Hard to believe that it is already April! I have been silent from this blog because of the intense schedule of the month of March while preparing for the annual HS musical. We completed three performances of “Legally Blonde, the Musical.” For all of the years I have conducted the show (this was number 28) the decision was always one of collaboration with the drama teacher, the choral/vocal director, the choreographer and the orchestra director. When this show came to the table as an option I “objected” and so did the choral director, but we were both “overruled!” We had numerous concerns ranging from the mature content to technical issues involving the score and the extreme vocal demands.

But collaboration involves compromise…so we compromised! The process began to first make this “PG 21” show “high-school appropriate” and overcome many musical challenges including the need to make it orchestra friendly. It is driven by the three keyboard books, and a guitar, with occasional snippets thrown to the clarinets or violins. We had to hire two pianists and a professional guitar player because none of our students could even begin to deal with technical figures in these books. The orchestration leaves much to be desired as the nature of the music is not artistic, but commercial. The vocal parts were very taxing on the young voices and several rehearsals ended with panic and tears as the students on stage attempted to stretch into the parts. Now that it is over, I have to say that I am very proud of the members of the orchestra for their extreme “professionalism” as they sat night after night while we worked with the cast to reach that bond of common trust where the actors, dancers, singers and orchestra actually feel comfortable, allowing us to achieve that “seamlessness” that engages the audience. I realize that that comfort is actually a degree of independence where there is also adaptability, so that when things go wrong on stage, there is enough of a depth of understanding that there can be recovery. This show was definitely a huge stretch for all, technically demanding and great physical workout for the conductor…only 6 minutes of dialogue in entire two and a half hours. So, now that it is over, I realize that the bond of trust that evolved through rehearsals, created that sense of entrainment that cemented all involved in a common collaboration. We did achieve that seamlessness and the audience (though sometimes a bit surprised by the content) responded to the quality of the students efforts with standing ovations each night.

At this point I think I have come full circle to that first blog entry I wrote about respect and trust. This company experienced success because of the level of respect and the bond of trust that developed throughout the course of staging this extra-curricular activity. The quality of the process and resulting product was experienced was more valuable to the participants than the issues that surrounded the choice of show.