearsal, the staging has been sketched in and most of the songs have been worked on at least briefly. Today, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner and his daughter Maya were able to come in a hear a music rehearsal. Here are his thoughts:
I popped by a music rehearsal this morning with the even fresher eyes of my four-year-old daughter, who was home from preschool, and who likes the old folk songbook (unless I’m trying to sing it to her). Since my initial take-away from the first read-through was that I’d be happy if A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL CELEBRATION chopped off the Civil War and kept the Musical Celebration, I thought a music-only session might give me my fix. (Note to Artists Rep: Can you please release these divine songs on a Civil War Mixtape? Or at least a Paula Vogel Spotify Playlist?)
What I’d forgotten, of course, is that a rehearsal isn’t a concert. Under the efficient, upbeat leadership of Andrew, the music director, thirteen of the cast members worked again and again through a lush but tricky cadence from “Marching through Georgia,” a hosannah for General Sherman’s triumphant victory in Savannah. “Hurrah, hurrah, we’ll bring the Jubilee,” the chorus runs, and it felt like a triumph when the cast finally got all the parts working together. “You killed it,” Andrew confirmed. “What does it mean to ‘kill it’?” my daughter asked. There was no escaping the Civil War in the musical celebration.
Indeed, I came to think of Andrew as a chipper stand-in for General Sherman, marshaling his troops through long suspensions and left-right beats. No Confederate outposts were destroyed, but an erroneous song number was crossed out, an extra set of instrumental sheet music was chucked, and an alto note that sat too low was rearranged. Andrew kept pace when the actors had trouble locating a score or a measure, marching through “Marching through Georgia” even if a few stragglers had to be left behind. “Why does he talk so much?” my daughter wondered, surprised that there was so little actual singing. It’s easy to forget how much work goes into one passing chord, how many hours are hidden in a second of stage time. If Andrew talked less and the chorus didn’t kill it, maybe no one would notice. But when they get it right, they'll bring the jubilee.