Has anyone here played Hairspray (the Broadway musical), or have experience with musical theatre?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by rumbletone, Apr 13, 2016.

  1. rumbletone

    rumbletone Silver Supporting Member

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    Hey guys - I've signed on to play guitar for a local production of Hairspray. The MD is a pro, and it's produced by an experienced local production company, but it's a fundraiser for children's theatre and none of the talent are pros (though some are apparently quite good). Band will be just drums, bass, guitar, keys, and one horn, and we'll be right on stage (not in a pit).

    Although I've played in many larger ensembles on my first instrument (saxophone), I've never done a broadway-style show, and my reading skills on guitar are not great - I can read the score/parts, but translating that to voicings, etc. takes me some time, especially on the jazzier numbers - though on the simpler rockandroll tunes I can sight-read it reasonably well.

    Any suggestions/insights on what to expect in playing a broadway-style show, or how to approach this type of show as a guitarist? Especially given that we're covering with 5 players what was orchestrated for a much larger ensemble (that including 2 guitars)?? Would you prepare differently compared to a band/rock gig?

    Thanks!
     
  2. gennation

    gennation Member

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    Get the charts well ahead of time, make copies of them to keep a clean one and a working one you cam write on. Hit youtube to find others playing it so you have audio to reference and something to play along with.

    Just get the charts as soon as you can, those musicals are a lot of work.
     
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  3. rumbletone

    rumbletone Silver Supporting Member

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    thanks! I have the charts and have been working through it, focusing first on the portions I can't sight read at tempo. Normally I'd just memorize everything, but with 162 pages and a key change every page or two (sometimes every MEASURE or 2 . . . :) ), I'll be relying on the charts ...

    I did find a production from Berklee MTC on Youtube, and it seems very close to the score (a few cuts, but no transpositions or major omissions that I can see). Unfortunately the audio isn't great so I can't hear the guitar in most places, but at least I can play along with it.

     
  4. aiq

    aiq Supporting Member

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    I am happy to hear they are using live players instead of tracks.
     
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  5. Double V

    Double V Supporting Member

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    congrats on the gig! these gigs can be a lot fun.

    I've played in many different productions from local theater stuff, bar room operas, touring productions, and recently workshopped a show that will be opening off-broadway in the Fall with hopes of a Broadway run in 2017. Every single situation is different. One thing I've taken away with my experience is that charts, especially for guitar players, are not always expected to be played verbatim. There are lots of guitar "isms" that an MD will expect of you. Interpreting and embellishing the written parts. There's lots of stuff that just really can't be written for guitar and the MD is relying on your musicality. For example, the last thing I did the MD said "play a Dick Dale surf rock vibe line over the changes" and it just clicked for me get into some fast tremolo thing with some heavy verb. Everyone was happy.
    But, along with that, there will be moments where you have to play certain rhythms exactly as written, or a line that is doubled, etc..

    It's not so much about sight reading on these gigs, unless you're auditioning or its a gorilla style production. So now, its up to you to just know the score and realize that there's going to be a ton of changes in the score, all that stuff will be worked out in rehearsals, very similar to any band rehearsals. By knowing the score you will be prepared for anything the MD will ask of you.

    Here's my last experience. The show I workshopped for recently had two band rehearsals, one rehearsal with cast/singers, and then a performance for broadway industry folks. A total of three days to learn the music. First band rehearsal I was given a huge book of music to learn. Sight read half of the book with the band and mistakes were made by everyone. Mind you, no one in the band ever heard this music, so we're all relying on the MD and composer for guidance, marking the score like crazy. I went home and just learned all my parts, along with reading through the remainder of the book. Second day band rehearsal, we finished reading through the second half of the book and then we did a quick run through of the show. Nothing was perfect but we all got the sense as to what the show was going to sound like. Next day, a run through with cast/singers. I made sure I brought a big eraser along with a sharp pencil. Tons of changes in the score, places where I was playing previously, were not happening, some sections were taken out, some parts were transposed, etc. All this before the day we have to present to industry folks. You just roll with it and you make sure to take clear notes on the score.

    These situations become like family just like any type of band. Everyone is relying on each other to make sure the music is happening.
    Be alert, ask questions, have fun!
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2016
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  6. russintexas

    russintexas Member

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    I played Hairspray last November. That is one fun show, one I'd be happy to play again.

    When you're working in a situation like this (meaning non-pro), the MD should be able to cover for you when there's something really odd going on. Don't sweat the voicings so much! As long as you get minor/major/dominant/diminished/augmented right, you'll be fine. Anywhere you see the voicing notated, you can (for a show at this level) treat it as a suggestion. The focus should be on the actors, not on the band. As long as you're in the ballpark, all is well.

    You'll need to determine which of the two books is most important for this show; when I did it, I played the guitar 1 book (lots of important acoustic bits) and a buddy played book 2 (most of the solos). Be prepared to switch between books.

    There aren't a lot of guitar players who are comfortable hanging with this kind of gig, so enjoy the fact that you can!

    Oh, and get that descending riff in "You can't stop the beat" down pat. You can't blow a line like that in the show closer. :)
     
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  7. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    I did a production of it with John Waters doing readings between the songs, setting them up. It's a fun, guitaristic, musical. If you've played Phil Spector produced tunes you'll find the groove right away. As gennation said, get the 'book' now and learn it. Order the soundtrack and get the songs in your head as well.
     
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  8. stevel

    stevel Member

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    I have some. They wanted 10 rehearsals and 4 shows, and no pay. That was the end of my experience.
     
  9. Paleolith54

    Paleolith54 Member

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    Yeah, in my little town the local amateur company did Rent! a few years back, and I was set up to do Guitar #2, and we would also have been onstage rather than in the pit but...they ended up going with tracks. Would have been fun.
     
  10. The bear

    The bear Member

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    I have played that show. I remember there where all kinds of thing written in like "Chuck Berry-style fill" and "Bo Didley" etc.
    I got the book ahead and also a recording of the show too.
     
  11. rumbletone

    rumbletone Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks for all the input!! I've been working through the charts (160+ pages...) and will report back after Monday's rehearsal...
     
  12. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    As people said, the book is the book, but also a roadmap, not a court order. Every "book" sounds different depending on what your fellow players do. So, I also suggest you record your first rehearsals to hear what others are playing. You might find you don't need to learn some of the more difficult passages and can choose to just lay back (because the pianist already plays them, or because they are already pretty busy) or alternatively, you will hear the spaces where you know you are featured so you really need to be on top of your game. Nothing clarifies a performance like hearing it as a listener rather a player.
     
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  13. rumbletone

    rumbletone Silver Supporting Member

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    First rehearsal went well. I was more prepared than most of the others, hopefully they have been practising this week - tonight we play through with the singers for the first time.

    The weakest part of the production is apparently the dancing, so in several number the instrumental 'features' parts when the vocals take a break for dancing are getting cut - would have been nice to play some of the ones getting cut, but can focus that practice time on other things.

    The suggestions above really helped - especially re how to approach the parts. On the jazzier numbers, for example, I've simplified it a bit - the vocals and piano cover much of the harmony/extensions.

    Biggest practical problem seems to be managing page turns - not many breaks (as written) and always seems too obvious when I stop to turn pages, even with 4-6 pages open in front of me at a time :)
     
  14. russintexas

    russintexas Member

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    Glad to hear it. Playing in the pit for shows is my favorite thing to do musically. In fact, I have rehearsal tonight for my next show, Memphis. Awesome music. It'll be my 15th production in the last 2.5 years, which is INSANE.

    Keep us up-to-date; also, it might help future readers if you posted your rig, since that's also a question that comes up regularly for musicals.
     
  15. Sadhaka

    Sadhaka Member

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    Hey rumbletone,

    Glad to here the first rehearsal went well.

    I always photocopy and tape pages into the score to avoid page turns. I just did Anything Goes and there were a number of tunes in there that were four pages or four pages with a v.s.

    So say one tune starts on a left hand page, page number 4 for example. The piece covers pages 4, 5, 6 & 7. I would photocopy pp 4&5 and then use sticky tape to tape along the long edge to p 6 so that all four pages are open.

    I either use two stands or one wide 'conductors' style stands (preferred).

    You can't 'stop' to do a page turn! If you have to do a page turn, dog-ear the page corner and turn with your picking hand. That way you can keep sound going in a chord and even keep a chord rhythm going to some degree. At least the sound continues :)

    If you are scored for a melodic line you will have to memorise the passage and turn either before or after the section.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
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