How long does it take? Dreamcatcher took us about a year and a half in production, with half a year for pre-production which is time spent in carving the story and figuring out how to approach the massive task of putting on an original musical. Jukebox Paradise was about three years, because we already had other shows lined up when Brian brought us the concept, meaning that we couldn't get the show on stage for about 2 years. He had been working on the songs and the concept for 21 years before that. Once pre-production is done we want a year of rehearsal and training to get the show ready. It seems like a long time but actually it is not. A Broadway or West End musical would probably rehearse for 3 to 4 weeks, all day everyday, to prepare for a show from scratch. Let's say that is 28 days of professional rehearsal time. The orchestra / band can play the score perfectly on site. The actors and actresses are all professionals and have no excuse to miss a single day. The crew are seasoned specialists. pre-production in design, costume creation, lights, set etc is all done ahead of time.
We have a group of amateur actors who are set on doing the best show possible. KPB Theatre rehearses on Sundays only (mainly). In 11 months that is 44 Sundays. Already you can see that we only get 16 days on top of the highly skilled professional team. Then there is availability, as an amateur group we have to make way for out team's personal needs. We rarely have all cast at the same rehearsal for most of the year. We also have to deal with school holidays which really throw a wrench in the works as many ex-pats like to return to there countries for summer hols etc. Already our 44 days start to shrink.
The script and story is not perfect at the start of the rehearsal period, and as a director I encourage the cast to bring up changes with Gary, who is always on hand with his pen and notebook. We develop the characters and give them real lives! The result of this is that some of the language and character traits are changed for the better by the original cast members. The first days are taken up by drama exercises, dance and singing foundation courses. The real work on the story starts from about March in the rehearsal room. many of the cast have already been fleshing their characters out from the beginning so this is a really exciting part of the process. From march to November is when all the sweat and blood occurs. I don't believe in "stand here and say it like this" I think that this can easily become stale and un-watchable. I like to let the actors have their journey, to try many things and to find out what works and doesn't work for themselves. I nudge them a bit and they create beautiful characters. As much as possible (bar technical blocking, which makes sure that they can be seen and are the right places for light cues etc.) is left to the characters interaction and raw emotion on the stage. For me, this creates interesting performances.
By September we are all fed up. We hit the wall. The 6 month mark. Traditionally Nagoya's community theatre productions have had a rehearsal time of 6 months. It is at this 6 month point that I believe the magic happens. Pushing through that wall and being able to achieve things that you didn't think you could do brings an explosion of new ideas and sparkle. By October the characters are locked in and things are starting to get hot! We love the buzz of October and November! Theatre at its most intense, the show is coming together. Watching this part of the process is magical. A year ago we met for the first time and now we have brought to life a piece of paper and a dream! Perhaps my most favorite part of the one year production is the bond that the cast and crew build up together. It is truly like a family. There are happy times, sad times, angry outbursts, apologies, tough times that we all share with a real sense of drive to one goal. People to hug in joy and a shoulder to cry on in sadness. For us, the journey is the dream and to stand in front of a fantastic audience and join hands for the final bow as one family is seeing that dream come true. I love the KPB family and it has been my privilege to be a part of this amazing experience, to have met so many talented people and to share our stories with such a supportive community. More to come!