Thursday, March 12, 2009

surprise theater, not surprise theater

If it weren't enough that The Music Man has been on the menu at every dinner theater in the country for fifty years, now you can't even take a bus ride without seeing it.

It's a warhorse, like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I played in the pit orchestra for a production of Music Man once in a Fort Worth suburb. But since it was summer-theater-in-the-park it was more like a behind-the-bush orchestra. The conductor was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. I remember thinking, during one of the many vamps, that this was probably not how he had expected his career to be playing out.

Me, I was only there filling in at the last minute for someone who couldn't make it. When you play a musical you get this thing about the size of a phone book on your stand and, by tradition, it's all written in an illegible music manuscript in obscure keys that are wonderful theories, but awkward in practice. It's covered with not-quite erased notes, changes, extra repeats, cues, cuts, transpositions and even grocery lists by the last thousand or so musicians that this rented set of parts has been in the hands of.

So that's what I was sight-reading. I'm sure I'll never play the trombone in that town again.

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