Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Some closing thoughts on Miss Liberty

From cast member Paul Ziller:

"Seeing as Top-Five and Top-Ten Lists are all the rage on this blog, Letterman and elsewhere, I felt inspired to chime in with my own. Our closing weekend of Miss Liberty is upon us, so the sentiment has begun flowing freely. I hope you enjoy this performer's perspective.

My Top-Ten Musings on my experience of 42nd St. Moon's Miss Liberty:

1) Prior to each performance, ten minutes before the house lights go down, Greg Lucas and I (fellow "Newsies") feel a bit like time-travelers... we exit the side stage door in our period costumes (with newspapered binders in hand), pass by a couple of Jackson St. businesses, and discreetly re-enter via the lobby. I'm fond of our rear aisle entrance for the opening duet, as we get to help "warm-up" the audience. I get a kick out of the variety of audience reactions during our first cries of "Extra, Extra"... some a bit
startled, while others appear delighted and engaged. Ah, the joys of live theatre!

2) How refreshing to hear the score come to life at the fingertips of our virtuosic pianist, Brandon Adams, (and violinist Chris Macomber, in the overture). As a singer, it's delightful to not have to work to overpower an orchestra. And, without mics, our voices are delivered straight to your ears, allowing for a natural balance and none of the typical mic faux pas we all know too well. We were amused when, in the opening weekend Q&A someone asked if this show had been the first at 42nd St. Moon to be amplified. The simple truth of that lies in the vocal strengths of our cast.

3) Less is more. With just a few suggestive set pieces, and minimal costume changes (for most of us), it really IS all about the essential elements of musical theatre: the score, the story, and the characterizations. What a delight.

4) Thinking back to the eve of my first encounter with a full house at 42nd St. Moon (our opening preview), I can recall a tangible feeling of graciousness that emanated from our audience. I could feel that we were performing for people who largely knew the value of such "lost" gems as "Miss Liberty" and who shared in our sentiment for this piece, from another time they knew very well. There is one particular audience member who is rather effusive... we were thankfully even further energized by his and others' reactions throughout.

5) As anyone who attends 42nd St. Moon performances knows, most of the performers sit on chairs upstage when they are not in a scene. What may not be obvious is that this provides us with a great opportunity. That is, we get to watch and learn from the finest in our midst while they work their magic. However, this also means that the catchy tunes they perform dig even deeper into the psyche. So, when I'm at my day job or enjoying a weekend morning off, I can often be found humming "Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun". Careful... that one's addictive!

6) This (#5) also means that some minimal costume changes (ie: put on beret, take off hat, put on sash, and so on) happen on stage, without an exit. I remember when I attended "Red, Hot and Blue", this sort of onstage character swap can give the feeling of performer as magician — stepping seamlessly in and out of one's characters before the audience's eyes.

7) What an honor to be able to perform the "Paris Wakes Up" trio, which Brandon Adams wrote expressly for our production to augment the original solo. It's nice to be able to use my countertenor range (that's "falsetto" to most) as well, which is a rare opportunity in musical theatre repertoire.

8)Since there was no formal dance audition for "Miss Liberty", I figured this would be a dance-free show, or at least I wouldn't be in them... happily I was oh so wrong. I had heard so many favorable things about Jayne Zaban from performer friends, so I was eager to work with her. We have a lot of fun with her lively and diverse period-inspired choreography.

9) As opera divas and divos often say of Mozart, I say of Irving Berlin. His writing is like honey for the vocal chords. I have really enjoyed the, at times, light classical style of this composition, which I suppose is true of most Broadway scores of the time (clearly unlike our contemporary "Rent", "Aida", "Miss Saigon"). Kudos to our inspired and inspiring Co-Founder and Director Greg Mackellan and his team for providing audiences in our city with the opportunity to revel in these unjustly neglected works and for giving us performers a setting to help lovingly craft them.

10) When witnessing a 42nd St. Moon show in the Eureka Theatre, one can for a moment feel transported to a NY cabaret-type setting: intimate, of another time, with the promise of always offering up something exciting just around the corner. Wait a minute, am I in the Algonquin... or the Carlyle?

Signing off... or, should that be singing off...

Thanks Paul! One can be a 42nd St. Moon fan from inside the shows too, obviously!

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