How is the show going?
It’s going great…you know, we’re rolling, we’re heading towards a year, which is unbelievable. It’s going great! We have lots of new cast members on the horizon and things like that…
Yeah! There’s a cast change coming up, right? Ben Platt being one of the major changes…
Yeah, so Ben leaves November 19th is his last show and we’ve got like an interim Evan Hansen in between I guess like November to January-ish, and then we have a full time one coming in January.
That great! So, talking in almost major steps, how did you get to the position you’re in now?
Well… it’s been a long journey [Laughs]. I came here for grad school mainly and while I was there I worked as a pianist and, you know, anything from auditions to classes, to working with individual actors and performers and musicians and things like that. Just any kind of freelance work with any musician I could, and, you know, I sort of built up a reputation as I went and then started to slowly get different jobs, and I started subbing in to orchestras and bands on Broadway and then sort of slowly made my way in to a permanent position at Wicked…I was there for a very long time…and then Dear Evan Hansen was actually something I was working on over the past few years, they brought me in early on during readings and workshops, and then just stayed with it, and then when time came for it to go to Broadway, I sort of had to make the decision whether to leave Wicked and do it, and I did, and here I am. That’s the quick version [Laughs].
Thanks [Laughs]. So, in the earlier years of your career, as you’ve just touched upon, depping and things like that, how important was that? And how did you go about getting that dep work?
Yeah, it’s all sort of reputation based…you sort of meet people as you go and then when certain people get certain positions on shows they’re all looking for different…you call them ‘deps’ we call them ‘subs’… for their chair, and you know, for me, my very first show to sub was Wicked back in 2003 when the show first opened, and I just knew the guy playing second keyboard, we had worked together a little bit on some…he was doing a piece, I was playing auditions for it, I met him, we were friendly, and then he was just like ‘I need a sub’ and so I said ‘Great’ [Laughs] and so that’s how I kind of started. And then from there, you know, it was at the time I had made similar connections to other people, and they also needed subs. So, for me it was just sort of…it was a very sort of natural progression, from meeting people, working with them on other projects, building my reputation, and in to sub work. And then of course, as you sub, you build your reputation from there, and you know, your name gets around as someone reliable, or not reliable [Laughs], or good in certain styles, or not good in certain styles, and you just kind of build from there. The community sort of gets smaller and smaller as you start doing that, more and more people get to know you, and you get to know them…it’s a different process for a lot of people, that’s how it worked for me it was very organic, very…one person lead to another person.
I think organically as you said, is the much preferred but less tried way of doing it?
There’s a balance, you know, I mean, it is good…I have people reach out to me all the time, you know, people who are breaking in, or they’re new to the city, or they’re new to whatever it is, and I have no problem with people reaching out, and saying ‘I’d love to sit in with you sometime’ and the more you do it from my end, the more you start to learn like, as you meet people, which people you feel are going to be successful at this. You know, without even hearing them play there’s just a vibe, there’s a personality type, the type of questions they ask, the way they are, you sort of get a sense for who’s goanna be doing this. It’s a very strange sense that I didn’t think I’d be acquiring, but years and years of Wicked and then already almost a year here, it’s really interesting how that works, but it’s good, because you meet people and it’s one more connection, so even if I’ve met them once, and then they’ve gone on and done all kinds of other things, when someone says ‘Oh I worked with this pianist, or this MD, who’s really good’, and I’ll say ‘Ohh that person sat in with me two years ago at Wicked’ or whatever. It’s just one more connection.
Yeah. So, you mentioned you went to grad school and worked within musical theatre outside of your studies, is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
Umm…[Laughs]. A lot of people ask that question. It’s interesting. It was always something I loved, as soon as I started really getting into music and playing piano, I quickly moved into Broadway in like early high school, and fell in love with Broadway. I lived in New Jersey, like 45 minutes out of the city, and it just never really occurred to me that I could do this as a career. It blows my mind when people, you know, are like graduating from high school, or like graduating from college, and they’re like ‘This is what I want to do, and I want to get in to the pit, how do I do it?’, and I’m like ‘Dear god’ [Laughs]. I have a lot of respect for that sort of thing, because I was always like ‘What a great career that would be’, but I never thought of it. And then I actually taught music in New Jersey for two years, and heard about the NYU program and thought, you know, I would love to do that, because I’m a composer, and I love to write, and it was a musical theatre composition program, and I was like ‘That sounds great’, and then while I was here, people were just like ‘Hey, you play the piano, and you sight read’, and I was like ‘I can actually do this’, it was like ‘I actually have the skills necessary to do this’ [Laughs]. So, for me, it became very…maybe it’s a flaw in my personality that I just never had that kind of foresight…I still don’t…people are like ‘What’s next for you?’, I’m like ‘I don’t know’ [Laughs]. I’m doing Dear Evan Hansen right now and then we’ll see what happens from there.
I think that’s probably why it’s been such an incredible project for you with your mind state of not looking passed the project you’re on, as you put everything in to it here and now? I also saw that you were with Dear Evan Hansen in the very early stages?
Yeah! Absolutely. Like, you never know what’s goanna…I do a lot of projects from the beginning stages, and some people do like readings and workshops all the time. I used to do a lot more. Like, I did all the readings and workshops for Book of Mormon and 9 to 5, and at that time, I had the unique position of being at Wicked, so I always had the question of like, ‘Am I going to leave Wicked for this show?’, and then there was a point where I always had to make that decision. And so, I was always lucky enough to have that job, whereas if I didn’t have Wicked, I might have done like five or six other shows of the things that I worked on and actually moved. So, you never know what’s goanna move, and honestly, when I first started working on Dear Evan Hansen…it was actually Alex Lacamoire, who’s our supervisor and orchestrator, who’s position I took at Wicked all those years ago…I had a wonderful time at Wicked…and I’ve been friends with him forever and known him forever and he just called me up and was like ‘I’m doing this currently untitled project by Pasek and Paul and we’re doing a reading and I’d love to have you work with me on it’, and it was at the time when Hamilton was really kicking in, and looking like things were really going to happen with it, and he was like ‘I’m working on this with them, I’m orchestrating, but, there’s no way I’m going to be able to continue on as MD, and I’m looking for an MD’, and I was like ‘Well, I probably won’t leave Wicked for it’, because it was a nothing show at the time. And then he sent me a couple of demos of what they were working on, and I was like ‘Oh my god, this is really good’ and so I stood in and I was like ‘Wow, this is an amazing piece’…
…It’s definitely one of the best song for song musicals I have ever heard…
Yeah! It’s great. And the music is right up my alley, and it really spoke to me, and you know, I still didn’t know…we did a production in Washington DC and it was great and I was like ‘This is really great’, but I still didn’t know…no one knew what was going to happen with the show, and then they announced Off Broadway and I was talking to Alex, and he was like ‘Just do it’ [Laughs], and I was like ‘I still don’t know if I’m goanna leave Wicked for this, it’s a pretty big commitment to leave a huge show like that’, I have a 5 year old son, at the time I had a 3 year old son and an apartment [Laughs], and he was like, ‘Well, just do it and see’, and so I did it and was like ‘This is a great show’. So, when they announced Broadway, I was like ‘Alright, I’m doing it’ [Laughs].
And shortly after, it won 6 Tony awards…
Yeah! Well, we opened in the Fall, by that time it was already sort of gaining steam, and I was all in, so it was like, no matter what happens in the Tony’s, I’m doing this now, so if it lasts 3-6 months then great, something else will come up…you know…there was a moment over the summer where I was like ‘Well, now’s the time to leave Wicked’. You know, my position at Wicked, I was a pianist, assistant conductor, I wasn’t the MD there. So, on one hand I had a lot of freedom to do other projects and work with other artists and things like that, but on the other hand it wasn’t going anywhere. So, it came at the right time.
So, what has it been like seeing its massive success, and could you talk a bit about that process? I saw Beyoncé came to see the show the other day [Laughs]
Yes Beyoncé [Laughs], everyone keeps asking me now ‘How was it with Beyoncé?’. You know, it was amazing, especially on this particular show, because it’s not a blockbuster show…like Sean my husband, he’s been in Denver all summer doing Frozen and then he’ll go back to Mormon when he’s back, and then he’ll do Frozen, it’s a whole different mindset. Like if that show is not a blockbuster hit, something’s wrong. You go in to it assuming it’s going to be huge. Whereas a show like Dear Evan Hansen, it’s small…who knows? You just sort of hope it gets somewhere. And most shows you undergo huge cast changes and huge rewrites, and huge creative team changes, whereas for Dear Evan Hansen it’s been the same cast, same creative team, you know, people come on board and we do this and that, but to watch it go from just this thing, and sitting around singing songs together around a piano to like, it’s the hottest ticket in town. And to watch the actors, who most of…especially the younger ones, to go from basically obscurity…other than Ben Platt, he definitely had a little career, I mean he was so young…he did Book of Mormon, he did Pitch Perfect…but the older actors like Michael Park and Rachel Bay Jones and Jennifer Laura Thomson, they’ve had Broadway careers and a little bit of TV stuff, but to see this now launch them in to a whole different place in the community…
But, so yeah, it’s really interesting. And especially for people like Mike Faist and Will Roland and Laura Dreyfuss, those three in particular, who were just working actors…mostly not working, working actors, they do a job, like Mike did Newsies and like, Will does a lot of new works, he works with composers…and all of a sudden, they’re in these iconic…within the Broadway community at least…in these iconic roles that were created around them. And all of a sudden, it’s a whole new level where they’re getting TV work and movie work, and other Broadway shows, and they’re in their 20’s. In the Broadway world, it’s different obviously than in the music industry or in movies and TV, where like when you hit it in the music industry, like, you hit it. In Broadway, it’s like, you’re a big Broadway star [Laughs]. But it’s still exciting.
Has a similar thing happened to you?
Not really…I mean, it’s kind of different for us [Laughs]. For me, it’s like, I’m Music Director of this show, and conductor, as the main guy, so it puts me in that echelon in the world of musical theatre, whereas it’s hard to get people to look at you in any other capacity other than what you’re doing in that moment, so I was always like Keyboard player, and whatever, so in that way it does. And it puts you on the map as far as, you can say ‘I’m at Dear Evan Hansen’, and people are like ‘Oh! You’re at Dear Evan Hansen’, whereas, in a year if you say you’re the music director of a show that didn’t gain as much popularity, it’s like ‘Oh, good for you’. It’s just something you can point to as recognition beyond a show that did ok. It doesn’t put you in the same place that it puts actors, whereas they’re on the map as actors. But you know, I’ll be here training a new cast next year, so it’s not like I’m moving on to my movie career.
But yeah, the recognition of the show does have reach. And it’s also…I’ve noticed already, my colleagues who would already have referred me to each other, and I refer them, and things like that, it’s easier to…I don’t know how to put this…it’s easier to justify to, like a producer, or like a general manager or a director…it’s easier to justify recommending someone…like, for example, I just got…a friend of mine who I’ve known for years, and she I know would always recommend me for things, but she recommended me for…she’s established in herself, and she recommended me for this really big project, whereas, even though she knows I could have handled it a year ago, it would have been harder for her to recommend me because I just had like 10 years at Wicked as the Keyboard player, versus the conductor of Dear Evan Hansen. So, to a producer or to a director, they’re like ‘Oh! He’s Music Director of Dear Evan Hansen? Then definitely, let’s bring him in’…you know…it’s a different thing. It’s just that name recognition. It goes a long way. And like, those of us in the industry know it doesn’t necessarily mean anything else…I’m no more qualified than anyone else, but definitely a good show to be on for that reason.
What sorts of roles does your job as an MD entail?
Specifically at Dear Evan Hansen?
Just throughout your MD experience, like your day to day?
Yeah, so my main job is to conduct the show at night or day, and basically maintain the artistic vision of the writers and orchestrator, and all of that, for the show, from the band to the cast. That’s my main number one job, is to just maintain the consistency of the show, the dynamic quality of the show, from a musical stand point, from show to show, that number one…and also, to note people as such, and make sure that everyone is sort of staying where they need to. Number two of course, is working with all the other departments to make sure that the show is all running smoothly and consistently, from their departments, and my department. Then of course, training all of the new cast members, the understudies, the vacation covers and making sure that no matter who’s in the roles that night, it’s a consistent show, and a great show and that they’re at the top of their game. Same with the band, making sure all of the subs who come in, are up to the level of the regular players and sound just like the regular players. So, that’s kind of my day to day. Just dealing with all the stuff that comes at you, at show that’s approaching a year old, like keeping the energy up and dealing with actors calling out, and band members calling out, and making sure that it’s always a great show every night.
That leads on nicely to my next question! How do you keep your job interesting? You were with Wicked for 10 years and Dear Evan Hansen is coming up to a year. How do you keep that self-motivation, and the motivation for your team up?
That’s an excellent question [Laughs]. You know…I have all sorts of answers. First of all, it’s harder on certain days than other days…you know…you’re tired and there’s other things going on in your life, you know, I’ll be honest, it’s hard to get in there and do the show and keep the… you’re like ‘Here we go again…’. I think it takes a certain personality type to be able to do the same show night after night and keep that energy up. For me, I had those 10 years at Wicked to observe my fellow musicians and my fellow conductors and learn what works and what doesn’t work as far as maintaining that. One of the hardest things that I face day to day, that I have seen other conductors face is that…you’re the…and I don’t mean this in a cocky way…you’re sort of the centerpiece of it all, in that, you’re conducting the show, there’s the stage manager that’s also calling the show and the actors who are in the show, but you’re the one, at all times maintaining and running the show in real time. So, what happens is…as like…let’s say every actor and every musician makes like two small mistakes over the course of the show, you know, one little thing doesn’t line up, or one little thing is a little flat and then at the end of the show you say ‘Okay, I only made two small mistakes, but for me, that’s like thirty-two small mistakes on my shoulders’, I have to know about them and I have to make that clearer and that’s better tomorrow. And so, what can happen, is…as the music director you start to…like, that starts to get you darker and darker and weigh on your shoulders, and you have to be able to push that away and stay positive and maintain an appropriate level of positive energy at all times. And make sure that people understand that you want the show to be perfect every night and you want their performances to be at the level every night, but you’re also a human being, and that we’re all in this together and supporting each other and just always maintaining that.
And then the obvious answer of like, most of the audience is seeing it for the first time and that’s your responsibility to make sure it stays…I mean, that’s the easy answer that I’ll give all the high school kids when we do the workshops [Laughs]. You know, you look out in to the audience and you have to keep it fresh for them. Like, for some kids, especially for this show, and it was the same at Wicked, it’s their first Broadway show ever and so your responsibility is pretty…you know, if it’s a Wednesday matinee and the last thing you want to be doing is this show right now, you have to remember that it’s someone’s major experience in that moment. And some people have paid a great amount of money to see it…everyone has actually [Laughs]. So, there’s that responsibility, and where I am in the show, we’re on a band stand looking out at audience, and I can physically see the audience. And it reminds you that its happening and people are watching it, and you know, it’s not just a frivolous thing...and not like it’s the defining moment of their lives, but they’re spending three hours with you and they’ve spent a lot of money to be there, and it’s a pretty important thing for them in that moment, and so you have to make it an important thing for you in that moment no matter what’s happening on that particular day…whether it’s Beyoncé or just some kid from Nevada, or something. It’s an important thing.
I take it seriously, and I know that everyone I work with takes it seriously too, even though there are shows where you’re like ‘Come on dude’ [Laughs].
That was a great answer to a hard question I think [Laughs]…so with Dear Evan Hansen, were you able to choose your own band?
Yeah! So, I sat down basically with four other major people who were doing it. Basically, we have our orchestra contractor, who’s actually two people, Michael Keller and Michael Aarons, who work together, and they’re the ones who contract the band. They officially hire, they do all the connections with the Musicians Union, the paperwork and all that and they also are a part of the hiring process, and they offer names, and help us make decisions. Alex Lacamoire of course, who is our music supervisor and head of the department and also the orchestrator. And in this case, the writers. Primarily Justin Paul, who was the most active. It’s also, Benjamin Pasek who is part of it…so basically, essentially, it was Justin, Alex, the two Michaels and me, and we just sat down and came up with a list of people in each of the chairs that we liked, and then we also got recommendations from people we trust, knowing the style of music it is and knowing what we were looking for. And it was a rigorous process. Part of the challenge of this, was that we were looking for the Off-Broadway band to be the same as the Broadway band. When you offer it to the Off-Broadway people, they have first right of refusal if it ever went to Broadway, which we were hoping it did, and we didn’t know at the time, and, you know, the Off-Broadway salary is way lower than Broadway.
And it’s only two months, and sometimes it’s hard to find people, but fortunately, the reputation of the show and the people involved and the contractors with us and all that, brought us the people that we wanted. We got our first choice on all the spots, and they’re an amazing band…and when I say they’re an amazing band, I mean like, I couldn’t have asked for a better person in each chair…because, it’s…as you know, in shows, the bands are getting smaller and smaller, but in this particular show, you know, it wasn’t like ‘Well, I wish we could do it with 40 pieces, but we’re only doing 8’, this show was designed for 8 pieces, and it’s orchestrated as such. And every single person is crucial to the sound of the…you know…there’s no string section, there’s 3 strings…they’re all amazing, like really top players.
And so, what kinds of qualities in those players were you looking for?
Well…first of all, it’s a pop score, so we needed people with pop ability, especially when you look at string players, guitar players...all the categories…look at string players for example, there are a lot of really amazing orchestral players who wouldn’t really be right for us in the world of pop. And so, we found players…a couple of whom play with Rush, and they’ve toured with different artists and the violinist is like a really amazing fiddler and they’re just great, great pop players. And then you look at the guitar players, you know, they have classical chops, they have jazz chops, but, they’re rock and pop guitar players…singer songwriter players and they know how to play in that style. Same with our bass player and drummer. You know, we have this young guy and they’re all singer songwriter people who have had experience…but they all understand the Broadway world, they know how to follow a conductor and they’ve played on Broadway, so it’s not like…we didn’t just say ‘Okay, we want people from outside Broadway’…because a lot of time that happens, people say like ‘I don’t want any Broadway players, I want people from the world of pop’ and then they get in there and they don’t know how to play with a conductor, they don’t know how to play as a band every night playing the same thing, and they just don’t know the gig, they don’t know the whole vibe, they don’t know how to train subs. So, we have like the perfect combination of people in that respect. But basically, we went through the list of people we knew personally, and also people who came highly recommended from other people that we knew personally.
Yeah! So, what kind of qualities, speaking more generally, should musicians possess, or look to possess to become a Musical Theatre musician?
Good question. Obviously, you want to be well rounded stylistically. I would say this…most Broadway musicians, once they’ve established themselves as Broadway level musicians or West End level musicians, they can go to any show, and it doesn’t matter if the style of music is more like 40’s jazz or rock or if it’s just like a sweeping orchestral score, you should be able to do all of the styles. But the reality is, you kind of pigeonhole yourself a little bit into a certain style, and people see you a certain way based on your past résumé, so I think it’s important to accept projects and look for projects that fit you as a player. Obviously, you want to always be honing your skills and being as good as you can in all the styles, but it’s important to know what you do best and what you want to be seen as, because people are always going to be saying things like ‘Oh he’s more of a classical guy’ or ‘She’s more rock person’…things like that, especially with rhythm section, and especially with drummers, as you know very well…you know, you can play set and you can play percussion, but can you really do heavy mallet stuff? or timpani? but also be a solid drummer, if it’s a drums/percussion book.
Or if it’s two separate books, I’m not going to hire a drummer who’s mainly known as a percussionist, even though they might play drum set…so you’ve got to know…and if you’re a drum set player and that’s what you want to do, don’t take a percussionist chair somewhere, even if it’s a great gig, because you’re going to get known as a percussionist and then you’ll have to be like ‘No, no, I’m a drummer’ you know what I mean? It can be tricky in that way, because you want to accept work where you get it, but you also want to know you’re being seen in the best light and in your strongest area.
I think that’s great advice…and how important would you say reading is in Broadway and West End musicals?
…It’s a tricky thing, reading is very important obviously, but, it’s almost…at least, when I talk to pianists, I say, reading is like, super important for audition work or if you want to do a lot of different work, you have to be a good reader, because there’s no way you’re going to be able to do it all, unless you’re fast. But on Broadway, you have time to read, you have time to learn the score, you’re not reading 100 different scores and just being the best one, you know, you have time to learn it. Especially for guitar players for example, they’re notoriously not the best sight readers in the world. So, I’ll take someone who has the feel and groove that I want, but may not be the strongest reader. I’ll take that person and give them time to internalize the score, versus someone who’s a killer reader but may not be the right style for me. Same thing with piano. I know a lot of amazing readers who are pianists, who I might not necessarily want to be a sub conductor on my show because they’re not the right kind of player for Dear Evan Hansen. So, that’s not the number one priority for me for Broadway musicians.
For someone with a lot of dep work, obviously reading quickly and to a high level would be of incredible use?
It does. If someone is in a bind and they need someone in two weeks or whatever...but, on the other hand, for most sub work here you have time to…I always tell people, and I told my band at the beginning, ‘Plan your subs very carefully and give them time to learn the score, if they’re not the best reader, don’t pressure them to come in in two weeks, give them a month, give them two months, tell them to come in and observe us as many times as they want, I’ll give them audio recordings, conductor videos, and let them really learn the score, I don’t want them to come in and sight read this score’ even if they were an amazing sight reader, I don’t want that. I need someone who’s goanna learn the show and internalize it, and if they’re reading it, great, if they’re off book, great. I don’t care about their level of reading. I want someone who knows the show, and plays really, really well. Which is more important than being able to read for me.
Great answer, and comforting for those who find reading harder than others I’m sure. This is more of a technical question…if you got asked to dep for another musical, how would you go about learning an entire musical score in a short amount of time? I recently sat in on Wicked and came out very thoughtful about how long these incredibly difficult and technical shows take to learn. From your perspective, what is your way of learning new shows?
Just one song at a time. It is overwhelming and it’s interesting that you say that because when I have people observe, when people come in and watch, one tell-tale sign for me is if people come in…and it happens all the time, probably more often than not…people come in and watch the show and at the end I say like ‘What did you think?’, and if they say to me ‘It’s great, I was watching and I can totally do this’, I’m usually like ‘No’. Because, if you don’t think it’s overwhelming, like an overwhelming amount of details and music to learn, then you’re not looking at it the right way. Because, playing a show, no matter how easy or hard the music is, it’s hard! And there are a lot of detail and the only way you can get to grips with it, is if you start at the beginning, and you just slowly work your way through. First you learn the notes, which for some people that might take four days, for some people that might take four months. Then you have to just slowly learn every single song…I would take a recording…once I learn the song note-wise, I play it with the recording like six million times and hopefully, if you have a conductor video, which is nice, a nice luxury which I didn’t have when I was subbing, back in the day [Laughs].
You have to practice it in such a way that you’ve been playing the show one hundred times, the same way the band has been playing it every single night so that you…the last thing you want to do is like sort of know a score and then be sitting in with a band that’s been playing it over and over for the last however long. Even if the show’s only been open a month, they’ve played it a lot of times and you have to be up to that level. At my show, I have two sub stations, one of them is in my dressing room and I have a keyboard, I have a mixer, I have a conductor monitor and stage monitor and I encourage people to come in and just sit in as many times as they need once they’ve learned the show at home. So, for me I would take as much time as you need. I’ve had people learning a show, especially at Wicked, I’ve had people learning the show for almost a year before they come in. And then some people learn it in a month and they’re more experienced at it, and they’ve been doing it for so long. I would never take less than a month to be honest with you. Unless you’re playing in a section of like six violins and you’re one of them, then okay fine, maybe it’s a little quicker. But, for most things, especially for like, a rhythm section chair, if it’s less than a month, I’m worried, I don’t want that person to come in [Laughs]. I want them to learn it in more detail.
That’s definitely something I found from my experience in the pits at Wicked, is the immense details it has…it definitely opened my eyes…
There are so many details! You can learn it, but there’s no way when you watch it for the first time, you’re like ‘Oh my god, every moment there’s a slight lift here, and in this que, I’m playing with the oboe, and in this que, I’m playing with strings’, there’s so many details. And on a show like Wicked where the tempo is constantly moving, and the orchestra is constantly playing together, it’s like endless details.
So, with Dear Evan Hansen being a pop/rock style musical, have you ever played in the pop world?
Umm…you know, the only…I work with a lot of different artists, the only one who I really work with who’s in the pop world is Clay Aiken…I don’t know if you know who Clay Aiken is? I’ve actually been his MD for like nine-plus years now, he used to tour a lot, he doesn’t really tour anymore, we’ve done a bunch of tours, some with Ruben Studdard who also was from American Idol back in the day. That’s really it…I’ve met people through him and done one offs here and there, with various artists. That’s probably been my only foray in to the pop world, it’s kind of a separate world, and it’s hard to…if you’re in the pop world you’re either touring, or you’re producing and things like that…it’s a very different world from being in New York and doing theatre. It’s hard to manage both. But, I still work with Clay and we’ve got a concert coming up at the end of the month. We do stuff all the time.
And lastly…what advice do you have to aspiring pit band musicians and Musical Directors?
First of all, I’ll say, as sort of a general piece of advice…everyone has a different path, so it’s good to meet people and observe people and see how they did it, and see what you similarly to them, but you have to be open to a totally different path, because everyone has their own way of getting where they’re going, and people say all the time ‘I want to do what you do at Wicked, I love it’ but chances are you’re going to do a totally different thing…I also suggest…these are more sort of psychological things…if you place Broadway or West End and that’s your ultimate goal and that’s the top of what you want to do, you may be very disappointed if it doesn’t happen, rather than…there are all these different things that I could potentially do as a full time working musician, actor, performer. So that’s another thing. Not to that you don’t want to set your goals high, but to set your expectations in a place where it’s more like, what will be creatively fulfilling to me? Am I just doing this to get to this level? Or am I really interested in doing different things with different people?
And the main piece of advice is…to go back to what we discussed at the beginning…it’s all about your personal relationships with the people you’re working with. It comes down to, are you going to be the type of person that other people want to work with? There are maybe like five divas in the whole industry that will get work because they’re divas. But everyone else…you don’t get work if you’re hard to work with. If you have any sort of reputation of being a late person, or an inconsistent person, or a moody person. And those things that you don’t think will be a big deal, are a big deal. I’ve chosen many bands for many gigs, outside of the community, within the community and also on these shows and a big part of it is like, do I want to be working with this person every night, or even on this one gig? And it comes in to play all the time. So, it’s not just about how you are as a performer, but it’s how you interact with people, and what kind of energy you put out there. It’s a really important thing and people always think it’s just like, ‘Oh yeah, be a nice person…’, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s super important.
A massive thank you to Ben for this amazing insight into his world and his advice for anyone looking to go into the musical theatre world!
Thanks for reading!
© Dan Lewis 2017