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?
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.
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?
As I remember it, there are two main keyboard parts for STM for two different players.
Piano – any 88 key weighted keyboard.
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.
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.
(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.
(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
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 composerâ€™s musical ideas â€“ often written for piano or guitar – and expanding them to be played by a larger group of musicians â€“ in the case of a Broadway show, anywhere from 6 to 24 musicians â€“ and for a film, from 40 â€“ 100.
Whatâ€™s the difference between an arranger and an orchestrator?
Technically, an arranger will add his or her musical stamp on a piece of music â€“ in the form of adding an intro or ending, coming up with counter-melodies, or re-conceiving the musical style of the piece â€“ an orchestrator, technically speaking, wonâ€™t add anything.
In practice, orchestrators on Broadway – and to an extent in film as well â€“ are also arrangers â€“ we do often add counter-lines and re-conceive the musical style â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€“ and producers like Arif Mardin and Phil Ramone â€“ 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 â€“ and I would love to do more of that.
Do you have your own studio?
Yes â€“ Mighty Music Productions, located in Los Angeles. I have a ProTools HD3 Accel system – I use Logic, Reason and Finale software â€“ 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 1990â€™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
Kathy Sommer/Nina Ossoff
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) â€“ 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 (Fordâ€™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)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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).
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!
Director of Choral Activities
Waynesboro Area Senior High School
Music Education Advocacy Committee Chair
Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District VII
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 (youâ€™ll get better samples than performing this live)
YOPP! (Jojoâ€™s yell in Act II – I process multi-tap delay with panning, so it â€œcalls across the universeâ€)
Water Splash (For the Catâ€™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)
Animal Grunts (For intro of Monkey Around, listen to CD)
Dog Bark â€œwoofâ€
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.
Cast 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.
And 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……
Here are some pics of stage musicians for META’s production of Seussical the Musical at McIntyre Hall, November 2006. We didn’t have a professional photographer for these, so they’re a bit grainy. Click thumbnail images to view full size.
Our 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.
This 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!
Lighting booth at McIntyre Hall preparing cues.
A photo during tech week while setting the stage for Seussical. The hat is flown.
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.
Backside of the Seuss tree and added reinforcements.