Today, I’m using it in reference to the final reading of my show, Song-Poems Wanted! – The Musical. It took place tonight at Chicago Dramatists, a tidy little theatre on Chicago Avenue. We did the first of our two readings in February at the Theatre Building on West Belmont. We had about 100 people in the audience for that first reading, and we knew going in that we would have far fewer people at this reading. First of all, Chicago Dramatists only holds about 80 people, but we also knew that a lot of folks who we wanted to have in our audience had already seen the show at our first reading.
So why do a second reading at all? Well, the writers and the director learned a lot from that first reading, plus which they received a lot of helpful feedback from the audience. In response, a great many little things were rewritten. Some of the songs were reworked, cut entirely, or moved to different parts of the show. Various bits of dialogue were rewritten as well, so there was a lot going on in the way of changes.
I’m happy to report that tonight’s crowd may have been small (about 30 people), but it was very responsive and enjoyed the show thoroughly. It can be difficult to do a comedy for a small group, but it all worked out tonight.
For me personally, this show was a very satisfying experience. The role I played, that of a money-grubbing record company owner, was a good fit for me. The composer told me something on the night of our first reading that I had already figured out – that my character was written as a Louie DePalma-type character. If that name doesn’t register with you, it’s the role Danny DeVitto played on the sitcom Taxi. The composer also told me that they had envisioned him as being a small guy, in keeping with the DeVitto image. The fact that I am anything but small (6’2” and a generous helping of excess poundage) may not have been their ideal going in, but I think I made converts of them in the end. I’m going to go ahead and brag on myself here – I did a really good job with this character. I understood who he was the moment I read the part, which is really a tribute to the writing. I wrung a lot of good laughs out of my character, particularly at tonight’s performance, and I think it pleased the writers that I was also able to find some laughs that they probably hadn’t realized were there. That’s one of the nice things about having a blog – I can say things here that would be considered as impolite egotism if uttered in normal society!
I also want to mention that we had some terrific singer/actors in this group. I was a little doubtful about the acting chops of some of these people early on, but by the time we did it for an audience, I had come to regard this as a group that I was very honored to be sharing a stage with. Some of these folks are headed for much bigger and better things than 30 people in an 80-seat house, in my opinion!
I don’t know A) whether this show has a future, or B) whether I have a future with this show. It has loads of potential – lots of good songs and a clear potential to be very entertaining, though it’s going to need more judicious rewriting to get it up to snuff. The authors seem to know this, though, and they are continuing to shape the script with a lot of energy and imagination, so there’s good cause for optimism there. As for my future with the show, that’s hard to say. I suspect the writers are finished with the reading portion of the development process and they’re probably going to look towards mounting a full production next. The biggest stumbling block for me is my work schedule – noon to 8 Mon-Thu and 9-5 Fri. The Friday schedule isn’t an issue. It’s also true that a great many shows only perform on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The problem is probably more one of rehearsing than of performing. Not being able to begin rehearsing until, say, 9 p.m. on weeknights is not something most directors want to deal with. Still, I’m not going to assume that it’s impossible. I’ve learned that there are shows I can do and there are directors who are willing to work with my schedule, so who knows what the future may hold?