Not sure how much interest this thread will generate, but I know there are a lot of Broadway fans here, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
I’m currently on the road with Urban Cowboy: The Musical (that’s right, folks, it’s a musical!), serving as the Assistant Musical Director/Keyboardist. The show ran on Broadway briefly in 2003 and has been extensively revised for this tour.
If anyone has any questions about touring, or the show, or my job, or anything at all, shoot!
How hard is it to set up at the different venues? Are some of the venues wildly different (in terms of size, layout, etc) than others, requiring changes to be made, or is the show essentially the same at all of them?
I think it’s called ‘the exit march’ and yes, I always stay for it and applaud.
I live in NYC and this show received, shall we say, not too much respect and closed in a hurry. How’s it playing elsewhere?
Is it true the MD has to hire a certain number of new folks in each city (I just saw the Director of WICKED leave on Jan. 7th and star David Garrison mentioned that he had to get five to ten new guys in each venue)? Are there musicians who live in those cities who usually audition for those gigs?
It’s a 95-performance tour, over four and a half months, and we’re only on the second week, but as expected the show killed in middle America and still did okay but not as well in New Jersey. But then again, we played Utica, NY last night to 2,500
people who raved about the show, so maybe country music is more prevalant than I thought up here?
Your second question is an excellent one… I guess as far as current Broadway shows go, I would have to say Grey Gardens. Who would have thought a musical based on a documentary about eccentric women would be so great?
Let me put it this way: I saw the original show on Broadway back in 2003 and honestly did not like it (like most people). But now they’ve taken the libretto (the dialogue in between the songs, for those who don’t know) and they’ve made it almost identical to the movie. They’ve also replaced almost all of the songs with well-known country songs that sound great and also move the plot along. So in my opinion, this new revised version is eons past the Broadway version, and I genuinely think it’s a really fun show.
As far as I know, there is no expectation of getting back to Broadway. As I said, this is kind of a middle-America show (although we are going to the west coast and Canada), and I just don’t think New York audiences would receive a show like this any better a second time. But hey, that’s fine with me… I love New York theatre just as much!
Excellent question. For me, setting up isn’t extremely hard, since we have a great technical crew who arrives hours earlier than we do and sets up the band equipment. But yes, every stage is so different that usually, when we arrive at the new venue, a quick rehearsal is necessary to let the actors get used to the new stage. And for you dancers out there, sometimes that means that 0 is now 2, for example. So whereas 0 is usually dead center on the stage, sometimes it’s necessary to push the entire choreography over and treat 2 as center stage. So throughout the show they’re constantly doing math so they can be sure to be in the right place at the right time, because then all the numbers change (10 becomes 12, etc.). And as far as my set-up goes, the band is onstage (to create a “bar band” atmosphere) so sometimes we have all the space in the world, and sometimes we’re cramped into a cockpit-like hole. Makes it difficult sometimes, but it keeps it interesting!
Of course! It’s generally just called “exit music”, and we love it when people applaud it. Of course it helps in this show because we’re an onstage band, so people (perhaps) have been watching us perform throughout the show as well. Plus most of the songs in the show are uptempo numbers, so we like to think we got the audience’s feet moving a little.
As I said, the show is so much better now and so far every show has been sold out or close to it. And the audience reception has been wonderful so far. Unfortunately, the tour is pretty much one-nighters, so reviews probably won’t happen because by the time they would hit the paper, we’d be at the next city already!
There are definitely people on a list in every city who are considered the best at what they do, and should the need arise, they would get a phone call. Usually these musicians belong to the American Federation of Musicians, and that’s the connecting link between them. So they get into the database and make a name for themselves, and voila, you get work. In this particular case, the entire band travels with us, so we don’t need to hire local musicians. In a worst-case scenario, if one of the musicians had to drop out of a show, we could contact the AFM and find a last-minute replacement for him or her. And for those interested, it’s a six-piece band: guitar (acoustic and electric), keyboard (piano, electric piano, string patches, etc.), bass guitar, drums, fiddle, and pedal steel guitar.
Thank you! Yeah, it’s pretty tough sometimes. A couple of days ago we had a show at 8pm, so we got back to the hotel around midnight, then we had to get on the bus at 5:30 the next morning to drive eight hours and do another show that night. Fortunately it’s not always like that. Depending on how far we have to travel, we may arrive at the next city with hours to spare before the show. That gives us time to try to check out the sights, but honestly, there are 22 in the cast, 6 musicians, and all the tech crew, so it’s difficult to take a huge tour bus into downtown D.C., for example, and still make it back in time for sound check. Today is the first time we’re in the same city for two days, and I finally had a chance to catch up on emails and check the Dope!
Like most theatre musicians, it’s pretty much word of mouth. If we have a solid resume and a lot of connections in the business, we don’t really have to audition like the actors do. I did a tour last year who was friends with one of the producers of this tour, they mentioned my name, and there you have it. Five months of solid work. And then you just hope that the next job is right around the corner after this one.
The cast is comprised of mostly mid-20’s, beautiful and incredibly talented people, but alas, no one you’d probably know (yet). I can attest though that with this demanding choreography, some of these people will end up on Broadway.
This happened just last night… you know the big thing in the movie is the mechanical bull. And of course there’s one in the show as well, and it’s the real deal, and these actors move with it beautifully. Well last night before it was turned on, there’s this tension-filled scene (I’m doing these “heartbeats” on the low end of the keyboard), and the antagonist is putting Sissy up on the bull in a very sensous way, and… she slides right off and falls to the ground! Of course there’s a mat, and she played it off beautifully because her character was supposed to be a little drunk at that point, but it was hilarious…
I think that’s all the questions so far! We never know if the hotel will have internet access until we get there, but I’ll do my best to keep up with any more questions!
I’ve definitely worked on productions where the lead(s) maintained their distance from the other cast members, but since I’m in a somewhat authoritative position, no one has ever treated me as such. And with this particular production, everyone is so laid back, including the leads, that I’m happy to say there haven’t been any major issues with anyone so far. Sure, there’s been little spats here and there, but when you’re with people 24/7 that’s bound to happen. But no over-inflated egos or anything like that.
Heh, yeah there have been some hookups already. That kind of thing happens so often there’s even a name for it: a “showmance”. It’s pretty common practice to hit the local bars after a show, or grab some drinks and take the party back to the hotel… and you know, things happen… and then you just hope and pray that nobody has a falling out before the tour is over, unless you want some really awkward moments.
I haven’t hit the wall with performing this show yet. We had three weeks of rehearsal, and we’re on the second week of the tour, and so far it’s still a blast to go out there and rock out with the band every night. Of course it helps that we’re on stage, and the songs themselves are fun: “Friends in Low Places”, “Buckaroo”, “Sin Wagon”, “Wild Women Never Get the Blues”… these are all great songs, and a lot of fun to play. Of course then there’s “Could I Have This Dance”, which okay, I’ll admit, I wish was over before it began every night.
Hopefully I’ll continue like that for the rest of the tour… it’s another three and a half months, so that may change. But for now I’m still enjoying it!