Sleeping Beauty Wakes at McCarter, Day 19: The best idea wins.

Rehearsal pianist Chris Ertelt and Jeff Calhoun's assistant from 2006. N.B.: not actually a photo of Chris Ertelt or Jeff Calhoun's assistant from 2006. :)

Sometimes you get too close to something after working on it for too long, and you can’t see the right solution directly in front of you.

Back in late 2006 we were sitting around a table, with Jeff Calhoun and Coy Middlebrook and Jeff’s assistant whose name I am embarrassed to admit I have forgotten. We were discussing the end of Act 1 and how it just didn’t feel like it was working right yet, and was this a one-act musical after all? What was the motivation for this orderly to kiss this girl in a coma? How do we avoid the creepiness of that? And Jeff’s assistant had a flash of insight and asked, “What if she’s flatlining and the orderly gives the girl mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?”

Jeff’s assistant, wherever you are: you are the MAN. If you read these words, get in touch with this composer with a lousy memory for names, and I’ll put your name in huge 72-point Times New Roman in my next blog entry, shouting your praises to the skies.

In a similar vein, yesterday we were wrestling with a thorny moment. The entire cast is on stage in Act 2, and the orderly has just declared his love for Beauty, and the patients want Beauty to go to sleep so they’ve got this syringe filled with stolen knockout drops (I know it sounds improbable but run with me on this), and the king has to faint or fall to the ground and the Doctor’s paying attention to the king and we had a huge tonal clusterfoof where romance and comedy and pathos were all coming together in a big train wreck of our own making.

Chris Ertelt, our rehearsal pianist, whispered to me: “I know it’s not my department, but it occurs to me: why not have the king notice that the patients are about to inject Beauty, and yells and races to intervene and THAT’S what makes him fall to the ground?”

Oh, you mean you want to solve this problem by having a character do something that’s IN CHARACTER and MAKES SENSE and ADVANCES THE STORY?

I asked Chris to pass a note to Val and Rachel, and they discussed it with our director Rebecca and then Doug Varone worked it into the choreography at the end of the previous number and everything came together like clockwork. MVP for day 18: Chris Ertelt.

In other news, after rehearsal was over I played piano for this group sales event–Bryce Ryness and Aspen Vincent sang “You Make Me Feel Awake,” and Kecia Lewis-Evans sang “Uninvited,” and Rebecca Taichman talked about the gestation of the show with a gathering of about 25 interested parties. And when the songs and talking were over and the guests were free to look at the set design and costume sketches and such, three people approached me, all from Tyler University where there had been a production of Striking 12 last year. They had brought a framed photograph of the whole cast to share with me & Val and Gene and Rachel, and they’re sending a poster and a DVD along. The girl who played the SAD light seller was there–once again I’m embarrassed that her name has fled my shallow mind–but she was starstruck and thrilled to meet me, and that doesn’t happen very often. Hey, super-nice girl who played the SAD light seller–thanks for making me feel like a rock star.

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