Q&A: Seussical Mayzie La Bird Tryout Tips

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Photos of characters playing Mayzie La Bird from Seussical the Musical. Click for full size.

Received this question about the character Mayzie La Bird from Seussical:

I’m trying out for MAYZIE LA BIRD and i was wondering what song i should sing? and what vocal range does she need?

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In Seussical the Musical, Mayzie La Bird is the antagonist and well experienced city girl. She’s the “Bette Midler” of Seussical. She’s brassy and street smart. Her counterpart is Gertrude, the innocent ingenue and protagonist.

For an audition song for the part of Mayzie, I would suggest something brassy and/or big traditional broadway. A song that says “Here I am!”. Look for any songs Bette Midler or Liza Minelli would have done. “Cabaret” would be a great song.

We had a great Mayzie for our production, Ashely Henning. She sings great traditional Broadway. After doing Mayzie she had leads in “Little Women” and “Evita”, to give you an idea of the character. Mayzie could be played by a wide range of ages – but she does have a baby, so take that into account. Younger actresses might go for Gertrude, or if you have a powerful bluesy voice you could tryout for the Purple Kangaroo (a very fun role).

Mayzie’s songs in Seussical the Musical are what I would call “Torch Songs”, and usually played by a mature voice (18 years and older).

Hope you have fun. Seussical was a very fun musical to perform. Musicians that have worked with me count it as one of their favorites. In fact I recently received an email from a cello player who says it’s bar they use to judge the fun of all other musical productions.

Auditioning for a musical is one of the hardest processes to endure. The more you do, the better you’ll get at it. The first couple auditions might be (read “probably will be”) bad experiences and embarrassing, just keep doing it if you want parts.

Mazy Suessical Muiscal Mazee Mayzee Soosical Seusical

What Keyboards to use for Seussical?

Question received about what keyboards to use for Seussical the Musical.

I am musical directing an upcoming production of Seussical TYA, and we are trying to figure out what sort of keyboards to rent. We are doing the production with two keyboards in the pit. On the Instrumentation page on the Musical Theatre International website, I’ve noticed that there are some very specific instruments (ie: “Doing” or Bird Fart) to be played on the keyboards. What brand and model of keyboard(s) would you suggest using?

Thanks.

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Hi,

As I remember it, there are two main keyboard parts for STM for two different players.

  1. Piano – any 88 key weighted keyboard.
  2. Synthesizer – Sounds needed are typical to any mainstream synth by any major manufacturer (Roland, Korg, Yamaha, etc.)

There are sound effects for Seussical and I have a download pack available for free here on my website. Use the search function on my blog for “Seussical Sound Effect”. I triggered the sound effects using a virtual keyboard on a laptop using the Kontakt software. I love setting that up, but most people find it super geeky. You could also have someone run these sound fx on CD. I also have detailed notes on Seussical sound fx here on my website. (I’m not posting links to all those things because links on my website change over time – please use the search function).

I’ve done a fair amount of musicals and I have to say that Seussical was the most challenging, and also the most fun, of any musicals I have done. The orchestrations are wonderful. I also have detailed notes on the person who did the orchestrations. Check out the “Seussical” section here on my website.

Rock on!

Conrad

Doug Besterman – New King of Orchestrations

besterman-85.jpg(Douglas Besterman in 1985)

Doug Besterman is the King of Orchestrations.

WHO CARES ABOUT DOUG BESTERMAN?

I do. And I’ll tell you why. I will force you to care about this man and why he is so important. Well, no, not “important” – he is a magician of music.

My fascination with Doug Besterman started a couple weeks ago. I am working on a new musical. That may sound grand (and indeed it IS!), but there’s a whole hairy backend to doing this that requires a technical setup and workflow that’s efficient and doesn’t get in the way of the creative process.

Conductors get a lot of kudos and attention at showtime just because they are steering the ship during a show. But the REAL brains behind that is the orchestrator and arranger. You barely ever hear about them. Who orchestrates Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music? Yeah, see. Who cares? Well, the orchestrator is the one that brings the chicken scratches to life.

Orchestrations in the old classical composer days was more of a feat of skill, a time to showoff or improve on a great master. One composer would orchestrate a previous composers work for new instruments. But they would never have someone else orchestrate their OWN material. Who’s every heard of “Mozart Piano Concerto #1” , orchestrated by Beethoven. The first releases anyway, the composers did themselves.

Especially in musical theater it’s common for the “composer” (sometimes really just a songwriter) to pen out the melody and basic chords. The orchestrator can take this and turn it into a symphony. It’s a thankless job.

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(Besterman working in his studio)

So for my musical – the end product I need to have created is finished scores for the musicians that coincides with the script. That’s obvious. But EEGADS that got complicated real quick when I started rearranging my studio specifically for this task.

As I’m searching online I come across references to the orchestrations of Besterman. One of the projects he orchestrated was Seussical the Musical. I conducted that show last year and a little light went off “Why yes, those orchestrations WERE FANTASTIC!” (The production of Seussical I conducted was with a full 20+ orchestra. It is VERY fun with a full ensemble – if you’re doing a production of Seussical please consider NOT pairing the orchestra down) I have a pretty good memory for music parts so I’ve been going over the orchestration in my head, recalling the parts that were particularly effective.

As I search on and on I have found many interviews with Douglas Besterman online that give a little insight to his training and where his influences come from. Of course nothing beats hearing it for yourself, so I’ve ordered several of his soundtracks to listen to.

Here’s more info on Besterman. At the end of this article is a link to his website. I’m glad you know who he is now – you’ll have to listen to his orchestrations for yourself to hear why he is a “magician of music”. He breathes life into new music, instead of that oldy moldy Broadway sound.

To my orchestration buddies (yes, I know you’re at there, all five of us) – check out a search of Besterman and orchestration terms online for interviews. There are many nuggets of wisdom and insight to be found.

BESTERMAN – On Orchestrating THE PRODUCERS

While the stars get encores and accolades-“Nathan Lane gives the performance of his career!” says WCBS-TV-and even the director gets notices- “Susan Stroman’s brilliant staging doesn’t miss a sight gag or a comic inflection!” says The Star-Ledger-most theater-goers might overlook the orchestrator’s credits.
We’re the designers of the sound of a piece,” Besterman says. “Outside of the theater world, a lot of people don’t really know about the job of an orchestrator. That’s partly because the kudos go to the composer when a score works, but it’s a job that’s pretty high on the food chain in theater.”

In a typical production, the composer develops the show’s melodies-the contextual skeleton-for each song, mainly on piano. The orchestrator then fleshes out each piece and develops them for a mini-orchestra-usually about 24 musicians for live theater.

Sometimes, a composer will pass on a fully developed piece. But often there’s little more than a hum of an indication of how a song is supposed to go. To complete that translation, the composer turns to the orchestrator.

“Composers carefully choose the right partner for a project,” Besterman says. “It’s very much a partnership.”

And Besterman has partnered with some of the best in the business in a career that has included bestselling Disney films and honored Broadway plays.

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(left) Doug Besterman (Tony-award Winning Orchestrator, Fosse, The Producers, Thoroughly Modern Millie) wife Johanna, Julie and Gregory Jbara

BESTERMAN CREDITS TECHNIQUE TO MENTOR RAYBURN WRIGHT

s with many aspiring artists, Besterman dreamed of working on Broadway and in film while a college student. At Rochester, he studied both music history and theater, a program that allowed him to take classes at the College and at the Eastman School of Music.

Although he was always interested in composing and orchestrating, he says Rochester helped set the stage for his
career.

He studied with the late Rayburn Wright ’43E, then head of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Media at Eastman, who had been a chief arranger at Radio City Music Hall in the ’50s. Besterman credits his former teacher with speeding his development.

“The things I learned from Ray shaved 10 years off my learning curve because it was incredibly practical information,” he says. “People used to say that I had no experience yet I was able to do so much, because that’s what Ray knew and taught us. It was an incredibly valuable four years.”

INTERVIEW WITH DOUG BESTERMAN
By Dan Goldwasser

What does an orchestrator do?

An orchestrator is responsible for taking a composer’s musical ideas – often written for piano or guitar – and expanding them to be played by a larger group of musicians – in the case of a Broadway show, anywhere from 6 to 24 musicians – and for a film, from 40 – 100.

What’s the difference between an arranger and an orchestrator?

Technically, an arranger will add his or her musical stamp on a piece of music – in the form of adding an intro or ending, coming up with counter-melodies, or re-conceiving the musical style of the piece – an orchestrator, technically speaking, won’t add anything.

In practice, orchestrators on Broadway – and to an extent in film as well – are also arrangers – we do often add counter-lines and re-conceive the musical style – but no distinction is made.

What are some of your more memorable experiences?

Well, it was fantastic being a part of the musical The Producers – a show like that only comes along every so often – the same goes for the movie Chicago. It was also great to work with singers like Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow – and producers like Arif Mardin and Phil Ramone – recording industry legends.

Have you worked outside of musical theater and film?

Absolutely. I have done song arrangements for recording artists like Beyonce Knowles, Toni Braxton and Mandy Patinkin. I orchestrated two ballets for choreographer Susan Stroman, one for the Martha Graham Dance Company, and the other for the New York City Ballet. And I have written symphonic arrangements for the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras.

I have also worked in the video game industry, creating and adapting music for Mulan (Disney Interactive), and Shadoan (Virtual Image Productions).

Through the course of your orchestration career, have you continued to write your own music?

Yes, I’ve continued to compose, and it the last couple of years, ever since moving out to Los Angeles, I’ve been more interested in songwriting and composing. In the last year or two, I’ve placed three songs in two shows (“Summerland” and “One Life to Live”) and one film, The Punisher. I enjoy writing – both songs and scores – and I would love to do more of that.

Do you have your own studio?

Yes – Mighty Music Productions, located in Los Angeles. I have a ProTools HD3 Accel system – I use Logic, Reason and Finale software – and I am set up to sync to video as well. I can create everything from orchestral synth mockups and demos to final tracks.

How did you get your start as an orchestrator?

It might sound strange, but I was aware that there were jobs called “orchestrator” and “arranger” from the time I was in my early teens. I grew up outside of New York City, and my family and I were big fans of musical theater – my parents loved Broadway shows, and would bring myself and my brothers to see shows as kids. At a certain point – I think it was probably the musical A Chorus Line – I noticed that there was music under the singing, and that it was interesting. My ears started to pick out that there were things happening under the singers, and they had a lot to do with the style and the tone of the show. So I really started to explore and investigate what that was, and how you did it.

By the time I was ready to go to college, I was pretty sure I was going to go into the music industry in some way – I was a pianist, and a French horn player, also. I ended up doing a dual program at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester – so I was trained at a conservatory, and I was really fortunate at Eastman to study with a guy named Rayburn Wright. Ray had been the chief arranger at Radio City Music Hall in the 1950s, so we had a lot in common in terms of his experience, and my interest. Ray gave me a very clear understanding of how the music industry worked, what an arranger did, what an orchestrator did, and the mechanics of how you did that job in the industry. Somehow I walked away from Eastman feeling like I really understood how that all worked.

While I was in school, I studied Jazz Arranging, Film Scoring, Orchestration, as well as a conservatory curriculum in Music History and Theory. For a time, I toyed with being a professional horn player – being in conservatory, that’s a great place to really explore all those things. But by the time I left college, I knew that I was heading in a direction of musical theater. It was something I loved to do, I had worked semi-professionally as a rehearsal pianist and music director, and I felt like this was something I could do to earn a living, and be in the music industry, and see if I could move forward as a composer or as an arranger.

I got to New York in 1986, and started working as a rehearsal pianist and assistant music director, wrote arrangements for people, played auditions – then in the early 1990s I just had a lucky break – I met Danny Troob, who is a great orchestrator on Broadway, and had done a lot of film work with Alan Menken. Danny and I worked on a project together, and he asked me to help him with some orchestrations. Then an opportunity to do an off-Broadway show for Alan Menken came up, and Danny wasn’t available – so he recommended me. My phone rang at 9am one morning, and it was Alan. He said, “Danny says we should meet – grab a demo, and come up to my house.” That’s how my career as an orchestrator started.

You moved to Los Angeles in late 1990’s – how is it working on Broadway shows from LA?

I commute back and forth – I have a lot of frequent flier miles! It’s kind of ironic – I moved to Los Angeles, because I was getting busier doing basically what I do for Broadway, but for film. That was the end of the heyday period of the animated musical – I worked on Mulan and Anastasia long distance, from New York. So I moved out here to catch that wave – and because I was interested in being in LA and living in California – and a year after I came out there, I won my first Tony Award and got very busy in New York.

But in the last couple of years, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the Broadway musical on screen. Between Chicago and The Producers, for me it’s a very convenient calling card – in terms of doing more work in the film industry. I don’t think people in LA know that I’m in LA – they think of me as a New York guy!

A List of Some of the Composers that Doug Besterman has Collaborated With

Mel Brooks
Phil Collins
Randy Courts
Stephen Flaherty
Michael Gore
John Kander
Robert Lindsey-Nassif
Melissa Manchester
Howard Marren
Alan Menken
David Newman
Stephen Schwartz
David Shire
Alan Silvestri
Carly Simon
Kathy Sommer/Nina Ossoff
Stephen Sondheim
Charles Strouse
Jeanine Tesori
Danny Troob
Matthew Wilder
Frank Wildhorn

THEATER PROJECTS THAT DOUG BESTERMAN HAS ORCHESTRATED
*Note: This is just for theater. He has many more projects he has composed for television, film, and interactive game software.

BROADWAY/WEST END:
Tarzan (Richard Rogers Theater, NYC) – spring 2006
– Phil Collins, music

Guys and Dolls (Piccadilly Theater, London)

Dracula (Belasco Theater, NYC)
– Frank Wildhorn, music

Thoroughly Modern Millie (Marquis Theater, NYC)
– 2002 Tony Award &Drama Desk Award, Best Orchestrations

The Producers (St. James Theater, NYC)
– 2001 Tony Award & Drama Desk Award, Best Orchestrations

Seussical (Richard Rodgers Theater, NYC)
– Stephen Flaherty, music

Music Man (Neil Simon Theater, NYC)
– Drama Desk & Tony Award nominations

Fosse: A Celebration in Song and Dance (Broadhurst Theater, NYC)
– 1999 Tony Award, Best Orchestrations

King David (New Amsterdam Theater, NYC)
– Alan Menken, music

Big (Schubert Theater, NYC)
– David Shire, music
– Drama Desk Award nomination

Damn Yankees (Marquis Theater, NYC)
– Drama Desk Award nomination

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Lyceum Theater, NYC)

OFF-BROADWAY/OTHER NEW YORK THEATER:
A Christmas Carol (Theater at Madison Square Garden, NYC)
– Alan Menken, music

Weird Romance (WPA Theater, NYC)
– Alan Menken, music

Christmas Spectacular (Radio City Music Hall Productions, NYC)

Jack’s Holiday (Playwrights Horizons, NYC)

Johnny Pye and the Foolkiller (Lambs Theater, NYC)

REGIONAL:
I Sent A Letter To My Love (North Shore Music Theater, MA)
– Melissa Manchester, music

Captains Courageous (Ford’s Theater, Washington D.C.)

Paramour (Old Globe Theater, San Diego, CA)

Eliot Ness in Cleveland(Denver Center for Performing Arts, Denver, CO)

Jeanne La Pucelle (Place Des Arts, Montreal, Quebec)

Opal (George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, NJ)

Visit the official Doug Besterman website at http://www.dougbesterman.com/

Seussical Bass Guitar

Question received:

I am doing a production of Seussical the Musical this summer and had a few questions… does the
score call for upright AND electric bass, or just electric? Also, would you
happen to know if the bass part is “written out” (notes on the staff) or
just chord changes? Any info would be helpful. Thanks so much.
Laura

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Hi Laura,

The Seussical score is written out for bass. You could do it with upright bass, but would recommend electric bass. There’s so many rock grooves in this musical that I think you’ll want that punch. Also nice to have a consistent sound for your audio technician to work with (mixing the kick and bass guitar to complement each other).

For me the best description for doing the music in Seussical is “whirlwind” – The music has very few breaks and switches up feels a lot. It was one of my favorite musicals to work on. I think you’ll have a blast!

Let me know if you have any other questions – it makes me feel smart when I can actually answer them.

Conrad

Seussical Sound Effects

headphones-spin.gif Here are sound effects you can use in Seussical the Musical. This is a free download. I have provided the files in .wav format so they are ready to burn. The Seussical FX are a single download as a compressed folder.

These are the same effects I used while conducting Seussical the Musical in 2006. It covers effects for the Act II Overture, last scene egg breaking, bird chirping after the egg hatches, Horton’s frustrated elephant call, wild animal grunts for “Monkey Around”, Thunder for opening of Act II, explosion from Jojo’s military scene. I used the water splash sound for when the Cat in the Hat sneezes on the Who’s in “How Lucky You Are”. It was a pretty funny addition.

If you find these sound effects useful or if there’s any problems with them, please drop a note on this post and let me know. Of course I’d love to hear about your Seussical production and how these sound effects worked for you. This sound effects download is free, if you feel like putting a link on your site to mine that would be much appreciated.

Seussical FX Pack Includes:

  1. bang-wonk
  2. bird-chirp
  3. bugle-cartoon
  4. dog-bark
  5. elephant-single-call
  6. explosion
  7. eggshell-crack
  8. grunt1
  9. grunt2
  10. horn-ahooga
  11. horn-comedy
  12. slide-whistle
  13. thunder
  14. water-splash

7,676 kb download in compressed file. All sound fx are in .wav format ready to be burned to CD. On a fast internet connection this free download should only take a couple seconds.

DOWNLOAD SEUSSICAL SOUND EFFECTS

Click on link above and save this compressed folder to your computer. Once downloaded, right click on the compressed folder and select “extract” to uncompress the folder contents.

Drop a note and let me know how these worked for you. ROCK ON SEUSSICAL!

TECH NOTES:
I ran the sound fx live from a virtual keyboard on a laptop. It allowed me to time the fx exactly where I wanted them. You could also have a sound tech run the effects, but they might need a couple cd players with fast transports (For instance, in the Overture to Act II if you want three distinct “wonk” sounds, this would require fast juggling between the CD players).

I added the slide whistle in a lot more than the score called for – had a great effect especially in the circus scenes.

Update May 2009
“VIRTUAL KEYBOARD” – Had a question as to what that is. I used the software Kontakt to map these sound effects to a keyboard, then triggered the sounds live from a midi keyboard connected to my laptop. This gives easy triggering for keyboardists that can time the sounds to the action, or trigger the sound effects to the exact beat needed in the scores (like in the Entracte to Act II). Kontakt costs several hundred dollars and has a little learning curve to get into. If you’re used to using music software, you should be able to figure out how to drag the sounds to the software, with only a few *minro* headaches (translation: it’s not super dooper easy for a first time user).

QA Email – Seussical Sound Effects

UPDATE: Now you can Download Free Seussical Sound Effects.

E-mail received:

Hello,

I happened to come across your website this evening while I was doing some “net surfing” for Seussical the Musical.

I am the music director for our high school’s musical theater productions, and the Orchestra Conductor and myself are trying to work out all the instrumentation and sound effects issues.

What caught my attention was the way you ran the sound effects on you laptop through a kepyboard. COULD YOU BE SO KIND AS TO ELABORATE!! Information on the program you used and how to create the sound bank….even how to connect the keyboard would be AWESOME! We can handle all the instruments, but the sound effects have us a little freaked out!

Thanks so much for ANY help!

Eric
Director of Choral Activities
Waynesboro Area Senior High School

Music Education Advocacy Committee Chair
Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District VII

Choral Director — Gold Tour
American Music Abroad

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Hi Eric,

Here is a link to my sound effects used in Seussical the Musical.

I didn’t think Seussical was very sound effects intensive. I identified 10 sound effects needed for our production. In comparison, I just finished a run of the non-musical version of Peter Pan and was running sixty-four sound effects for that show.

Here is the list of sound effects I used for our Seussical production:

SOUND EFFECTS FOR SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL

Slide Whistle (you’ll get better samples than performing this live)

YOPP! (Jojo’s yell in Act II – I process multi-tap delay with panning, so it “calls across the universe”)

Elephant Call

Egg Hatching

Explosion

Water Splash (For the Cat’s sneeze onto the Planet of Who, my own twisted addition)

ACT II Entracte – Overture clangs and bangs

Thunderstorm (To add to ACT II melodrama string music)

Bird Chirp

Animal Grunts (For intro of Monkey Around, listen to CD)

Dog Bark “woof”

All of these sound effects can be done well from a CD player. To trigger sound effects I use Kontakt by Native Instruments which is a virtual sample keyboard. I load in my sound effects and map them onto a virtual keyboard. Then trigger these sounds from a laptop via a MIDI keyboard. To do this you’ll need a laptop, Kontakt software, a MIDI keyboard and a USB midi device. Total cost starting around $2000 for all if you shop around.

I prefer running sound effects this way so I have control over the final product. I also played the keyboard one parts, so it was very natural for meto reach over and trigger a sound effect at my keyboard rig. I only played piano in the parts that needed it, otherwise I conducted and let the orchestra do it’s thing. We had a twenty piece orchestra so it was a pretty full sound. You’ll probably find that the Reed One, Two and Three parts will have to be split among multiple players. Check my “Seussical” section here on my blog for details about instrumentation.

Hope that helps. If you’re a control freak player/conductor/audio engineer like me you’ll have fun mapping a custom sample bank. Otherwise leave the sound effects to your sound crew and you’ll be fun. The challenge to me for Seussical is the almost non-stop music; and keeping the orchestra tight on the wide variety of grooves.

META’s Seussical The Musical 2006 – Cast Photos

conrad-grinch-small1.gifCast photos for Seussical the Musical, November 2006, McIntyre Hall – Mount Vernon, WA. Presented by META Performing Arts.

What a fun show this was! I think it was a real bullseye for the kids, META Performing Arts and the artistic team.

This is a show that will leave it’s mark for several years. It has raised the bar in several areas for local children’s theatre. We took a lot of chances, had a lot of “firsts” for McIntyre Hall – and it all worked.

Someone asked me today if I knew the show would be this good, and I said Yes. However, there was definately some support I needed from the directors and producers to get my end done – and they came through 110%. Ok, blah blah blah, it rocked and everyone did their part.

This group of kids became such a very polished professional group. Even backstage it was total pro. Amazing considering the ages we were working with. So YOU KIDS ROCK!

I had one person tell me they saw the touring Seussical show with Cathy Rigby and felt that ours was better. They were also very surprised at how “high class” our orchestra sounded. Mostly when I get compliments like that I brush them off a bit, but in the case of this show I know it’s true. I really do think this crew could go up against a touring show.

dsc01257.jpgAnd the most awesome comment I got today was from a mother who said her child had never participating in such a professional environment before. It made me remember when I was a kid and doing pro and semi-pro gigs. Made me smile. For many of the kids in this run of Seussical, this show will be a life altering experience for them. Some will realize they do not have to just be cute and slide along, they can actually step to the plate and bring it.

For some it means the next time they have a goal they are really driven to strive for, that this time they have a chance at acheiving it. Theatre also has a way of breaking down stereotypes. We all have a little mold we fit into, fulfilling other people’s expectations of ourselves. But in theatre we have a chance to reach out and be something different. Kids that have learning disabilities, are socially challenged; WHATEVER the shortcoming is (and we ALL have shortcomings, don’t kid yourself) – in theatre for each show they have a level playing field to start fresh.

For myself, my early performance experiences were extremely intense. It was largely a classical environment and I was a choirboy. Rehearsals were intense, performances were intense – but those shows instilled in me that nothing else will do. Nothing else is acceptable. There’s a saying (well, ok, it’s scripture) a friend shared with me that says if we bring our very best we will perform before kings. To perform before kings is not so important to me (I’ve had goals like that previously in life, and when I reached them they were empty and ephemeral). But it is MOST important that a little of that idea, the idea of reaching with absolute resolve in the arts, has been passed on with this show. At least I hope it has.

As the Cat in the Hat would say: “How sad! How terribly terribly Sad! Isn’t that Sad?” – the run is over. On to the next. Deep breath. Remember the mountain we climbed together. Another opening, another show – but life is a little sweeter for having been involved in this production……
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Seussical 11/09/06 Sold Out

hat-seussical.jpgOur run of Seussical the Musical was sold out for Thursday’s performance 11/09/06. McIntyre Hall has 650 seats including balcony and box seats. Rumor has it our attendance was 690 with many children sitting in laps to accomodate the crowd. It was our best show yet, a real rush for the cast and crew.

Hope to see you Sat night or Sunday matinee, our last two shows at McIntyre Hall, Mount Vernon, WA.

Seussical the Musical – Last weekend to see the show

hat-seussical.jpgThis is your last weekend to see META’s production of Seussical the Musical at McIntyre Hall (Mount Vernon, WA). Shows open to the public are Thurs, Fri, Sat 7pm shows and closing Sunday 2pm matinee (November 9-12, 2006).

Many people have asked me if it’s a fun production. The answer is yes, it’s WAY fun. Our 20 piece orchestra is fantastic and it’s a blast to conduct it. So, be there or be square.

Here’s a photo of my setup for the show. I also play keyboards. My favorite setup is using three keyboard arrays in a “U” shape. I usually have one main keyboard in front so I have easy access to scores, batons, etc. For this show I just use one keyboard on either side. To my right I use a B3 replica synthesizer by Korg, and to my left is a Yamaha keyboard triggering my laptop computer. I use Kontakt by Native Instruments and program a custom sound bank for special effects and pre-show music. I think it’s much better to time the sound effects live with the action, rather than relying on compact discs. It also allows me to overly multiple effects where needed in real time. In addition to my keyboards, we have FOUR more keyboardists. Keyboard heaven!
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Lighting booth at McIntyre Hall preparing cues.

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A photo during tech week while setting the stage for Seussical. The hat is flown.

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View of Seussical stage from the sound room. For this production we use 18 wireless microphones and an extra mixing board for a total of 40 channels between vocalists and orchestra.

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Backside of the Seuss tree and added reinforcements.

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Looking at the sound booth.

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Seussical the Musical – Cast and Production List

seussical4.gifWe had our opening night for Seussical the Musical last night. It was absolutely fantastic. Over sixty kids on stage and a twenty piece orchestra. I had previously been told I would not be able to coordinate that many children musically with such a large orchestra. But we’ve done it, and done it well.

A BIG thank you to Kyle Blevins our sound designer. He is an excellent audio tech and has done an outstanding job fulfilling the demanding requirements of the show.

SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Co-Conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss
November 3 thru 12, 2006
McIntyre Hall, Mount Vernon

PRODUCTION AND TECHNICAL TEAMS

Producer – Kate Kypuros
Directors – Dave and Carrie James
Vocal Director and Conductor – Conrad Askland
Choreographer – Skye Dahlstrom
Stage Director – Ryn Bishop
Sound Design – Kyle Blevins
Set Designer – Elizabeth Stam
Lighting Design – Don Willcuts
Lead Costume Designer – Kathryn Gildnes
Bird Costume Designer – Mary Jo Henning
Cat and Kangaroo Costumes – Maura Marlin
Assistant to the Directors – Jen Spence
Assistant to the Producer – Susan Arthur
Parent Volunteer Coordinator – Justine Sanders
Photography by Sergei Petrov and Greg Sanders
Set Building – Aviathar Pemberton, Sergei Petrov, Leo Kypuros, Jeff Whidden
Set Crew – Rob Bonner, Paul Thelan, Nate Young, Robin Miller, Spenser Demarais
Scenic Painters – Elizabeth Stam and Sergie Petrov
Make-up Direction – Janae Moorehouse
Make-up – Stephania Kay
Fly Crew – Dave Mumford and Spencer Desmarais
Spot – Paul Thelan
Deck Crew – Suzann McLamb, Robin Miller, Amanda McDaniel
Props Creation – Holly Bunnell, Justine Sanders, Annie Bratun
Props Mistress – Annie Bratun
Graphics – Kristin Jensen
Bookstore and Lobby Kiosks – Deborah Cleave-Trepus

ORCHESTRA

Conductor – Conrad Askland
Keyboard 2 – Brianne Weaver
Keyboard 3 – Lauren Lippens
Keyboard 4 – Ruth Haines
Keyboard 5 – Kathryn Kahn
Trumpet I – Cindy Luna
Trumpet II – Bryan Frank
Trombone – Paul Brower
Alto Sax – Kyle McInnis
Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet – Michelle Hanna
Baritone Sax, Oboe, Clarinet – Rebecca Wright
Flute, Piccolo – Alicia Jackson
Violin I – Luke Hansen
Violin II – Louise Cheney
Cello – Sharon Sparling
Harp – Christy Swartz
Bass Guitar – Peter Bridgman
Drums – David Bridgman
Percussion – Oscar De La Rosa
Conductor’s Assistant – Andrew Teijan

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SEUSSICAL CAST
(In Order of Appearance)

Jojo – Ireland Woods
Cat in the Hat – Mike Marlin
Horton the Elephant – Matt Olsen
Gertrude – Bianca Campbell
Mayzie – Ashley Henning
The Sour Kangaroo – Falon Calderon

BIRD GIRLS
Lynette Cole
Zoey Kypuros
Corinn Holberg
McKenzie Willis
Mary Witt
Savanna Woods

THE WICKERSHAMS

Michael Giles
Karina Grech
Jessiejo Huizinga
Trevor Hansen
Tiffany Richardson

Yertle the Turtle – Sam Mitchell
Vlad Vladikoff – Kaylah Golub
Mayor – Nate Young
Mrs. Mayor – Paige Woods
General Genghis Khan Schmitz – Mike Krugel
The Grinch – Jayme Craig

CITIZENS OF WHOVILLE

Katie Arthur
Jackson Dillard
Elle England
Olivia Pedroza
Brittany Schmidt
Mariah Schmidt
Robert Summers
Selena Tibert
Nathaniel Voth

CADETS

Adele Clark
Brooke Desper
Seth Laurence
Whitney Lindquist
Jahldi Merritt
Tatum Sprouse
Zoe Whidden

CITIZENS – CIRCUS – FISH

Sarah Bamba
Courtney Bunnell
Blakelee Clay-McBee
Drew Erlandson
Devon Fair
Chamidae Ford
Makenzie Fox
Bailey Hodges
Emma Johnson
Katie Keck
Kiara Landi
Magdalena McGuire
Elena Olfke
Susie Pollino
Lauren Riley
Paris Sanders
Summer Sanders
Nicole Trepus
Angela Uptain
Miranda Uptain
Jensen Weynands-Mains
Emily Watilo
ORCHESTRA SPONSOR:

The Floyd and Delores Jones Foundation
THANK YOU FLOYD!!!!!

Seussical the Musical presented by
META Performing Arts
through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI)

SPECIAL THANKS
Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church
Sewer’s Dream
Skagit Valley Performing Arts Council
Elfa Gisla
Copy This, Mail That
Insta-Signs
Village Theatre
Cascade Pizza
The Lincoln Theatre
Kelly Pollino
Joan Landi
Diane Giles
Rob Bonner
DIRECTOR’S NOTES:

Not that long ago, children were taught to read using books that were dry, dull and devoid of any attempt to entertain the brand-new readers at whom they were aimed. But in 1936, while returning from Europe on a steam ship, Theodore Geisel had an idea for a book about a young child who dreams up an increasingly wacky story about his adventures walking home from school.

The words in the book were written while Geisel listened to the rhythm of the ship’s steam engines, and thus followed their meter. Publisher after publisher told him that such a book could never be printed, people wouldn’t accept it, and that Geisel should forget about writing stories for children.

He didn’t forget about it. When the 29th publisher finally agreed to print “And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street”, literature changed forever. Although few people know about a children’s book writer named Mr. Geisel, his middle name is known in every American household: SEUSS!

While Seussical the Musical may have had a rocky road to Broadway (Rosie O’Donnell is probably not America’s greatest thespian), the first time we saw it performed, we were blown away by the message about the awesomeness of imagination taught to us by Jojo. Our hearts melted at the love story between Horton and Gertrude. We cheered for the Whos as they tried to save their tiny planet, and we left the theater singing our favorite songs from the show!

After such a fantastic experience, it was a no-brainer to choose this as META’s fall musical. We have had such an amazing time working with these talented actors and actresses. Conrad has taught us “volumes” about music, and Skye has taken the cast’s dancing skills to new levels.

Our sincerest thanks go to our cast and crew for their hard work and dedication. They made our work enjoyable, and our rehearsals fun.

Carrie and Dave – The Directors

Sound Effects for Seussical the Musical

images1.jpgUPDATE 02/07 – Free Download of Seussical Sound FX

Here’s a list of sound effects I prepared for Seussical the Musical. Most are called for in the score. Some of them are timed with the music so I prefer to have myself or one of the musicians trigger audio fx for the show.

I use Kontakt by Native Instruments which is a virtual keyboard for computer. I load my sounds into a laptop and program my sound effects across the keyboard – usually layered in sequence for when they occur in the show. Preproduction of audio effects is done on ProTools, where I have full control of high end delays, reverbs and panning. I run sound effects stereo and make sure the sound team is processing my sounds in stereo. I think it’s important to clarify whether you have a stereo setup available at your performance, because it will change how you pre-process your show sounds and foley.

Subtle sound effects add another subliminal layer of depth for any show presentation, so I encourage you to take the time to create them to the best of your ability. Having the actors do the fx like is “ok”, but take the time to make it super-duper cool.

SOUND EFFECTS FOR SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL

Slide Whistle (you’ll get better samples than performing this live)

YOPP! (Jojo’s yell in Act II – I process multi-tap delay with panning, so it “calls across the universe”)

Elephant Call

Egg Hatching

Explosion

Water Splash (For the Cat’s sneeze onto the Planet of Who, my own twisted addition)

ACT II Entracte – Overture clangs and bangs

Thunderstorm (To add to ACT II melodrama string music)

Bird Chirp

Animal Grunts (For intro of Monkey Around, listen to CD)

Dog Bark “woof”

Who is Dr. Seuss?

postal_service_dr_seuss.jpgWho is Dr. Seuss?

Visit the Wikipedia Dr. Seuss page.

Visit the Dr. Seuss National Memorial.

Visit Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons.

Visit The Political Dr. Seuss.

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Dr. Seuss’s Biography

seuss.gifA person’s a person, no matter how small,” Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, would say. “Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted.”

Brilliant, playful, and always respectful of children, Dr. Seuss charmed his way into the consciousness of four generations of youngsters and parents. In the process, he helped millions of kids learn to read.

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1925, he went to Oxford University, intending to acquire a doctorate in literature. At Oxford, Geisel met Helen Palmer, whom he wed in 1927. Upon his return to America later that year, Geisel published cartoons and humorous articles for Judge, the leading humor magazine in America at the time. His cartoons also appeared in major magazines such as Life, Vanity Fair, and Liberty. Geisel gained national exposure when he won an advertising contract for an insecticide called Flit. He coined the phrase, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” which became a popular expression.

Geisel developed the idea for his first children’s book in 1936 while on a vacation cruise. The rhythm of the ship’s engine drove the cadence to And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

During World War II, Geisel joined the Army and was sent to Hollywood where he wrote documentaries for the military. During this time, he also created a cartoon called Gerald McBoing-Boing which won him an Oscar.

The Cat in the Hat is born

catinthehat.gifIn May of 1954, Life published a report on illiteracy among schoolchildren, suggesting that children were having trouble reading because their books were boring. This problem inspired Geisel’s publisher, prompting him to send Geisel a list of 400 words he felt were important for children to learn. The publisher asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and use them to write an entertaining children’s book. Nine months later, Geisel, using 220 of the words given to him, published The Cat in the Hat, which brought instant success.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and three Academy Awards, Geisel authored and illustrated 44 children’s books. His enchanting stories are available as audiocassettes, animated television specials, and videos.

While Theodor Geisel died on September 24, 1991, Dr. Seuss lives on, inspiring generations of children of all ages to explore the joys of reading.

THE ADVERTISING ARTWORK OF DR. SEUSS

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Before Theodore Seuss Geisel found fame as a children’s book author, the primary outlet for his creative efforts was magazines. His first steady job after he left Oxford was as a cartoonist for Judge, a New York City publication. In 1927 one of these cartoons opened the way to a more profitable career, as well as greater public exposure, as an advertising illustrator. This fortuitous cartoon depicts a medieval knight in his bed, facing a dragon who had invaded his room, and lamenting, “Darn it all, another dragon. And just after I’d sprayed the whole castle with Flit” (a well-known brand of bug spray).

According to an anecdote in Judith and Neil Morgan’s book Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (Random House, 1995), the wife of the ad executive who handled the Standard Oil company’s account saw the cartoon. At her urging, her husband hired the artist, thereby inaugurating a 17-year campaign of ads whose recurring plea, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!,” became a common catchphrase. These ads, along with those for several other companies, supported the Geisels throughout the Great Depression and the nascent period of his writing career.

The Dr. Seuss Collection, housed at the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego, contains many examples of Dr. Seuss’s advertising artwork. The library has scanned a selection of these advertisements for greater access. Besides promoting the Standard Oil companies Flit and Esso, Dr. Seuss’s creations have hawked such diverse goods as ball bearings, radio promotional spots, beer, and sugar.

Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons from WWII Era

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Parody of Lindbergh around 1941
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Dr. Seuss’ widow now wears the hat for booming empire

grinchpre.jpgMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, The, Feb 27, 2004 by MICHELLE MORGANTE

San Diego — Near the end of his life, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel sat down with his wife, Audrey, to speak of the past and of things to come.

” ‘I’ve had a wonderful life,’ ” Audrey Stone Geisel recalls him saying. ” ‘I’ve done what I had to do. I lived where I wished to live. I had love. I had everything.’

” ‘But,’ he said, ‘now my work will be turned over to you. And you will have to deal with those consequences.’

“And oh-ho,” says the 82-year-old heiress of the Seuss world, “has that been true!”

Nearly 13 years after her husband’s death, Geisel leads the global enterprise that has sprouted from Seuss’ beloved books — watching over the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch and all the other critters and characters who live on in movies, toys, games and ventures that perhaps not even the imaginative doctor could have envisioned.

Ted Geisel came into the world on March 2, 1904, when children learned from dull primers. In 1937, Geisel had just suffered his 27th rejection for his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” when he bumped into a friend who worked for Vanguard Press.
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“Ted told him that he’d been refused all of these times and he was going home to burn it,” Audrey Geisel says.

The encounter, of course, led to publication. The book created a stir among teachers and parents who feared it would encourage children to lie.

“It was so off the wall,” she says. “They even thought, ‘Oh, it might teach a child to fib,’ instead of imagine, you see?”

The book became a hit, and over the years, Dr. Seuss became one of the most popular children’s authors ever. He published 44 children’s books in more than 20 languages, and one non-children’s book, “The Seven Lady Godivas,” which was not a hit. More than 500 million Dr. Seuss books have been sold worldwide.

Death to Dick and Jane

Dr. Seuss has often been credited with killing off “Dick and Jane,” the sterile heroes of childhood readers of yore.

“With Dick and Jane, there was never much of a story there,” said Barbara Parker of the National Education Association, whose annual “Read Across America” event culminates on Tuesday, the 100th anniversary of Ted Geisel’s birth.

Dr. Seuss’ books, however, appealed to children — and adults — with their clever rhymes and plot twists.

“In ‘The Cat in the Hat,’ for example — kids really, really like that because they’re expecting the boy and the girl to get in trouble when the mother gets home, but suddenly it’s the cat to the rescue,” Parker said.

Philip Nel, a Kansas State English professor and author of the new book “Dr. Seuss: American Icon,” says Seuss’ heroes are rebels and underdogs.

“They go against the grain. They don’t do what they’re expected to do,” he said. As in “The Cat in the Hat,” Nel said, “Why not fly a kite in the house?”

Part of Seuss’ charm is his ability to make the ordinary into the extraordinary.

“Ham and eggs is just ordinary, but if you turn it around so that it’s eggs and ham, that’s interesting. And then if you make it green, there’s real genius,” Nel said.

One year celebration

Audrey Geisel is presiding over a year’s worth of ceremonies celebrating “Seussentennial: A Century of Imagination.”

The events include the debut of a Postal Service stamp; a tour of theatrical performances and children’s workshops across 40 cities; a series of Dr. Seuss celebrity book reviews; exhibits of items from the Dr. Seuss archives and of Ted Geisel’s art; the unveiling of a Dr. Seuss sculpture at the Geisel Library at the University of California at San Diego; and the presentation of a star honoring the author on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

As she gazes toward the Pacific from her hilltop home, Audrey Geisel says she understood the weight of the job immediately upon inheriting it, but was surprised by how it steadily grew heavier.

“And then suddenly, I had so much to do each day,” she says, describing business responsibilities as well as her philanthropic work as head of the Dr. Seuss Foundation. “But I’ve complicated my own life to a degree, and I don’t deserve much sympathy.”

Geisel is a disciplined and opinionated leader, whose mission is largely to protect the integrity of her husband’s creations.

Geisel, a former nurse, holds court early each morning at a nearby hotel restaurant, arriving in her faithful 1984 Cadillac with the personalized license plate: GRINCH.

“I come down the street and no one has seen anything like it,” she says with a laugh.

Guardian of integrity

grinch8.jpgAs president and CEO of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Geisel is tough on those encroaching on Seuss trademarks and copyrights. And when she wanted to have the local Old Globe Theater produce “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” years ago, she went to New York to free the miserly character from a production that later evolved into the musical “Seussical.”

Seussical the Musical – Set and Costume Photos

seussicalprogram.jpgHere are pictures from community theatre and professional productions of Seussical the Musical. You can use them as reference to get your creativity in flow for creating your own production. These are NOT photos of the show I am conducting for META Perfoming Arts. As of this posting we haven’t opened yet, I’ll have pictures of our production posted later. Of course, I consider our production to be the ULTIMATE STM presentation. 🙂

Visit my general Seussical the Musical category here on my blog for lots of notes on set design, orchestration and musicians, costumes, etc.

Also on this post are pictures of Seussical the Musical flyers, different costume approaches to the Cat in the Hat, Who costumes, JoJo outfits, Who’s hair and costume design, various scene set designs, Horton and Sour Kangaroo costumes and whole set photos.

See detailed Seussical Set Construction from the Spring High School Website

Samples of flyers for Seussical the Musical.

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Different looks and costumes for the Cat In The Hat. Some people like using makeup, some don’t.

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Various character and stage set photos of Seussical the Musical

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Seussical the Musical – Orchestra and Musician Notes

Here’s music info for those producing Seussical the Musical. You might find these tips and tricks useful if you are a musical director, conductor, musician in Seussical the Musical – or if you are working with pit orchestras for musical theater productions. I think you’ll find many items here you can apply to many different stage musicals. My first involement with Seussical was for META Performing Arts in Skagit County, WA. Our performance run was November 3-12, 2006 at McIntyre Hall, Mount Vernon, WA.

If you’re working on music for Seussical the Musical, you already know it’s a LOT of music. The longest wait between songs is about 30 seconds. The Conductor/Piano 1 score runs over 400 pages – most musicals I’ve worked on run under 200 pages. You’ve got your work cut out for you. The music is not extremely difficult, but it has a lot of textures needed to pull off the orchestration. I think the orchestration is very good, and the charts are very clean. As conductor you will notice many errors between the conductor’s score and musician scores. Double check all your numbered repeats, fermatas and pauses – they are marked erratically from score to score. I thought I had caught most of them, but in rehearsals realized I had only caught about half the errors. There are also a small number of note errors, listen carefully to your musicians to catch them. (I should have kept better notes so I could post a listing of the errors to fix).

Here are the major problems I identified with producing the music for Seussical, and notes on how I worked around them.

1) How do you fill out the orchestra for a local production?
2) Will the show work with 5 or 6 musicians?
3) How do you find woodwind players that can each double on 4-5 instruments?
4) How do you get a professional stringe ensemble sound – without using cheezy keyboard patches or investing in a full string section?
5) How do you teach four part harmonies to grade school children, and have them remember the enormous amount of music in this show?
6) If using kids, how do you get the Wickershams to sound hip – the score is written for males who’s voice has already changed.
7) What’s more important for the Cat In The Hat – vocal ability or acting ability?
8) What to look for vocally in the different groups of Bird Girls, Who’s, Wickershams, Jungle Animals and lead characters of Mayzie, Gertrude, Sour Kangaroo, Horton the Elephant, JoJo and the General.
9) Assming you are using a majority of children in your cast, how can they project over the orchestra?

Answers to questions:

1) How do you fill out the orchestra for a local production?
I really think you need to pony up and fill out the orchestration as much as possible. Seussical is all about imagination and the different textures you orchestra brings to the show is part of pulling off that environment. I want to hear Disney, I want to hear Fantasia – that’s not going to happen with a five piece group. It will sound ok, but not inspiring. For me, I’d rather not do it unless it’s going to be ultra cool. If you’re using five or six players, then these notes won’t help you – this is about producing Seussical in a semi-pro environment (which can also mean community theater that works really, really hard!)

2) Will the show work with 5 or 6 musicians?
“Work”, yes – something I’d want to work on? No. Get donors, beg borrow and plead, get that orchestra filled out. I was fortunate to get a single donor to underwrite the entire orchestra. They were given prominent mention in the program.

3) How do you find woodwind players that can each double on 4-5 instruments?
You can’t – assuming you do not have a budget to hire session players (which really, only session or union players are going to be able to pull off all those doubles professionally) and are not near a major city with access to players like this. So split your woodwinds into as many parts as you need to cover the three parts. I found that you can skip the following parts, which are VERY small parts once the others are covered: You can cut bassoon, Flute II, clarinet II. I had players for these parts, but the parts were so small they declined to play. If you can get people for those parts great, but you probably won’t miss them.

Here is the instrumentation that Seussical the Musical calls for:

Bass Electric Bass
Cello
Drums Kit, Woodblock, Piccolo Snare, Cowbell, Timbale, Shaker, Bell Tree, Flexitone, Mark Tree, Triangle
Guitar 1 Acoustic Guitar and Electric Guitar
Guitar 2 Acoutic Guitar, Banjo, Electric Guitar
Keyboard 1 (Breathy-bell Synth, Pno+Perc.E.P., Cowbell + Calliope, Pno/Rhodes, Pop Piano, Piano, Elec. Pno, Calliope, Kazoo, Cheap-sounding Piano, metal Clav, MetalClav + Calliope, Poly Synth, Stackoid, Tack Piano, Glittery Synth, Buzzy Xylo, Mysterious E.P., Sweet E.P., XyloGlock, Voices, Theremin, Shimmery Stuff, Many Flutes, Rock Piano, Clarinet)

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Keyboard 2 (Breathy Pad, Bell Synth, Harpsichord, B-3, Cricket Synth, Elephant, Orch Hit, “Doing”, Psycho Strings, Tinkly Voices, Door Slam, Kalimba, Mallet Synth, Bell/Harpsi Synth, Pedal, Log Synth, Percussive B-3, Rok B-3, Calliope, Reedy Synth, Hank-y Synth, Nose Flute, Kazoo, Birdie Whistle, Tiny Synth Voice, Horn, Pig Synth, Animal Brss, Many Tubas, Bird Honk, Bird Fart, Hard Bottle Blow, AirRaid Siren, Spooky E.P., Warm E.P., Warm Voices, Celesta, Ethereal Choir, Spooky Voices, Dark Choir, Glittery Bell Synth, D-50 Stack, 80s Pad, Breathy Bell, Toy Piano, Cathedral Organ, Squishy Bass, Small Pipe Organ, Marimba, D-50 Heaven, Mello Organ, Rock Synth, Metal Clav, Hooty Synth, Clock Sound, Icy-cold Synth, Accordian, Ravenborg, Roller Rink Organ, Kazoo Brass, Cimbalum, Funky Horn, Pizzicato Strings, Sitar, Many Trombones & Horns, Buzz Brass)

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Percussion (Crotales, Chimes, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Congas, Tympani, Djembe, Siren Whistle, Shaker, Vibraslap, Tambourine, Bell Tree, Triangle, Finger Cymbals, Piatti, Sleigh Bells, Vibraphone, Suspended Cymbal, Mark Tree, Cork Pop, Temple Blocks, Samba Whistle, Ratchet, Bongos, Cowbell, Scraper, Rainstick, Marimba)

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Reed 1 Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo
Reed 2 Bass Clarinet, Clarinet, Oboe, Tenor Saxphone
Reed 3 Baritone Saxophone, Bassoon, Clarinet, Flute
Trombone
Trumpet 1
Trumpet 2
Viola
Violin 1
Violin 2

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Here’s how I covered that orchestration:

(1) Electric Bass
(1) Cello
(1) Drums Kit, Woodblock, Piccolo Snare, Cowbell, Timbale, Shaker, Bell Tree, Flexitone, Mark Tree, Triangle (Your drummer will need a cowbell)

(1) Guitar 1 Acoustic Guitar and Electric Guitar
Guitar 2 – CUT
(1) Keyboard 1 – Piano and Hammond B3 (covered by conductor, you could also have a “piano player” cover Key I)

(1) Keyboard 2 – Reduced patches to: Electric Piano (one aggressive, one mellow) , B3 rock, B3 mellow, Heaven Pad, Bell Synth, Calliope, Reed Synth (oboe-ish sound), Theremin (whistle with portamento), CyberBorg (dance synth patch), Spooky Voices, Tick Tock (from drumset sound bank),

(1) Percussion – Keyboard 3 covers these mallet percussion parts from the percussion score: Chimes, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Tympani, Vibraphone, Marimaba)
(1) Percussion – Live percussion player covering conga, djembe and latin percussion parts.
(1) Reed 1 – Flute, Piccolo
(1) Reed 2 – Bass Clarinet, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
(1) Reed 3 – Baritone Saxophone, Oboe (Oboe from Reed 2 part, BariSax has priority in uptempo songs, oboe has priority in ballads)
(1) Reed 4 – Alto Saxophone (From Reed 2 score)
CUT WOODWINDS if not available: Soprano Saxophone, Bassoon, Clarinet II, Flute II

(1) Trombone
(1) Trumpet 1
(1) Trumpet 2
Viola – CUT if not available.
(2) Violin 1 – Combine real violin player with Keyboard 4 (Keyboard player playing Violin I part, will need to select patches that blend with live players and Violin II part)
(2) Violin 2 – Combine real violin player with Keyboard 5 (Keyboard player playing Violine II part)

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4) How do you get a professional stringe ensemble sound – without using cheezy keyboard patches or investing in a full string section?

By combing quality keyboard string samples with live players. The live players will provide the attack and bend that you need in the sound, the keyboard covers the fullness of the sound. I have seen Seussical performed live with a full string section (three players per part) but it still did not have the nice full sound of symphony strings. My experience has been it is very difficult to pull that sound off within budget and the pool of players available.

5) How do you teach four part harmonies to grade school children, and have them remember the enormous amount of music in this show?

When we had auditions, we were very careful to check for singers that could sing harmonies, and grouped them accordingly to different character types. I have the more advanced singers cover the harmony parts, and the younger singers cover the melodies. In some sections where harmonies only come in on a couple notes, I simplified into two part harmonies and eliminated some harmonies. This was dictated by our particular casting, but I would guess this to be a similiar situation for most all-kid productions.

To learn all the music parts we broke into groups at rehearsals, many times having four different rehearsals running simultaneously. Singers were often brought in before rehearsals to work on particular ensemble parts and to reaffirm harmonies.

Once harmonies were in place, I would omit the lead line and play harmony parts to make them more solid for singers.

6) If using kids, how do you get the Wickershams to sound hip – the score is written for males who’s voice has already changed.

I changed the octaves of some parts, and had Wickershams speak some of the low parts. They are just too low for young unchanged voices. We did with attitude, and the final result was very hip.
7) What’s more important for the Cat In The Hat – vocal ability or acting ability?

I think acting ability is more important. Many of the Cat in the Hat vocal lines can be performed as speech-sing.

8) What to look for vocally in the different groups of Bird Girls, Who’s, Wickershams, Jungle Animals and lead characters of Mayzie, Gertrude, Sour Kangaroo, Horton the Elephant, JoJo and the General.

I put trained vocals in the Who section, they need a very pure sound with strong harmonies. Also worked with Who’s a lot on over-enunciation to make their parts more animated. Bird Girls – need to have 3part harmonies, we used 6 bird girls so each voice doubled. Without the harmonies, the Bird Girl part doesn’t come across, needs a “Supremes” type sound. General can also be speech-sing style. Need a strong vocalist for both Mayzie and Sour Kangaroo – I don’t really see a way around this, especially the Kangaroo. Horton’s part covers such a wide range, I think you’ll find speaking some lines instead of singing will work better for this character too (for a younger voice). I have Horton under-sing a lot, seems more in character.

9) Assming you are using a majority of children in your cast, how can they project over the orchestra?
Picking our sound crew was our first priority. Field mics for different vocal ensembles and dedicated wireless mics for leads and supporting characters. We also put the orchestra behind the cast so the sound crew would have more control over the final volumes – the particular hall we were in has a very live orchestra pit that is hard to control. Also, because I use several keyboardists to cover parts, it’s important to have a sound crew with a good ear so they can mix the textures properly.

Hope that helps, if you have any questions on the show or see a way something could have been improved, please post it.

Seussical Orchestra – Costume Ideas

Seussical Orchestra musicians, here are costume ideas. We will be onstage behind the main set and will all be visible from the waist up.

MAIN MUSICIAN INFO PAGE CLICK HERE

1) Drums/Bass – you have the ok from the directors to wear red if you want to get the THING costumes.
2) Musicians please stay away from red accents as those are cat colors.

Here is the official list of color accents you can use along with black and white – these are “gem” colors:

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One of our directors modeling her Seuss style outfit….mmmm…..or is it Minnie Mouse?

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3) The black and white scarf you see in Carrie’s photo is available at Wal-Mart for $3. Any and all musicians can use this as an accent.

4) All musicians should wear dark shoes. The Balcony WILL see all of you! No white shoes, legs must be covered. Dark pants or skirts, striped socks, tights are very cool. Also avoid wearing “shine” – we don’t want to blind the audience.

For example: Conductor will be wearing a tux with the tails pointing outward and up, a big Seuss style bow tie and on different nights an Einstein wig, a Shako (marching band hat) and/or this hat here:

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IDEAS:
Men – Suspenders, Fidora Hats, Ties and Bow Ties (oversized are fun), big buttons, skinny scarfs, big flowers pinned to shirts, stripe socks. Fun colored wigs are ok!
Women – Tights (stripe or bright solid), leg warmers, earrings welcome, solid beads (not too shiny), scarves, stripey skinny scarfs, women’s flat hats (20’s to 30’s style), goofy fake flower corsages.

Women (and men) feel free to have fun with your hair. Wacky wired braids, big buns, pig tails, spikey hair, etc. If you’re not sure how to do this, Carrie James (director) will help you! Dark shoes or boots, belts welcome, hair scrunchies, big hair bows welcome. Fun colored wigs are OK!

Here are some drawings Carrie James came up with for us. Please note: COLORED WIGS ARE OK! This was decided at our last orchestra rehearsal and ok’d by directors.

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My New Hammond Organ – 328322 Commodore with Leslie

dsc01121.jpgWell, new to me. I am so jazzed. A local organ repairman told me several months ago he’d keep an eye out for an organ for me. I told him I wanted a Hammond with B3 style drawbars and at least a two octave pedal board. He called this morning and SHABAM, here it is.

This is a Hammon 328322 Commodore. It has a two octave pedal board, real Leslie speaker built in, string section, rhythm and all the accompanying cheezeball effects. I told him I’ll never use the other stuff, just the leslie and drawbars and he said that’s typical of “real organists” and “purists”. So I guess I’m a “real organist” and a “purist” by that definition.

I’m conducting Seussical the Musical in November and I was going to cover the B3 organ parts on my Korg CX-3, which is a Hammond B3 and Leslie clone digital keyboard. But the repairman said he’d haul this organ up to the performing arts center, so I might just break it in onstage for that show. Too cool.

My friend Herb has been making fun of me for YEARS because he has a B3 with a Leslie and doesn’t even play keyboards. He’s been rubbing it in mercilessly. So Herb, if you’re reading this, and I know you are, I am hot on your trail buddy – getting closer to that B3………

And if someone is reading this and has a B3 or tons of money, I have an idea……why don’t you send me a Hammond B3. Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.

🙂

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American Idol Film Crew at McIntyre Hall

dsc01115.jpgThe American Idol film crew arrived at McIntyre Hall today (Mount Vernon, WA) to shoot footage of new contestant Skye Dahlstrom rehearsing with the kids from the upcoming Seussical The Musical show. Skye showed them choreography for songs from the show and taught them very hip dance moves.

Skye made it through the first round of auditions in Seattle, WA early this week; competing with over 9,000 other hopeful contestants I’m told. She then made it through the second round the following day. Her next round will be to audition for Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson.. We all wish her the best and to “break a leg” at the audition. GO SKYE!

As you can imagine there’s a lot of buzz about this locally and the news has spread like wildfire. Skye is a total pro and made everyone feel totally comfortable while supporting her for the film shoot.

And much to our pleasure, the film crew from American Idol was TOTALLY cool and ultra nice to work with. You might think being in this business they would be a bit jaded, but that is not the case. They made the kids feel comfortable and everyone gave them a big THANK YOU yell at the end. Nice people.

Why the interest in Skye’s choreography? That’s how Paula Abdul started, as a choreographer.

So here’s a rundown of our shoot. Of course I’m not going to tell you details about what we did, you’ll have to watch Skye on American Idol to see that!

We did the shoot on stage at McIntyre Hall, which is where we’ll be performing for Seussical the Musical in November 2006.

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Parents sign all the legal stuff for their kids to be in the shoot.

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Director Dave James does the ultra cool pose while waiting. Dave James is co-directing Seussical the Musical with his wife Carrie James. Skye Dahlstrom is the choreographer and I am the conductor and musical director. The show is produced by Kate Kyporus for META Performing Arts.

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Kids hang out in the lobby at McIntyre Hall waiting to enter the theatre.

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All lined up at the door and waiting to enter the hall. Many of the kids hadn’t seen McIntyre Hall yet, so it was very exciting all around for them.

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The view of the stage from the front of the audience. McIntyre Hall also has beautiful box seats along the sides, a full balcony section and rear loge.
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The view from my piano onstage. I played the music for the kids to practice Skye’s choreography. Very fun stuff.
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Directors Carrie and Dave give instructions to the kids about stage etiquette and safety.

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Steve Craig, stage manager at McIntyre Hall and all around theatre guru. Everybody loves Steve!

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Our reason for being here today – Skye Dahlstrom!

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Film crew scouting the stage out

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Skye working with the “Who’s” on choreography
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American Idol film crew talking things over with the directors and Ms. Dahlstrom.
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The kids in the cast give Skye a big send off.
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Dave James, Carrie James, Skye Dahlstrom and me (Conrad Askland)
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I’ll let you know more as more information is made public. I’m only going to post things that are public knowledge.

Until then – GO SKYE!!!!!!!

Seussical the Musical META Rehearsals

Everyone asks me how Seussical rehearsals are going. The rehearsals are going fantastic. The kids are very focused. We have most of the music for the first act down pretty good and are adding choreography and character development.

I am SO happy about the casting, I think the show is perfectly cast.

Here are some pictures from rehearsals:

Kids practice improvised theatre

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Director Dave James hams it up

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Bianca Campbell as Gertrude

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Bird girls practice choreography with Mayzie played by Ashley Henning
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Skye Dahlstrom gives choreography tips

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Mike Marlin plays the Cat in the Hat

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Nate Young plays the Mayor

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Paige Woods as Mrs. Mayor

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Matt Olsen as Horton the Elephant

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Carrie James leads the board meeting

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Carrie James co-directs the show with husband Dave James

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Skye Dahlstrom showing the citizens of Whoville some choreography

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