Actor’s Equity recently struck a deal with the Broadway League for actor’s in labs. Now, when a show becomes profitable, actors will get a share of those profits for their creative input in getting a show on its feet.
The labs for “My Very Own British Invasion” were not under this agreement, and for the most part, none of this affects me in any way. I work with the musicians.
Fortunately, these musicians negotiated their own deal outside of strikes. It’s a four-piece band (Keys, Guitar, Bass, Drums), and the orchestration credit (and royalties) are to be split between these musicians as they “create” their parts during rehearsals and previews.
And my job as copyist and associate music director is to capture this orchestration on paper.
Each player is very different.
Lon, the music director, supervisor, curator, vocal arranger, and easily-distracted genius, rarely looks at his music except for cue lines. Occasionally he will point out a wrong chord, inversion, or cue out of a vamp. But as he plays the show his style becomes more and more focused until he is playing the same part whether I write it down or not. Being that I am his sub, the crux of writing down his part correctly is for my own benefit.
Clint, the brilliant, detail-oriented, rock drummer of countless albums and a lengthy career of which Broadway is only a small piece, works in a way that is my preference. I make blank charts with the structure of the piece, and he pencils in a drum pattern. I’ll scribe the pattern in Finale, leaving other measures blank, recopy and replace in his book. He makes a tweak, or adds, perhaps clarifies is the right word, on a daily basis. This includes dynamics, articulations, expressive text. Eventually we have a well-crafted drum book.
Franky, the bassist with many hits and a lot of personality, does the least. This is not his fault, but a part of his playing ability and style. Where Clint’s playing starts broad and distills into a specific notation, Franky attacks the material as a session musician, giving performance after performance of great versions until he settles on one that he usually executes. My only hope here is to make a recording and transcribe once he has settled.
John is more thoughtful with his orchestration. He will pencil in over the blank measures, trying new riffs and settings with each performance, and once he discovers what is best for the moment he sits with me to write it in his book officially. Worth noting that he prefers his guitar settings (pickups, pedals, volumes, etc.) to be inked in the part instead of pencilled.
It’s been a blast working with these incredible musicians, so let’s hope the show has a life beyond Paper Mill.