The Pit

Someone ought to write a book (either fiction or nonfiction) on the process of staging a musical in a community theatre. The pathos, the disorganization, the boredom!

Three hours in the pit tonight. Peter Pan is opening in three days, and this was the first time the orchestra has rehearsed in the theatre itself. I brought a murder mystery to read between numbers, and was glad I did. Long, long waits while the director worked through staging details.

A big chunk of the cast is kids, which probably doesn’t make the director’s job any easier. I’m sure the kids are talented and energetic (I couldn’t see them from the pit, so this is pretty much a guess). But even so, getting 20 kids to coordinate a complicated dance sequence … I’m glad I’m just the cello player. I wouldn’t want to be running the show. Especially not when the rehearsal runs until midnight, long after the orchestra has tiptoed away.

The musicians are all excellent, as is the conductor, which helps a lot. Even so, there were times when I wondered what I was doing there. The orchestra includes drums, and the drummer is playing an electronic pad kit. It sounds really good — no complaints. But  by the time the sampled kick drum gets thumping, I’m thinking, “What am I doing here?” I made a decision five years ago that I wasn’t going to play acoustic cello anymore in a group with drums. What’s the point? You can’t hear yourself, and nobody else can hear you either. You can beat yourself silly and you still can’t hear yourself.

On top of which, in the fast numbers I’m often doubling the trombone. The trombone will be audible; the cello will not. If there were a whole cello section (say, three of us) we’d be audible. But it’s all on me. I’m the section.

Once in a while I get to play a cello solo for a few beats. I think my favorite solo is a sustained B-flat. A bar and a half of B-flat, with a fermata, and nobody is playing but me. Oh, the tension! What if I flub it?

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