Friday, March 29, 2024

Belmont Diary: To Life!

Four hours to rehearse and mount a brand new musical? No problem!

So I received the final feedback from Christopher Parsons, who directed the world premiere of Bringing Down the House (for a synopsis, cast info, and 20-page sample, click here), and I was glad to see that his recommendations for improving the play were fairly minor. In fact, he had just four: two about adding more one-liners for certain characters, one about shortening a serious scene, and one about the handling of the dynamite crates.

I also went through the script a few more times myself--the first time I'd looked at it since I sent it to Chris back in October. This time away was immensely helpful, as it allowed me to look at the play with brand new eyes. And made it painfully clear what needed to be fixed.

I was relentless in my edits. I beefed up the humor. I trimmed the fat. And I was surprised to find one embarrassing error in which one of the characters couldn't be where I said she was because she'd previously exited from the opposite side of the stage. That forced me to rethink her whole movement and I ended up adding a brief little scene with her that's not only funny but should really boost the tension as we head into the third act.

Protesters battle the demolition crew for control of the stage.

I'm really, really happy with the script now, which is why I submitted it to Pioneer yesterday. But what made me even happier than finishing the script was receiving over 100 photos from the show (111 to be exact) and seeing the fantastic set Chris and his team came up with.

I wrote the play so that only the barest of sets is necessary, making it easier for cash-strapped schools and community theaters to produce. Since the entire play revolves around the rehearsal for a musical, all you really need is a stage, a table, a chair, and a couple of building columns that the demolition crew prepare to drill into for the dynamite (no holes are actually drilled).

Narcissistic movie star Yvonne stops the show (quite literally).

I got the idea from a production of Gypsy I'd seen years ago at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. They used tables and chairs as needed for some of the scenes, but there was no backdrop. The whole show was performed on a bare stage so that the cinder block wall at the back of the theater--which I'd never seen before--served as the backdrop. It was one of the coolest sets I'd ever seen, and it really punched up the theatrical feel of the show. We weren't just watching a musical. We were IN a musical. 

You can easily do the same kind of thing with Bringing Down the House.

Assistant director Robin learns that "the Twizzlers are everything."

Of course, if you're feeling creative, you can build a theatrically-inspired set, adding whatever random  stage detritus you can throw together for authenticity. And that's exactly what the Belmont folks did, building a faux brick back drop to make the set really look like an old, abandoned theater in lower Manhattan, which you can see in these colorful photos.

Anyway, it's a beautiful set. And I'm thrilled that the play has finally been brought to life and that it was received so well.

A great big kudos to everyone at Belmont Day School and especially co-directors Christopher Parsons and Susan Dempsey for a job fantastically done.

Let's make this a regular thing, shall we?

Every good musical needs a kick line.

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