SMC Based 'American Reflections' Braces for an Unprecedented Trip to the Far East
If anyone thought that saying "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" three times fast was a marvel of a feat, try memorizing the convoluted lyrics to the "Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats."
"Practical cats, dramatical cats, pragmatical cats, fanatical cats, oratorical cats, delphioracle cats," is just one part of a complicated sequence in the classic tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" that the cast of "American Reflections: Broadway in Concert" will have to master before their show opens at Santa Monica College Sept. 26.
Cast members Darren Giglio and Andrea "Boo" Rutledge attempt just that as both quietly fret over the complicated scheme to the song during their tech rehearsal last Wednesday.
"Skeptical cats, dispeptical cats, romantical cats," and both are in perfect unison until Giglio pauses and struggles to remember "pedantical cats." And so they start once again.
However, remembering lyrics and dance steps is the least of the cast's worries because once their run ends at SMC on Oct. 5, they will take the show overseas to China as part of Shandong University's 50th anniversary celebration.
"It's grueling," said Giglio describing their final rehearsals before the show's opening. "You have to go on stage after tech week," added Melissa Harding, "and you're the most tired after that week."
Tech week, explained Giglio, is when the technicians and actors come together to work on sound and lighting with dress rehearsals the following days.
"We can't talk and we're standing still," said Rutledge as she stands in the wings, or sides of the stage, waiting for her number to come up. "We are so tired and we do this every night of the week for six hours," she said.
For Geoffrey Going, tech week provides an opportunity for him to get better acquainted with the rest of the cast. "You really don't get to socialize as much as you would think," he said. "In a lot of cases you don't even know the cast's names. This is when the bonding happens."
Leanne Tallis though, compares tech week to hell, in a joking manner of course. "This rehearsal process has gone on forever," she said. "And I don't know what we're going to do about wigs," she pondered while staring into her dressing room mirror.
Her concerns about the wigs are valid because as mentioned before, these actors have to worry about more than flubbing a line. "We'll work anywhere we can," said Rutledge about the multiple tasks they have to consider.
From costumes, to props and make-up Going said tech week is about establishing a routine since while in China they'll be responsible for those things as well. "You have to pace yourself," he said.
Immediately following tech week are dress rehearsals just days before opening. While backstage, the cast vocally preps for their opening number with techniques that sound more like the airplane spoon or choo-choo train gimmick that parents use to feed their infants.
A chorale of melodious yawns soon follows as some rehearse numbers from "Wicked" and "All Shook Up" before going on stage.
On this day, while decked out in elaborate costumes and luminous make-up, the cast take to the stage and in harmonious synergy belt out the opening number "It's a Grand Night for Singing."
Suddenly from a distance a director yells "Hold" and breaks the melody to adjust the lighting. "The "holds" don't bother me as much," said Marla McClure. "It's the 10 minutes that follow," she said.
"The hardest thing for me with my actor ADD is to just sit there and not say anything," said Harding. Naturally, these thespians must find something to occupy their time in waiting.
While some watch "Family Guy" in the dressing room others discuss their upcoming departure to China.
"We're starting to realize that we'll be there fairly soon," said Going. "We're talking about vaccinations," he said.
Tallis, in a nervous upset said, "I have a fear of shots. I'll just risk death." This was however during tech week.
At dress rehearsals, they must be quick to change for the next number and have no time to ponder such things. While Tallis and Going finish their number onstage, the rest of the cast had hurriedly gone back for a quick costume change.
One minute everyone is dapper in fine period clothing and next you have Zack Hamra in a cow get-up using a stool as his front legs and Justin Braun rushing not having found his shoes.
Even with these minor kinks Tallis knows that somehow everything will turn out just fine. "You're like "how is this going to happen?" and suddenly it just does," she said.