Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Live Music Adds Soul to a Show

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Live Music Adds Soul to a Show

Article excerpt

I try to be well prepared__ for each show I'm going__ to review, but sometimes__ I realize too late that I didn't__ ask all the questions I needed__ to before the curtain goes up.__ At the recent opening night__ of "Cats" at the Manatee__ Players, I had a bit of a shock__ when executive director__ Janene Amick was introducing__ some of the creative team__ seated in the audience. It__ made sense that the director,__ costume and scenic designers__ were out there. But I was more__ surprised when she introduced__ musical director Phyllis__ Gessler, sitting just two or__ three rows in front of me.__ Wait a minute, I thought,__ isn't she supposed to be in the__ orchestra pit, or someplace__ near the stage leading the__ live band?__ No such luck. Gessler__ did a fine job teaching the__ music to the cast, who sound__ terrific from the stage, but__ the theater is using a pre-recorded__ track, the same one__ artistic director Rick Kerby__ said he had made for company's__ 2008 production.__ As recorded musical__ accompaniment goes, it's__ not bad. Fortunately, the__ system they're using allows__ some leeway for actors to__ take a breath, pause or just__ be spontaneous (a natural of acting). Some other__ systems leave no room__ for variation of any kind__ because the music just__ keeps playing whether__ the singer is ready or not.__ I'm sure "Cats" is__ an expensive show to__ produce, considering__ the large cast, detailed__ costumes, big set and__ demanding lighting__ requirements. The rights__ to produce the show are__ probably higher than__ average.__ But all the wonderful__ work by director/__ choreographer Thomas__ Dewayne Barrett, his__ designers and

the cast__ is diminished by the__ recorded music.__ I had the same problem__ last winter with__ the Players Theatre's__ otherwise delight-ful__ production of "A__ Christmas Story." And__ that theater's summer__ musical revues (last__ year's ABBA tribute, this__ year's "Icons") suffered__ from the use of recorded__ tracks, which limited__ the creators' ability__ to be inventive with__ the song choices and__ arrangements.__ At the Sarasota Ballet,__ recorded music is a__ way of life, though the__ number of performances__ with live music has__ been increasing, and__ the company has been__ raising money to make__ live music a permanent__ part of its productions. …

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