This week, we’ve been adding all of the technical elements into our rehearsals. Up until this week, we had been rehearsing in our own clothes, with no platforms and only minimal props and set pieces. This week, we’ve begun adding each in new pieces each day: first the set and the props, followed by the costumes, hair and lights. But my favorite day of the week, and of every tech week, was the first rehearsal we got to work with the band.
This rehearsal where the band and the actors work together for the first time is lovely referred to in musical theatre as the “wanderprobe.” You may be asking yourself, “What does wanderprobe mean?” Well, let me tell you.
To be frank, “wanderprobe” is a made up word. Its derived from the German word “sitzprobe,” which is defined by Wikipedia as “a term used in opera and musical theatre to describe a seated rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra, focusing attention on integrating the two groups. It is often the first rehearsal where the orchestra and singers rehearse together.” A wanderprobe is where actors, the orchestra, and blocking come together for the first time. Essentially, it’s a sitzprobe with movement.
Wanderprobe day is my favorite day to be an actor. Wanderprobe is like Christmas and your birthday rolled into one, because all of the gifts are sensory. Your ears become vessels for these soul-inspiring gifts of song, presented to you one by one as you work your way through the score together for the first time.
During the first few weeks of any production, the only instrument you have in the rehearsal room is a piano and maybe a drum set. You spend the rehearsals imagining what the music will sound like with the band. But somehow, at wanderprobe, the full orchestrations always sound better than you can even imagine it.
Rehearsing to the full orchestrations (written by Michael Starobin and composer Tom Kitt) reminds me of when I fell in love with this score. The thrilling electric guitar at the top of “I’m Alive,” or the violin at the beginning of “So Anyway” that pulls at your heartstrings seem as vivid onstage as they do listening to the music at home.
But there are other parts of the orchestrations that I’ve never noticed before, and they’ve made me more aware of the subtleties of the score. The gentle guitar strumming at the top of“Hey #1”seems to reflect Henry’s tentative proposal to Natalie, and the drums that come in during “I Am The One” reprise seem as though they are leading a marching band straight through the theater.
When you’ve been rehearsing a show for weeks, it helps to have some extra inspiration. Working with the band has been just that. The energy these orchestrations bring to our rehearsals inspire us to delve deeper into the material, and make me even more excited to begin sharing the show with audiences next week.
Mo Brady is originally from Seattle and made his Broadway debut in The Addams Family. He performed in the world premiere of Catch Me If You Can at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, as well as in six additional original productions at the theater. His performances inSeven Brides For Seven Brothers and Hello, Dolly! there won him a “Best of Seattle” Award from Seattle Weekly magazine. He has worked on many developmental productions and world premieres, including Villains Tonight! with Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen for Walt Disney Entertainment, Robin Hood with Martin Charnin and Snapshots with Stephen Schwartz, both at Village Theatre in Seattle. This fall, Mo performed in workshops of two Broadway-bound musicals: The Rhythm Club, directed by Casey Nicolaw, and The Honeymooners, directed by Jerry Mitchell. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Whitman College. Read more at www.mobrady.net.