For the first time in three years, student-produced live music returns to Stage Company productions, spurred by new talent transferring into the school, in the musical 1940’s Radio Hour.
With 27 pieces to learn in less than two months, junior Connor Crotzer, now the school’s resident pianist for musicals and choir, demonstrated that his eight and a half years of studying piano were not for naught. “He transferred into this school and brought wonderful piano skills. We decided that whatever we did musically, he would be part of it,” says stage company director and teacher Michael D’Anna.
Crotzer learned each number, first having the general body of each song ready for rehearsing with the singers and then fine tuning his renditions for the show dates. “It was fast paced,” he says. “[The notes are] written in the music as chords instead of a full written out part, so it’s open to interpretation. It didn’t take too long to figure out what I wanted to do with each one.”
Along with Crotzer, two members of the Olney Big Band were hired for one rehearsal and all the shows. “The show could have been done on just a piano, but we wanted to add a bit of color to the musical and shake it up a little bit.” says Crotzer.
Not only did a live band bring life to the musical for the audience, but it also created changes for the cast. Compared to a recording, a band can adapt the music on spot. However, there can also be changes in tempo. For the dance sections, choreographer and senior Shannon Lamb taught the cast members according to a recording which caused some confusion when rehearsing with the piano.
The recording sounded different from the live music, especially since some beats were missing because the first rehearsals did not the have bassist and drummer. However, with practice, the cast members were able to get the hang of it. Lamb says, “Once I got the dance timed right to how Connor was playing, it was easy because he played the same way every show. He was really consistent, which was awesome.”
Others in the cast also expressed how rehearsals with Crotzer were more efficient. “It was much easier to have a live pianist to practice with because instead of having to move with the track, the pianist moved with me,” says junior Bronwyn Weikert who played
Ann Collier in the musical.
For Stage Company’s next production, rather than the traditional spring play, it may be another musical. Mr. D’Anna says, “I’m thinking about doing something crazy which would be two musicals in one year. I think there’s a good chance we would do that.”