Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Fair Lady Part 2


We weren't quite ready to go live, and we had about two weeks before opening night on May 29. The miracle was that we were even remotely ready. It wasn't as if we hadn't started rehearsing for My Fair Lady early enough (Jan. 25), but there were just soooooo many interruptions. Even the set painting on Friday morning, which usually goes like clock-work, was slowed down by a freak snowstorm and the running of a marathon through the heart of Jerusalem (I hate to be more curmudgeonly than I normally am, but enough is enough!) that kept a lot of people from getting to Talpiot -- or anywhere else for that matter..

The rehearsal schedule for the chorus takes into account that everyone won't always be available; in fact it's safe to say that there's never a rehearsal when everybody who is supposed to be there actually shows up. We just keep plugging on with the forces we have, and ultimately everyone figures out what they are supposed to be doing. At some point, we are told where we are supposed to on stage, and we begin integrating our parts with the soloists; and somehow it all comes together and we're ready.

There are always interruptions, but it occurred to me that the the spring productions are more problematic than the ones in the fall because of all the holidays. Yes, there certainly are all the Yom Tovim in Sept. and October, but they come at the beginning of our rehearsal schedule. Purim (regular and Shushan), all of Pesach, Shavuot, plus the additional days that are important here in The Land: Independence Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, even Yom Yerushalayim, come smack dab in the middle, as we are trying to maintain our momentum and remember what we learned the week before. Plus this year we had to celebrate Feb. 29.

No doubt, you are waiting for me explain what that's all about. So here goes: When the last troupe of performers was assembled to put on HMS Pinafore, it was mentioned that we would be also performing Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial By Jury at some future date, (we were even sent Paul Salter's recording of our parts) but it wasn't clear where or when. As we got closer and closer to performing Pinafore, there was less and less talk of the second show. As I determined later, Robert Binder had expected to perform TBJ as part of some arts festival in Jerusalem in the spring of 2012. Whatever happened to put the kibosh on that I don't know, but our esteemed artistic director had to do something -- if for no other reason than he had been rehearsing a number of principals (I can't imagine when he found the time), and he owed them some kind of performance.

I keep referring to the production of cool summertime beverages from yellow citrus fruit. There had to be a performance of Trial By Jury. Wait a minute; it's 2012, which means that February has twenty-nine days. Feb. 29: that's the anniversary of the founding of the Jerusalem Gilbert and Sullivan Society by none other than one R. Binder. And why that special date? February 29 is the "birthday" of Frederic, the pirate apprentice in Pirates of Penzance. So invite members of the Jerusalem G&S society and assorted other worthies to our rehearsal space for a concert reading of TBJ and selections from Pirates. There, that was easy, wasn't it?

So on Monday, Feb. 27 at our rehearsal facilities (already getting crowded with scenery). I along with everyone else who showed up was given a copy of the vocal score for TBJ.

Hark, the hour of ten is sounding; Hearts with anxious fears are bounding.
Hall of Justice crowds surrounding, Breathing hope and fear.
For today in this arena, Summoned by a stern subpoena,
Edwin, sued by Angelina, Shortly will appear.

As you might guess, the piece is about a court action brought by a young woman whose affections have been trifled with by the defendant. TBJ is short work, maybe forty minutes in length, the first major collaboration by the team, produced in 1875. Some people consider it a cantata (for all you Bach fans) for there's a lot of music, very little staging, and no spoken dialogue. Most of the music isn't that difficult, except as it gets towards the end and more and more people are singing different words and different music at the same time until the judge, in total exasperation, tells one and all to "Put your briefs upon the shelf, I will marry her (Angelina) myself."

You understand that I had two days to learn the music! OK, we didn't have to memorize it; we would be singing with the score in front of us. And the male chorus, as the jury, wouldn't be doing any little dance steps. But still, two days for something I had never seen or heard before --when I was still trying to get the music of My Fair Lady straight in my head.

I have a great distaste for making a fool of myself, and so I spent a considerable amount of time on Tues. and Wed. listening to Paul Salter's recording of the baritone part and singing with the score in front of me until I could do a credible job of most of it -- which I and everyone else did, ignoring the last several numbers with six or seven part harmony that would require a lot more work. Then it was time for the excerpts from Pirates. Hand out copies of the lyrics to several of the songs. Most of the guys had been in the cast when Encore! performed it several years ago and remembered:

When the foeman bares his steel,
Tarantara, tarantara,
We uncomfortable feel,
And we find the wisest thing,
tarantara, tarantara,
Is to slap our chests and sing,
as a collection of baritones, the predecessors to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops enter, prance around, and finally, finally exit.

I, to my eternal dismay and sorrow, had not been in the company that had performed Pirates several years ago; hence, I had never sung this music before either. However...... I can slap my chest and sing along with the best of them, and so I joined in. "Tarantara, tarantara, tarantara, tarantara........" No one seemed to be the wiser that I was winging it. A good time was had by all, and we could resume rehearsing My Fair Lady, which we would be performing in front of a larger, paying audience three months from the last tarantara, tarantara.

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