Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Meet the Moonie: Moon newbie Benjamin Pither
My first production with 42nd Street Moon has been an absolutely fantastic experience. The level of professionalism is extremely impressive: Dave Dobrusky is a piano virtuoso (I love it when he transposes on-the-spot) and Dyan McBride keeps us laughing (her impersonation of Tootie from “The Facts of Life” is priceless). The Bathing Beauties are the cutest tap dancers ever and the entire cast has really clicked (our group vocal power is pretty awesome – no need for a brass section in the orchestra!).
One of the wonderful things about doing a staged concert version is having the experience of being on stage as an entire cast for the whole show. It’s amazing how this can help to sustain the energy. The action of the play becomes more compelling when each of us is actively engaged the whole time (it reminds me of Act 2 of the Nutcracker when Clara has to look on with rapt attention for about 90 minutes). Everything becomes more urgent and important. Being on stage together the whole time also helps to bring us together as an ensemble – a strong sense of collective ownership of the show is achieved.
I’m also falling in love with the music. The opening number, "Movies Were Movies" (sung expertly by Bill Fahrner), is reminiscent of the actual background music of Mack Sennett’s silent films. The tune evokes a frantic, almost manic feeling. Similarly, "Look What Happened to Mabel" and "Mack and Mabel" both have a distinct ragtime feel (the style of music, not the actual musical) and effectively contribute to creating the early 20th century world of the play. It’s a recurring musical motif over the course of the play and if you close your eyes while you listen, it almost feels like you’re in a speakeasy.
Finally, the lovely Cindy Goldfield (whose comedic timing rivals that of Lucille Ball) recently brought in a DVD compilation of Mabel Normand films. Cindy’s likeness to Mabel Normand is positively UNCANNY. Not only the hair and facial features, but the physicality and mannerisms as well. That is reason enough to come and see the show. Incidentally, Cindy also makes a fabulous lemon meringue pie… is there anything she can’t do?
Sounds like a Moon newbie is a Moon convert, no?