Greetings all! I finally have a little time to catch my breath after moving up to NYC and starting work, so I figured I'd do a bit of blogging and bring you all up to speed. First of all...
My apartment! It's a studio at West 56th Street and 9th Av. in Hell's Kitchen. For those of you not familiar with the city, don't let the name "Hell's Kitchen" intimidate you (it's a term that has to do with people in the 1850's being racist against the Irish), it's actually quite a lovely neighborhood. It's small, but it's nice small, with all new hardwood floors, new paintjob, and new kitchen appliances. With the housing market in Manhattan being as crazy as it is, it's amazing that I got this place for the price I did (or frankly, that I got it at all). So the living situation is great, I really couldn't have asked for a better situation, or a better location. But enough about that, let's talk Broadway.
I started work Monday morning at 10, and right away we were off to the races! This week is pre-production (rehearsals don't officially start until next Monday, Feb.6th), so the majority of the time it's only the essential production crew members who are there. So far it's been myself, Kathleen Marshall (director/choreographer), Tom Murray (music director), Marc Bruni (assistant director), David Chase (music supervisor), and Kathleen's assistant Lorna who are in the rehearsals, with a few others popping in and out from time to time. The primary focus of this week is getting everything as ready as possible for the cast when they show up next week, so a lot of what I've been doing is going over everything in the score and script with a fine-tooth comb to make sure it all syncs up properly. Of course, the score and script are constantly changing and being updated, so it's quite a task, but good for someone like me who's very thorough about things and slighty obsessive-compulsive. In the actual rehearsals right now, it's usually myself, Tom, and David sitting at the piano going over the score, Marc going over the script, and Kathleen and Lorna reviewing all the choreography that will be ready for day one. There's a lot of nitty-gritty work that's probably not too interesting to describe in great detail, but the foundation is being laid for a great production!
Many people have been asking variations of "What's it like working with people on Broadway?", and I have to say that, so far, everyone I've met is really remarkably... normal. There's no pretentiousness, no huge egos, no divas, none of that stuff. We get work done, we go to lunch, we goof around, we watch YouTube videos to get inspiration, and we get really excited when somebody brings cookies into the rehearsal studio. Pretty normal stuff I'd say, and everyone's chill and really genuinely nice. We have a popular culture that glorifies being a "diva", particularly in the theater, so I think there's sort of an expectation that everyone here acts that way, but nothing could be further from the truth. People who act like divas are the ones who sit around and talk about how much they'd LIKE to be on Broadway, but they'll never actually get here because nobody will put up with their crap. If Rachel Berry from "GLEE" was a real person, she would never actually land a Broadway job. Trust me on this one. Anyway, what has struck me is this: not only is everyone involved extremely good at what they do, but they are also extremely knowledgeable about what everyone else is doing. Kathleen can have very in-depth discussions with David and Tom about the details of the score, the two of them can talk in-depth about the choreography, everyone discusses the integrity of the script and the lyrics, and so forth. So if you're currently a student and you're wondering "UGH! Why do we have to take all these classes in music theory and music/theater history and all that?!", the answer is this: if you want to work at this level, you actually have to know that stuff. And you will put that knowledge to use. Again, trust me.
So, in summary, it's a lot of nitty-gritty work right now, but it's fun to think that we're building this show from the ground up. In many ways, it's really not that much different from doing a community show or a college production, just on a grander scale with more money. There's still much plunking of notes, slowly going over dance steps, and agonizing over the little details, but it's all worth it. Here's to a fabulous production, and a fabulous process!
James K. Ballard
A sometimes insightful, hopefully entertaining look into my career and everyday life.