We have officially started working on Robin Hood! There were kids singing and dancing this past weekend at the Cole Center. Actors began to learn the opening number of the show and some even began some work on another dance, while our younger actors were busy singing with Jane.
In between all the dancing and singing was our read-thru. For the first time our actors got to go through the script, read their lines, and hear what everyone sounds like together as a cast. Of course, the kids were just excited to get their scripts, but I personally love the read-thru. For the first time you get to see how the show is going to end up. Of course, we were missing several actors (mostly for Junior Districts - I hope you all did well), which meant that Kiva and I spent a lot of time talking to ourselves as we each “played” several characters. Despite that, it went well and I can’t wait to start doing character work and blocking with everyone.
You may wonder why we don’t start with blocking. It’s simple actually: because we are working on a musical, it is more crucial for music and choreography to get started sooner. These can be seamlessly worked into the blocking and take a lot of practice. When I do show, musical or not, I work on my lines and picture my blocking in my head. Blocking isn’t something I generally “practice” on my own (unless it is more complicated, like fight choreography, which is hard to do by yourself anyways). I can go through my lines and think about blocking in my head. However, when I am working on a musical number, I need to actively practice the dance moves in order to learn them. I remember being in Natick Drama Workshop and practicing all the choreography in my bedroom. I’d put on the tape that Jane made for all of us and dance and sing along. For some reason, muscle memory works differently when it comes to choreography (maybe that’s just me?). I need to physically get up and dance to review and learn the moves. If you’ve ever seen a dancer or cheerleader practice moves you know that it doesn’t have to be done full out, but it must be done. This is the only way to really get it into your head.
As for the songs, it’s not just about learning the lyrics. You must know the tune and practice your pitch, and there is also rhythm to consider. These are things that can’t be practiced in your head and must be practiced with music (which is why Jane has already made audio recordings of all the songs for you). If you don’t have access to the music, please still practice the songs, but if you’re unsure of how a part sounds, just ask about it at the next rehearsal, or review with music once you again have access. Of course, without music you can still learn the lyrics! If you mumble through your songs, or if different people are singing different words at the same time the audience can tell.
Another thing to consider is that music and choreography go hand in hand. Let’s say that you are practicing a dance in your house in between rehearsals. Chances are, you are playing the music while doing so. Even if you aren’t concentrating on the lyrics and on singing, just hearing the song will help get it into your head. Likewise, there may be certain moves that correspond with certain words that you are either listening for, or noticing, as you go along. This will help you learn your lyrics. The reverse of that, of course, is that the sooner you know your songs and lyrics, the easier it will be to learn your choreography because some of the moves will correspond to certain lyrics. I don’t know which is easier to learn first, lyrics or choreography – I think it’s different for everyone, but either way, they definitely go together.
When it comes to blocking and the acting part of putting on a musical (although you would certainly be acting and in character for all of your songs and dances), it’s not that it’s less important, but rather, something that takes less obvious effort in certain ways. Making that last statement feels untrue, as acting classes I took in college were my hardest because I had to put so much effort into them, but there was always less homework to do, which is maybe an easier way to explain the difference. Acting requires effort; song and dance requires effort and homework (but the fun kind).
Please, please, please start practicing what you’ve already learned and re-read the script this week – it’s never too early to get going on memorization.
See you Saturday,