An alternate title for this post might be: Why They’re Pros. The “Sound of Music” machine continues to chug through the summer and I continue to find additional reasons to be impressed with the production’s company. And, before I get in too deep, let me say that, while I may heap praise on these folks because I’m most familiar with what they go through, I’m also well aware that nearly every production has its share of amazing stories and challenging circumstances that it has to overcome.
There was a Coffee and Conversations event at the Barksdale last week, featuring Stacey Cabaj, Kara Harmon and young Cooper Timberline. It was an amiable little gathering skillfully emceed by Bruce Miller. Possibly the most amazing thing I learned during the hour-long session was some details about the journey of the lovely and talented Ms. Cabaj. You may know that she was in the running for the reality series, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” that was focused on casting the female lead of the Canadian production of “Sound of Music.” What you probably did not know is that one of the reasons she did not make it into the final round of the London version of the show was because of concern on the part one of the producer over her recovery from a surgery where her jaw was broken in several places. After the surgery, she did not have feeling in much of the lower half of her face and she had to retrain herself how to sing again. The producer in question noticed what he thought was a small speech impediment because of this and that was enough for him to want her out of the competition.
Just this week, a subsection of the “Sound of Music” cast appeared on Virginia This Morning where they performed “Favorite Things.” Video of the spot is available online now and it sure seems like the song goes off without a hitch. I happened to be in the studio and can attest that the spot could have just as easily been a mess if not for the flexibility and professionalism of all involved. The song “Favorite Things” lasts about 2 minutes; shortly before the live broadcast, it was communicated that the spot was supposed to be 2 ½ minutes. Barksdale publicist Judi Crenshaw and director Chase Kniffen quickly improvised a way to include a piece of the scene preceding the song into the spot. Lines and blocking had to be altered slightly and the cast – the majority of them less than 10 years old – was instructed on these changes about 10 minutes before the show began. They had one brief run-through and then it was show time. Still, even with these last-minute alterations (not to mention getting their audio from a boombox versus an orchestra), everyone worked the scene as if they always did it that way.
To me, both of these anecdotes demonstrate an impressive level of professionalism. Ms. Cabaj worked through potentially crippling setbacks and has gone on to succeed in a role that puts incredible demands on her physically and emotionally up to 8 times a week. Both she and the cast of kids are flexible and adroit enough to navigate past obstacles without even a hiccup. I wish more theater-goers knew that putting on a show is a lot more than getting the lines right, figuring out some blocking and freezing it all in amber. The work than goes on before, during, and after the show requires more dedication, drive and ongoing creativity than most ticket-buyers will ever know.