By Seth Rudetsky
04 Jun 2012
|Photo by Lauren Kennedy|
What time did my alarm go off, you ask? Why, 3:50 AM, 'natch. That's right, I'm doing one of my signature early-morning flights. This one leaves at 5:32 from Kansas City and if this column were on Skype right now you would be slathering Maybelline's "Under-Eye Bags Go-Away" to your computer screen. Anyhoo, I flew out here to see the Music Theater for Young People production of Chicago, and to do my show. I know Julie Danielson from NYC (I hired her to play bass on the MTV Legally Blonde reality show) and she told me about the children's theatre training program that her mom runs (Mtyp.org). Well, I came out to see their senior production (all the kids are 18 years old) and it was great! First of all, I want to say this wasn't the new trend of having kids do "junior" versions of shows, with truncated scenes and songs which sometimes makes me feel like I'm watching a day of 16-bar auditions. This was the full-length Chicago. How long did they rehearse, you ask? One week! Not since I did summer stock in the '80s! They began last Sunday and had their first performance on Saturday night. I thought it would be one of those productions where the songs aren't very staged except for a couple of sassy moves at the end of every number. Cut to: it was fully choreographed, and I mean fully. I was watching the back-up dancers for "All I Care About Is Love" and they had moves every other beat. And they were all together! Usually, when I watch a show that's just started performances, I have anxiety from the anxiety of the people onstage who are constantly thinking "I don't know what's next" (aka, the first two weeks of my show Disaster!). Well, the only anxiety I felt was because all the kids have 28-inch waists and I had just bought an enormous package of trail mix that was supposed to last me the entire day, but I had finished all 20 grams of fat by the time I was in baggage claim. Never felt fatter. My point is, these kids were as confident as if they'd been doing the show since the '96 revival began. (P.S., that Tony-winning revival opened two years after these kids were born! Never felt older.)
|photo by Monica Simoes|
The trick is that they rehearse from 9 AM til 9 PM every day, 12 hours a day! I told the kids they needed to get a union but, of course, they love rehearsing non-stop and would actually prefer a 24-hour-a-day schedule. It was one of those shows where there were different levels of talent on the stage, but everyone was at the same level of commitment. I had tears in my eyes more than once throughout the show because I kept getting that feeling I get when something is really theatrical, like everyone hitting a sassy pose on the button of a song at the same time. Of course, one of the things I love the most is that MTYP also uses a full orchestra. That's right, no pre-recorded music which many theatre groups use, no "piano, bass and drums" to cut down on costs. Whatever the original Broadway show used, they use. So, how come when shows are revived on Broadway, half the orchestra is usually cut? Why does Kansas City realize how much better a full orchestra sounds? Anybody?