Hello, Dolly! ensemblist Justin Bowen tells us about one his favorite Broadway traditions, the themed put-in rehearsal.
One of my absolute favorite things about being a member of the ensemble, as well as an understudy, on Broadway are the weekly understudy rehearsals. More specifically, I love understudy rehearsals where we get to have a PUT-IN!
Over here at Hello, Dolly!, we have nine principal roles. Each of those nine principal roles has two understudies who also appear in the ensemble. Preparing those eighteen understudy tracks- in addition to six male swings and three female swings- to safely step in at a moment's notice makes for a lot of rehearsal. You can usually find us at the theater working away on Thursday and sometimes even Friday afternoons every week. When it’s decided that someone has had enough rehearsal and is ready to take their understudy/swing assignment for a test drive, we have a PUT-IN!
On put-in day, the entire ensemble and crew are called in to run the show onstage with the full set, props, and various technical elements. The ensemble performs their regular nightly tracks in rehearsal clothes while whoever is being put-in gets the added pressure of donning full costume, hair, and makeup for the first time.
At Hello, Dolly!, we have a tradition of picking a theme for each put-in. Everyone then comes in wearing (sometimes very elaborate and very hilarious) costumes that correlate to that theme. So far this year we have had ‘Super Hero Day,’ ‘Back to School,’ ‘80s,’ ‘Prom,’ and 'Characters from Broadway Veteran Michael McCormick’s Resume.'
When you are the one being put-in, it can feel a bit overwhelming, especially when it’s often the first chance you’ve had to work with certain technical elements or perform the show with actual people around you. Having a themed rehearsal is a great way to add a level of fun, lightheartedness, and camaraderie to what can otherwise be a high-pressure situation. It also gives everyone else something to look forward to as you can’t wait to see what wacky costumes everyone is going to pull out.
Of course we’re ultimately all there to focus and do the work, but there is nothing quite like seeing a waiter dressed as Wonder Woman barrel-turning through the set of the Harmonia Gardens all the while watching your insanely talented ensemblist friends step into the spotlight and knock it out of the park.