The cast of Pippin is really struggling with a live band. This week I put two elements together: cast and band. Normally, with a semi-professional band, I think it’s better to wait until pretty close until the performance to unite the two sides. It allows for both groups to know their material really well before attempting to adjust to one another. However, I felt that here at Shantou University, the band and cast were such that we needed to practice early and often, if we were to ever get it right.
This past weekend proved exactly my point. Cast members, incredibly reliant on the CD, were thrown for a loop with the band. They had no sense of the key nor rhythm. They had no idea when to enter or how long to hold a note. It was the largest guessing game. The band had difficulties themselves with cues and staying with the soloists.
Part of the issue has to do with the language barrier. The show is in English and the conductor/music director doesn’t speak English. So cues that are based on lines in the show are insanely difficult to coordinate. I am introducing a bi-lingual, music student who will begin working as the go-between prompter for the band during the show.
Not much I can do for students who can’t pick out the key from the band. It’s further proof of karaoke syndrome where students can perform great with recorded backup that they’ve heard a million times but can’t hack it with live music.