Friend of the podcast Drew Redington (Holiday Inn) breaks down the process of rehearsing a production at The Muny in the first of his three-part series on this year's summer season.
There’s something very rewarding about putting up show in 12 days, which is exactly what happens at The Muny seven times a year. I've never really thought about how daunting that task is because I’ve grown up here my entire life. It just seemed like a normal thing to do. Being from St. Louis, The Muny was a wonderful place to have right in my own backyard, and it’s something I have grown to appreciate more and more now that I live in NYC. There’s nothing like it. Even now, when I return home to St. Louis and show up on the first day of rehearsal, the excitement hasn’t diminished over the years, but has actually gotten stronger. I’ve been working at The Muny since I was eight years old, and since then have been apart of over 30 shows here. Looking back on it, The Muny has really shaped my entire life.
The Muny was the first place where I saw a musical. Now, why my parents thought it would be a good idea to take a 4-year-old to see My Fair Lady is beyond me, but I was captured by the “Muny Magic." When I was old enough, I auditioned for their children's program, then moved up to their teen program, and eventually got my first Equity contract my freshmen year of college. One of the best things about growing up at The Muny has been the amount of exposure I’ve had with working with different people. Seven shows a summer means, seven different directors, choreographers, music directors, ensembles, etc. In a way, you could say growing up at The Muny has been a giant master class for me on learning how to work with different people. Even though each individual show’s process is short, I feel like every time I do a show here, I walk away having learned so much.
So, what does it take to put up a show in twelve days?
Usually the first day of rehearsal is used for the cast to learn all of the music in the show. Also, it’s normally the last day for any type of music rehearsal to even happen due to limited time. So making sure you’re going over your homework overnight is a real necessity here. The next few days are spent blocking and choreographing everything in the show. Most of the time, we spend rehearsals outside on two rehearsal platforms. It’s pretty cool getting to rehearse outside in the middle of a park as opposed to a rehearsal studio. There is something so freeing about it, and it’s also nice to get used to the heat. Doing dance numbers in one hundred plus-degree heat is no joke. Once we reach day eight, we have a designer run-through where all of the designers of our show (lighting, sound, costumes, etc.), who have already been prepping for the show for months, have one chance to sit down and watch what the cast has created in the past week. At times, this is also the first time the cast even gets the chance to run the show.
On day ten, the show gets one tech rehearsal. However, I would say that it is better described as a tech-through. Normally tech is a stop-and-start kind of deal, but at The Muny, we do the show straight through as if it’s an actual show, only stopping in case there is a huge emergency. Now, the Muny schedule used to be set up where each show would open the day after another closed. So that meant the only time a show could tech would be after a show finished at night, making tech from midnight to five AM. I was always a fan of that just because I thought it was cool to be in Forrest Park in the middle of the night. However, now The Muny has spaced the shows out enough where we get to come in from seven to midnight, making life a little bit easier for everyone.
The next day is a sitzprobe (rehearsal with the orchestra), where the cast gets to hear the orchestra for the first time. I think this is my favorite day just because we only get to work with a piano during rehearsal, so it’s exciting to hear a full orchestra and see everyone get excited. Finally, we reach day twelve, where there is a dry tech (what The Muny calls “Sweat Tech”) on stage in the summer sun with the orchestra, sound, and the set. However, the cast isn’t in costume, but in hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. After, there is a short dinner break, then everyone buckles their seat belts and gets ready for a wild ride. Opening night is always crazy in a good way. It’s the first time all of the elements of the show come together (Lights, sound, orchestra, etc.). So when the audience sees it for the first time, it’s actually the first time we see it as well.
What I think is so crazy unique about the Muny process is that they have it down to a science. It has been the same process for almost a hundred years, and it always amazes me how fast everything comes together. If anything, The Muny has taught me to be prepared for anything and that, at times, you just have to go for it.