One bad actor can spoil the whole operation
I've just returned home from the road production of Catch Me If You Can, and I am a bit miffed.
Not with the evening itself; dinner was fine, if a bit noisy, and our seats were about as good as it gets down here - orchestra, dead center and fourteen rows back.
And, not with the play itself per se, for it is better than much of the stuff that Broadway coughs up these days. Nice storyline, based on a true story, with lots of the classic three items in the quintessential Broadway review - "The show had all that it needed; legs, lines and lyrics!" A bit weak in the second act, perhaps, when a sappy love story gets in the way of the main plot, but nothing's ever perfect.
(I've already had two of the tunes from the show arranged for my group: Butter Outta Cream and the spectacular Doctor's Orders. The first is a Sinatra style tune, a duet for two males along the lines of the "Whoops there goes another rubber tree plant" thing that he did. A nice bass clarinet/baritone chart; you can guess why I had that one done. The other is a group girl's number that has to be heard and seen to be believed. You have to have strong girl singers who are comfortable with doing more than singing, but the end effect is well worth it. (It will make for a good set closer once we get it all worked up right and proper.)
And, the actors were all strong in their roles - superb male leads, a tolerable ingenue, a fantastic chorus that could both sing and dance up a storm. No complaints there.
It was the music. But, not all of the music. The "band" was just fine - the mini-big band that makes up the core of most Broadway theater pits. With 3214 instrumentation (although I kept hearing what sounded like a bass trombone in there now and then), they were tight and on the money. That's good when you consider that they are using locals for almost all of the parts.
(Although I've been down here for over twenty years now, and in the union for almost all of that, I'm not well enough connected to land the traveling show jobs like I did back home in the Sixties and Seventies. Other than one or two sub appearances, almost all of my work down here has been pop with my group or one similar to it, plus a lot of college and high school shows. It's a pity, because I would have loved to cover the clarinet/bass clarinet/baritone book on this one - lotsa juicy bass clarinet lines.)
Nope, my objection was solely with one person and one person only - the synthesizer player. For you see, although they carried a bass player who switched between upright and electric as appropriate, all of the rest of the string parts were covered by said synth player - and they were covered poorly.
She came in early. She came in late. She carried her part through pauses where the rest of the group was silent. She had about as much idea of how to play a swing style line as I do of how to play a friggin' trombone.
And, she was LOUD, sometimes to the extent of overwhelming a weaker vocalist. Don't those things have a volume control on them?
We left the programs out in the car, but tomorrow I'm going to run her name against the union directory, just to make sure that I never, ever EVER give her a call. I'd rather go it without a keyboard player than to pay her a share.
It's bad enough when the assumption that "a synth is as good as a string section" puts those eight or ten rosin breathers out of work, but at least they could have laid on someone who knew what he or she was doing. And, at the prices that they charge at our Hobby Center for a traveling company, they sure as hell could afford them.