Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's the pits!

There was an article in today's New York Times that stated that in some Broadway theatres the orchestra for Musicals now plays from the basement of the building or even from another building blocks away, thereby divorcing it from the singers and dancers who are on stage. The conductor of one such musical,  Spiderman, said that she can't really see the actors all that well on the screen she's watching, but she hopes they have done it enough times to be in sync. Her orchestra is apparently situated in two separate rooms, the guitars and keyboards in her room and the rest of the instruments in another.

It was bad enough when Broadway singers had to be amplified to be heard. I often have trouble figuring out who it is that is actually singing if there is a large cast on stage. I am old enough to remember that when Ethel Merman was singing on 44th Street she could be heard without amplification on 42nd Street. But people could sing in those days!

This new concept takes the idea of 'live' performance to a ghastly new low. Eventually we can just do away with live performers altogether, I guess. Perhaps this will at least lower prices on Broadway.

The article said that at last year's Tony awards, the orchestra was several blocks down Broadway from the Beacon Theatre, where the awards were held. The reason Spiderman adopted this 'long-distance' method of performance was so that more 'flying' equipment could be put in the orchestra pit. Even that didn't help the show much, according to reports I have heard.

Soon, undoubtedly, the Met orchestra will be playing in a studio on 23rd Street while Aida is being performed at Lincoln Center to make room for the elephants!