Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Take a breather from your narrative for a minute.

Longform musicals can be quite intense, as the action rockets along from one plot point to the next. You might have multiple storylines weaving in and out of each other, raising the stakes and setting up a big finale. Although a tight, focused show is great, maintaining that intensity can be pretty tiring for an audience.

Sometimes it is worth inserting a scene or a song to take a break and have a rest, to give folks a chance to have a breather before the big final number.

It can be really useful to give the audience a palate-cleanser now and again. If your show has a strong director who really watches the pace of the show and adjusts it as required, a tool like this can really help to push that final scene over the top.

This is really well illustrated with a song from One Bride.

Towards the end of the final act, the two main story threads were rushing towards a conclusion. Throughout the story, Golly (the youngest of seven brothers) finds himself falling in love with Nancy (childhood friend). Nancy falls for Golly as well, but keeps her feelings in check - holding fast to her goal of digging up some buried gold and leaving the town. As the story progresses, she makes a sacrifice to ensure Golly's future security by agreeing to marry the nefarious brother Dudley. Golly finds an invitation to Dudley's wedding, and (unaware that Nancy is the bride) makes his way to the church.

In this scene, Brett, the town matchmaker, is setting up for the wedding. Brett (played by the very clever Luke Allan, of The Sexy Detective fame) reflects on his success at setting up Nancy and Dudley's match, singing To Have A Wedding.

Immediately prior to this scene, the director Mike Griffin (also from The Sexy Detective) realised what was needed was a palate-cleanser, to refresh the audience ahead of the big climactic scene. Rumour has it he practically pushed Luke on to stage whispering "Sing a song about weddings!" Luke forms a really nice song that isn't particularly tied in to the plot; it stands on its own. He was ably supported by the cast providing soft backing vocals from offstage, giving the song a bit more texture.

One thing I really liked about this song was that it was a strong performance that put the focus on a supporting role, giving Luke a moment to shine as Brett. In a show that featured a lot of comedy, drama and even slapstick, Luke held the audience for a few minutes with a gimmick-free, straight solo song. Well, almost gimmick-free; right towards the end, you hear the audience laugh - Luke did a mighty fake-out, motioning that he was going to finish that last phrase, then pulling back at the last second. (I'm glad I didn't take the bait!)

Photo by Al Caeiro

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