We spent last week at West Point military academy re-working the show. As you know, our tour has been out for quite a while now, about two-and-a-half years, and our management is looking for ways to not only make the show more cost effective to travel, but also easier to move and load-in. To that end, some modifications were made to our set, requiring us to go back into rehearsal to work out the show with the new elements.
It was a long-ish drive to West Point everyday from our hotel in Fishkill, NY, but I didn’t mind. Fall is in full swing in these parts, and the drive was gorgeous. We had to take a two-lane highway through the mountains to get to the campus, which was also gorgeous. Our rehearsal room had an amazing view of the Hudson River.
The first two days of the week we spent with the cast in the studio, re-working “Grail” and “Camelot”, the two numbers most affected by the scenic changes, and we used the remaining time to clean-up the rest of the show with Scotty, our dance supervisor, and BT, our associate director. While we were in the studio, Ken, our design team and the crew were in the theater, loading in the new set, and beginning a “dry tech” of the new elements (running the cues without actors).
On Thursday we had a fairly short day with the cast. We worked through “Grail” and “Camelot” and “Laker Girls” onstage with the new scenery. Originally many more changes had been planned for the set, but in the end the changes are quite minimal. We cut our downstage automation track, meaning that the scenic pieces that usually ride in that track – the reeds in “Lady of the Lake” and the trees in the second act, are now pushed on and pulled off by stagehands with very sneaky (not so much) push sticks and pull lines. We also modified Mount Olympus, which appears in “Find Your Grail”. We no longer have the grail lift that pops up behind the mountain with the Lady of the Lake on it. Now the mountain enters in the second automation track (further upstage) and Esther climbs up a little step ladder on the back of it to pop up over the mountain. We also now have a drop with a painted Camelot castle, rather than the castle hanger that we used to have. There are other minor changes such as new reeds palettes in “Lady of the Lake”.
The other major change, in addition to the scenery, is that our orchestra has been downsized – I’m not remembering what the exact musician count is now, but it is sizably smaller than it was. This required a completely new orchestration, as the missing instruments had to be accounted for somehow – mostly by adding more effects to our keyboards. On Friday we spent all afternoon onstage, singing through the entire show with the band. It actually sounds quite good – some parts, I think, even sound better!
On Friday night we ran through the show with all the new elements. It was really fun figuring out how it was all going to work and reassigning cues. I love that part of tech – figuring out all the puzzle pieces.
On Saturday we did a dress rehearsal in the afternoon and then our one single performance for the week that night. Then load out!
We got the sad news that Broadway company has been given their closing notice. Their last performance will be January 18th. We’ll be the last remaining “Spamalot” company. So many of our former tour cast members are in the Broadway company now – its really sad for them to be looking at unemployment. Its scary how many shows in New York are closing. The economy is really taking its toll.
Back to load-out. Our poor crew were worked to the bone all week. They were in at 8am and at the theater until at least 9pm each night. They were all fried by the time load-out rolled around. But in the end they managed to cram everything into six trucks – that’s two less than before! It will save the company a lot of money to have two fewer trucks, and the more cost effective we are, the longer we can exist. So…yay!
Now we are on a lovely two week lay-off. More on that in the next post!