Last night not only marked the opening night for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but also the very first performance of the Rural Cass County Community Theatre. That all adds up to a good deal of pressure, especially when playing to a full house. Fortunately, things got off to a great start.
About a month ago, a good opening night seemed completely out of the question. That was during the very first practice for Joseph. Iâ€™ve been in my fair share of plays before, and trust me, putting together a musical is quite an undertaking. A four-week schedule struck me as a complete pipe dream.
Fortunately for me, I had underestimated two things â€“ the talent in the cast, and the focus of the directors.
Most of my acting experience has come from doing plays in high school and college, as well as a good bit of community theater. In my experience, the actors in those situations are almost always dedicated and hard-working, but they may or may not possess a good deal of talent. (I remember a community theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof where we practiced a few dance steps over and over, until we could perform them in our sleep, and everybody still managed to end up going in different directions.)
In this cast, though, there really werenâ€™t any weak links. Even in the chorus, everyone was able to carry a tune, possessed a decent sense of rhythm, and could memorize dance routines after a few practices. The first soprano lines in the music were ridiculous, and yet we had an entire section that could hit the notes and make them sound pretty.
I was also very impressed with the organization and focus that went into rehearsals. Theater is a creative endeavor, and so Iâ€™ve been to a lot of rehearsals that are pretty much free-flowing and light on direction.
Not for this show. I have to give a lot of credit to Darcy and Lauren Brandenburg, the co-directors. Their schedules were models of efficiency, and their practices ran like clockwork. When they said practice would start at 7, practice started at 7. When they said weâ€™d work on a piece of music for 45 minutes, we worked on it for exactly that long. And when we were at practice, we spent our time practicing, not chatting or goofing off. So
while we didnâ€™t have a long rehearsal period, we made the rehearsals we had count.
Last night, I surprised myself by not even being nervous. Our preview performance on Tuesday had gone smoothly, and I was confident that things would go just as smoothly for opening night. It felt like it couldnâ€™t go any other way â€“ we had all been conditioned to do things a certain way. When this line of music came, we danced. When that song was over, we started the next one. We knew how the show should flow; it would almost take a conscious effort to derail things.
On Wednesday night, things went beautifully. Sure, there was the occasional missed step or off-key note, but nothing worth remembering. Our audience was wonderfully receptive, and laughed and cheered at all the appropriate places. At the end of four very intense weeks of practice, I think thatâ€™s the best reward any of us actors could hope for â€“ to hear our friends and family cheer, and to know thatÂ the audience enjoyedÂ our show.
Photos courtesy Diane Moderow.