PERSONALLY, I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY DO IT by Geoff Bryant, Cohort

It’s time to catch up on cohort thoughts for My 80-Year-Old-Boyfriend…

This is my first season as a cohort, so I have very little experience seeing behind the scenes of a professional show. But I am starting to pick up a few things, particularly about a show that is coming together for the first time – a world premiere.

We cohorts are sent the script for a show and I wish I could have read them all for context.   For My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend I did have that chance while lying on a beach in Puerto Rico. It made for great reading – entertaining and interesting – in my beach chair.  I did know that the script was already changed from the one given out on the first day of rehearsals, but I know the story.

A script for a musical is a little different, because obviously there is music, and that’s not in the script. The songs however are all in CAPS, so you know that part is being sung.    It does keep you focused on the story. To be honest, when I first  learned the story was Charissa’s own story, I was worried. When being honest, most people’s life stories don’t make for great reading. And well, there are too many TV shows set in LA as if there are no other cities. I was delighted to find that Charissa’s story is quite interesting. During a break in rehearsal, I asked her how true it is to real life, and she replied that it is pretty close. Some things are re-arranged a little in time, or a little different, but it’s true to her life. In developing the show at workshops there was one important character who needed to be dealt with – her husband.

As you can imagine from the show’s title, you might think him relevant. As it turns out, his role needed to be extended or his character killed off. Well, he wasn’t killed, but he was removed which really works fine.

Script changes. The group has worked together a lot to develop things, but coming into rehearsals it is still being developed. And as to script, I use the term loosely – there is music and lyrics and choreography. I was at the theater this afternoon and was surprised to see things still truly in progress of coming together – after all the first show is tonight. There are still tables over the seats with laptops and all that for teching the show. They are working the smallest of details. They ask Charissa to do a short piece several times to get the timing of the lights just right to convey that Charissa is moving through different rooms of an apartment, within a few feet on stage.

They took a break and Christian takes to dancing on the stage. Christian writes lyrics and music, plays the piano, and it turns out also is a choreographer. That’s quite a lot of creativity. He isn’t dancing for fun though. He is working out steps for Charissa to be able to make her way, tap dancing, across the stage in what turns out to be a tight space – tap won’t work on the carpet. Oh and did I mention that the performance is in a couple of hours and it’s just about time for dinner break? Crazy.

I had a moment to chat with Sean and he tells me this is normal. Working out the details right up to show time. They will do this each day of the previews until opening night when the show is to be “locked down”.

Personally, I don’t know how they do it. On the weekend they do tech – lights, props, sound, etc. from morning to late night. Monday off. Tuesday more hard work. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday they put in what should be a full day working out everything, accounting for what did or didn’t work with the audience and then, yes, then they do the show. I would think this must be exhausting for the performers. Hours of repeating the minutia. Change a step – Charissa needs to take it in and make it permanent. How can they keep the energy? And how can they keep the focus?

Another thing that is different with this show… There is an extra person at the table contributing to the creative work. We cohorts are just supposed to be observers sitting in the background. Turns out this is Pelin Chou. Curious I looked her up online and found that she is the creative director for Oriental Dreamworks Animation – yes that is Dreamworks. She has very impressive credentials. She turns out to be an investor in the show and is there for a very substantial amount of time. Sean explains that her investment allows them to do much more for the show to bring it from an idea to a show. MRT is really moving up with the involvement of someone like Pelin. Kudos to Sean for bringing all this talent together.

I also got a chance to chat with Christian about how he and Edward met and how they managed to write things together – given that Christian lives in New York and Edward over in England. There have been the workshops and there has been Skype. Charissa in one place, Christian another, and Edward across the pond. They sing and create together. Pretty cool. They must however have a better connection than my wife and I have had using Facetime with the grandkids across the country.

 

megpix-042517-1977 - Low Res
Charissa Bertels in My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend, with Kevin David Thomas at the piano. Photo by Meghan Moore.

My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend runs through May 21.

http://www.mrt.org/Boyfriend

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