Posts tagged #piano

The King and I Opens Today on Broadway with BNHM Accompanist Andrew Resnick

Our entire cast and crew is made up of Broadway-caliber performers, stage managers, and musicians. And tonight one of our accompanists, Andrew Resnick, opens The King and I on Broadway as an Associate Conductor. We take enormous pride that the Broadway community gets to share in Andrew's talent. He played for Broadway's Next Hit Musical for many years and  conducted Jason Robert Brown's Bridges of Madison County last season and the year before that played the Off-Broadway revival of The Last Five Years. (For you serious musical theatre geeks out there, JRB refers to Resnick "The best. THE best.")

Cast member Annie Schiffmann - who has worked with Resnick for nearly ten years  - chatted with him while he was on a break during previews for the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Here we crib the notes from their conversation.


WHEN TO START THE MUSIC - SCRIPTED

With scripted material, obviously the cues are set, there are lines and technical cues. But in the rehearsal process, Resnick explains how they look at the music from different levels and try to figure out if what's on the page works. And if not, can they "modify what's been there to make it work."

The moment of actually beginning a song - that second when the conductor cues the musicians to start - should come from a connected place. The conductor takes it off the right word, rhythm, and tone of how the scene is progressing with how the actors are saying their lines.  (Although he did admit that with long-running shows it's possible there are moments of disconnectedness, and the conductor just has to follow the cues.) 

Former BNHM Accompanist Andrew Resnick conducting the Broadway revival of The King and I 

Former BNHM Accompanist Andrew Resnick conducting the Broadway revival ofThe King and I 

WHEN TO START THE MUSIC - UNSCRIPTED

In an improv show, when the improvisers are in the middle of a scene and the moment calls for a song, Resnick explains how he often starts playing and isn't sure what will come out musically. He doesn't always have a complete idea, but might "tinker with it for a few seconds" before building  to a full song.

 "Improv songs can be plot-driven" and Resnick mentions this as their downfall. "The best songs," he says, "have the scenes as context." He mentions that Jason Robert Brown says that "great songs move the story forward, but not the plot forward." Resnick warns that starting an improv song on a "catchy line" may not necessarily be the best time. Is it an emotional moment that can be explored? Are the stakes high enough? If it's all plot and no heart, this can make for confusing storylines in unscripted musicals.

Andrew Resnick playing Broadway's Next Hit Musical at Stage 72 in 2013.

Andrew Resnick playing Broadway's Next Hit Musical at Stage 72 in 2013.

THREE HOUR MUSICALS VS HALF HOUR MUSICALS

The running time for The King and I is nearly three hours - quite a difference from a second act musical in BNHM which usually hovers at the thirty minute mark. Resnick is clear, though, that "successful musicals can be distilled down to very little. You don't need a lot to happen to justify the story." He mentions how thirty minutes is "more than enough time to develop a funny - sometimes even moving, depending on what comes up - story." When shows become too plot-heavy and add in too many characters, the story becomes cumbersome.

This is where he cites the advantage the accompanist has by being both outside of the scene, but inside of the show. The musicians in an improv show have the ability to look above what is happening onstage and ask "why is this story being told? What themes are arising that are funny and important? Why do we care?" Is there a universal theme being explored? Accompanists can help to shape the musical by satisfying what the story calls for.


Congratulations to Andrew for another Broadway opening! We hope to have you create Broadway's Next Hit Musical with us again soon! 

Purchase tickets to Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I at Lincoln Center Theatre.

 

SPOTLIGHT BIO: Eric March


BNHM would like to introduce Eric March, our master mind on the piano. Having the fastest growing hair of any cast member, Eric shares his experience doing improv on 88 keys.

Please post your thoughts to Eric!

How did you get into piano improvisation?
I was friends with a lot of improvisers in college. After I graduated and moved to the city, one of them asked me to audition for the musical improv show he was producing -- Chicago City Limits. I had never done any musical improv before, and having seen the CCL show once in high school, knew I definitely couldn't do it as well as they could, so I kept putting him off and hoping he'd forget about it. Eventually I ran out of excuses and decided to get it over with. I've been playing for their touring company ever since.

Who is your musical inspiration?
I was obsessed with Billy Joel as a kid. I have a dog-eared, falling-apart copy of the two-volume Billy Joel Complete sitting in a cabinet at my parents' house that was my best friend for many years of torturous classical piano lessons. Nowadays I listen to a lot of white guys with twangy guitars and old timey musical theater.

What was your first gig in musical improv?
Chicago City Limits was not only my first musical improv gig, but my first professional music gig in general (aside from a few weddings and bar mitzvahs I played in high school and college). My first show with the group was a tour show in Omaha, Nebraska, which was absolutely terrifying. But I was amazed by the craft services. They made me feel like a total rock star. I remember calling my girlfriend at the time and saying, "Holy sh*t! Did you know they give us chicken??? For free? In sauce???"

How do you create an entire song along with the cast trying to do the same thing at the same time?
Amphetamines. If you don't have a good connection, it helps to listen really well and know a lot about song structure.

How many "scores" would you say you have written on the spot?
Hm. Hard to say. 100, maybe? 3 years, 35 shows a year sounds about right.

What is the most memorable moment for you on stage in this type of setting?
Sheesh. My memory for this stuff is really terrible. My girlfriend stage manages the Chicago City Limits show and has an incredible mental index of all of the bits we've ever done, so I should probably ask her and get back to you. Off hand, I'd have to say performing for 30 members of my family early on in my time with CCL. They were the whole audience, and they were super enthusiastic about everything I did, which really helped build my confidence at a time when I wasn't so sure about my abilities yet. Offstage, I would have to say breaking into a spontaneous rendition of "Wheels of a Dream" with Kobi before a show in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and all of the other hundred million things like that that happen when you
hang out with improvisers.

What is the strangest song you have played for musical improv?
I don't remember any particularly strange ones. I once did a song with Rob and a few others at CCL called the "Song of the Missing People." It was part of a musical about a group of kids who drove into New York to go out for the night, got their car stolen, wound up in a police station somehow staring at a wall full of pictures of missing persons, before their friends came to get them. When the lights came up on the third scene, Rob said, "And now, the Song of the Missing People." I had forgotten the part of the story where they looked at the people on the wall, and thought he was out of his mind. I literally played the whole song without having a clue what was going on, and it wasn't until a few minutes later that I figured out what had just happened. I'm sure that's happened many more times than I can recall, but that's the one that sticks out. I forget things sometimes even as they are happening right in front of me.

How long did it take for you to grow that incredible J-Fro?
12-and-a-half minutes.

When you aren't found at the Phony Awards, where might you be out in the city?
Hopefully at City Sub in Park Slope. That place is awesome. Go there and you'll never be able to eat a sandwich again without experiencing at least a little bit of regret.