Keeping Company on the Road: The Rehearsals

Join CJ Greer as she travels the country in the Broadway touring production of Company – coming to a city near you! Each month she discusses the ins and outs of life on the road.

 

“Right…Okay now….I’m ready….I’m ready now!!”

 

Rehearsals are quite possibly my favorite part of performing. This is where the real creativity happens! Exploring music, movement, and motivations. You bring together a group of artists, everyone with different creative strengths and ideas, and gradually get to know each other while learning to tell a compelling, hopeful, and heartfelt story. You laugh, cry, and work your way through a world of heightened emotional experiences. You delve into the music (my favorite!), learn intricate choreography, and explore characters, objectives, tactics, and create an arc in a scene, a song, a character. You make sure you are being a generous scene partner – it’s not about you, it’s about the story and the best way to tell it. The rehearsal period is wonderfully fulfilling. The best. Here’s a glimpse of what ours looked like… 

My inner monologue Day 1: Holy smokes—this is happening. I’m on a Broadway National Tour and today is “welcome” day—starting with a meet and greet, and press. Press. Oh geez—I think many people would love the idea of the press taking pictures and asking you questions. Not this girl. I’m shy in large group gatherings. I walked in and I wasn’t wrong. It’s a zoo! There’s the press—lights, cameras, microphones in your face with people videotaping interviews…Yikes. There is also a breakfast and coffee table, and so many beautiful people with huge smiles on their faces. Nice. Right away, I see our main producer, Chris Harper. I doubt he will have any idea who I am, but he shocks me by pulling me into a big hug exclaiming how glad he is I am here. “I am shocked—you hear…shock-ed” (it’s a show quote, come see the show), and it sets the tone for this group in the most surprising and positive way. 

The Company

We start with a circle of introductions, a quick picture for the marketing team, and then, something new—instead of a table read or music rehearsal, we start with HR presentations. Our first one is an EDI (Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion) presentation, followed by sexual harassment training. In this presentation I learn that for this production a person’s “place of work” is defined as “any place where two colleagues congregate.” This is new. It used to be that “the theater” was where the work took place—but for this production it includes bars, restaurants, living quarters, etc. Hmmm…that’s an interesting shift in the industry. Then our Intimacy Choreographer: it was great to hear from her. We hear a lot about theatrical intimacy in higher education, and the way it is approached in the classroom doesn’t always make sense to me in real world applications. I look forward to seeing how this work is applied in the professional world. These presentations have been informative and set the tone for the year ahead. I am also not clear if these are now required by AEA (Actors Equity Association) or are added elements from our producers.  

We take a lunch break, and when we return—music rehearsal! My favorite. Our music director, Joel Fram, is a dream. He has been on my bucket list of “music directors I want to work with” for a long while. Not only is he brilliant, but he tells stories from working with the man himself, Stephen Sondheim, and the kind of precision (and sometimes intentional carelessness) demanded in his work. He goes through every part twice—once to hear it, once to sing it—then moves on, and along the way gives us precise cut offs, precision of vowel and consonant delivery, and how that applies to the intention in the moment. I love it. I also read music very well so getting all of these specifics up front is wonderful. Sight-reading is one of my strengths (thank you, Mom, for making us take piano and play in the band). Joel assigns the harmonies as he goes. It is a strong reminder to me, and for our students, that to work at this level you need well-trained ears, need to be able to comprehend and apply details quickly, and you must read music

Day one ends with a full cast rendition of “Happy Birthday” to one of our leading ladies. What a cool way to spend a birthday. Then what? We wait for an email telling us what we will do the next day.

CJ Greer, Kenneth Quinney Francoeur

Rehearsals are basically set up like this: Monday thru Saturday 10am-6pm with a 1-hour lunch break. Sundays are off. We do this for 4 weeks. There was a design presentation (complete with miniatures, powerpoint slides, and stories of the London version, the Broadway version, and how they have adapted the set for the road), meetings with Actors Equity representatives, company management, music, blocking, choreography (including physical and mental warm ups), wig and costume fittings, fight calls, intimacy choreography, and so much more. 

There is a whole floor for us to rehearse in at New 42 Rehearsal Studios with three rooms—small, medium and large, each equipped with a piano. There is also a locker room set aside for us. When we move into “the big room” all of the set pieces and props are ready for us to work with. This is one of the biggest differences of being in a Broadway scale production vs. regional, collegiate, or community theatre. In those latter scenarios you often have to wait for your set and props until the end of the rehearsal process. Having them this early is a luxury, and also makes for the most efficient rehearsals. There is an array of tables for the different departments: stage management, choreography, music, acting, general management, and understudies. The tables are set up with power strips and all of the office supplies you can imagine so teams can work efficiently and effectively. And, to assist with keeping actors healthy, stage management has Emergen-C, throat lozenges, tissues, masks, gummy candies, tea, coffee, etc. It is wonderful to work with a company that is proactively taking our health seriously. 

Music might be my favorite, but the choreography is a close second, and this choreography reminds me of Vaudeville. I love this stuff! This kind of choreo is fast and furious, intricate, and super fun. It’s a testament to the level of quality this creative team is striving for. The fight choreography is also great fun.

CJ Greer

We land in Schenectady, NY for a week of tech rehearsals and our official opening. A lot of shows do their tech in Schenectady—it is a huge house with lots of backstage space. When I walked through the stage door and saw everything already set up—the set, prop cubbies, Gondola Village (costume changes), automation, etc.—I welled up with tears. It was beautiful and struck a chord in my nostalgic heart that I haven’t felt in a while. It felt like returning home after a long absence. I guess it was. 

Tech week is long and exhausting–I’m surprised there is only one week (usually there are at least two)—but we make it through to opening night. It was wonderful to have a big audience who loved the show. Hearing them laugh and cry and “ooh” and “ah” in all the right places is wildly gratifying. It is also informative. We’ve put together a great thing, a show that people are going to love. Our producing company (Company’s company…get it?) throws us a big party at a local restaurant with food, drinks, music, a photo booth, and opening night gift bags. It was great fun to dress up, dance, let our proverbial (and literal) hair down, and finally have some of Bobbie’s delicious looking cake, which they made a huge replica of. And now—we’re off! Time to fly. We opened in Detroit, had two incredible weeks in Chicago, and one wonderful week in Minneapolis. Charlotte, NC is over Thanksgiving week, and then we head to Philadelphia. Then we take a 3-week break and hit the road again for 6 months straight. Check out the link (https://companymusical.com/tour/) so you can come hang out with us in one of our cities. We’ll see you on this next leg of the journey! 

CJ Greer

CJ Greer is an assistant professor of Voice and Music Theatre at the University of Nevada, Reno and performs professionally in musical theatre and opera. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre Pedagogy and Performance, a Master of Music in Classical Pedagogy and Performance from Penn State University and teaches both classical and musical theatre/contemporary voice. She regularly presents research at NATS and MTEA conferences. CJ has performed on Broadway and across the country in regional and national touring productions. Favorite roles include Donna/Mamma Mia, Mimi/La Bohème, Fantine/Les Misérables, Florence/Chess, The Witch/Into the Woods, and more. Her students perform on Broadway, in national tours, regional theatres, theme parks, and on cruise ships. To find out more and get in touch, visit www.cj-greer.com and @cjgreerstudio on Instagram.