Haley Bennett updates us on her work as part of the music team on the upcoming Broadway revival of Once on this Island.
And just like that, we’re back!
Once on this Island is officially in rehearsals for Broadway, and it is such an energizing feeling to be back in the rehearsal room with everyone. In my last post, I detailed my work process outside of the room – going through and editing our complex, sixteen-part vocal arrangements for our Broadway cast. Now that we’re back in the room, I get to hear out loud what, for many weeks, existed only on the page, and it’s thrilling.
We spent our first couple of days sitting in a giant circle and continuing to tweak and develop the harmonies and vocal textures of each song. It’s exhilarating to hear the unique and powerful voices of our cast come together, and each individual voice inspires Annmarie Milazzo, our amazing vocal orchestrator, to weave new lines and phrases into these songs by our incredible authors, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Also in the room is the brilliant Michael Starobin, who orchestrated the original production and is writing entirely new orchestrations for our revival! It’s a really neat opportunity to watch the person who originally orchestrated the show revisit the same songs with a new perspective, weaving instruments into the new vocal textures Annmarie has created, many of which are based on Michael’s original instrumental parts – very full circle! And, to top it all off, we have begun integrating newly-developed “instruments” crafted carefully out of trash and other found objects by John Bertles of Bash the Trash. These unique instruments add to the multitude of sonic textures that define our island. Hearing all of the musical elements come together is really exciting, and we are lucky to have the best leaders to guide us through it all - our Music Supervisor, Chris Fenwick, and our Music Director, Alvin Hough.
While we continue to explore the sounds of our show each day, one of the most exciting parts of being in the room now is watching our director, Michael Arden, build a world to match our sonic environment. Michael’s incredible vision for this production is at the heart of everything we are doing, and he sets a tone for the room that makes everyone excited to explore and collaborate. Because our show will be performed in the round (at Circle in the Square), even the rehearsal room becomes an immersive experience – the table where Starobin and I work is right in between the playing space and the percussion set-up (shout-out to the amazing Javier Diaz!), so as we work in our Finale files, we are surrounded by endless story-telling elements. Michael is a visionary in his creation of a fully-developed, empathy-infused world in which our show can live, and also in his creation of a family to inhabit that world, and I think I speak for everyone in the room when I say we’re so grateful to be on the island with him.
We can’t wait to begin sharing our island with you all in November!