Following their fantastic run of Annie Get Your Gun in October, DAODS are in the full swing of rehearsals for their next production: Made in Dagenham. The show is being performed in April at the Orchard Theatre and is based on the film of the same name. It follows the main character of Rita O’Grady, who finds herself the spokesperson for a group of female workers at Ford’s Dagenham plant, and eventually leads them on strike when it becomes apparent they are being paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same work. Their actions ultimately led to the creation of the Equal Pay Act 1970.
In the build up to the show, the creative team will be sharing their experiences of bringing this production together. This month the show’s Musical Director, Ed Sage, explains the complex process of putting together the music and songs of the show. Ed has worked with the Society regularly over the last few years and was MD for their productions of Half a Sixpence and Boogie Nights at the Orchard Theatre.
The auditions in October provided some of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make as part of a production team, but in the end we have been blessed with an immensely talented cast and we are now deep into rehearsals for the show. I thought I would write a little bit about how we run our vocal rehearsals. In this current production there are quite a few larger chorus numbers, and as we have a cast of over 50 people, you can imagine that these can be quite complex to run.
The first step that I would normally take would be to make sure that the people involved in the rehearsal have listened to the number, either from a soundtrack recording, or I will pre-record both a backing track and a tune and harmony track.
We will then go through the geography of the number, i.e. are there any repeated sections, split harmonies, general breaks. Our main focus at this point is on the overall effect of the number, so then stage by stage we start going through what is to be sung. Within our society we have a real mix of people with different musical abilities, with some who are able to read music and some who are not. We always have the libretto scores and scripts handed out to our cast, and for those who don’t read music, I will go through the different parts note by note.
As an example, last week I taught the number ‘Cortina’. This features a small group of singers, perhaps five or six and also has some very close harmonies in it. I broke this down into phrases and we learnt it one phrase at a time. The number varies from having unison singing (all singing the same line) to having four and five part harmony. In phrases that contain this, I will teach the top line first (and normally this will contain the main theme of the song), followed by the middle parts, one at a time. Then we will go back over the phrase, firstly with the top part singing on their own, then add one of the middle parts. We will then do it again, this time adding the other middle part, but taking the first one away. So each different part gets the opportunity to sing with just the top line, and all this before we put everyone together. Once we have completed the phrase all singing together, then we will move on and do the next one, and so on until we reach the end of the number.
Hopefully by this point everyone is fairly confident with singing their own part and we can then start to piece the number together as a whole. This may mean singing through it as a whole song, and then going back to cover each section at a time. However, ideally if the cast have pre-listened to the number before arriving at rehearsal, then we should only need to sing through the complete number two or three times. It is then at this stage, we re-join with others in the cast who may have been putting together some choreography and put the whole number together, as you will see it on stage. As you can tell, there is quite a bit of work involved with rehearsing the musical aspects of a show, and even after we have had this much detail to go through, near the end of our rehearsal period, we will do some recap sessions, where we can go back over certain points in certain numbers that we feel would benefit from extra time, before putting together a complete run of Act one and Act two.
I do hope this has given you a little insight into the running of a music rehearsal, and after reading this, would inspire you to come and see everyone’s hard work come together as a whole show.
- Made In Dagenham is being performed from 26th – 29th April at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford. Tickets: 01322 220000 or www.orchardtheatre.co.uk