by John Settle
How would you like to see 10 minutes of a dance routine—for the first time—and then perform the steps while being graded on precision (accuracy), technique (style), dynamics (expression), and overall performance? Or sing 16 to 32 bars of a rehearsed song and be graded on projection (volume), tone (clarity), technique (pitch), and overall performance? Its all part of the process for those that wanted to make the first cut in auditions for the Shreveport’s Little Theatre summer musical “Chicago”.
The auditions were conducted in groups—so participants could see first hand the performance of others seeking the same roles. Despite the unspoken but real competition (and tension) among each group, there was a refreshing spirit of friendship displayed by all to others. There were no rookies in the crowd and certainly all had experienced the “high” of selection and the “low” of not being cast—so that mutual feelings of respect came naturally.
Call back auditions were held 2 days later; the field of over 50 hopefuls had been reduced to about 35. These auditions consisted of monologues, a selected scene with 3 actresses, dances routines and solo songs. And between the rotations all were measured for costumes– making it easier for the costume designer once the cast was selected.
Depending on the particular call back, the actors/actresses were exhorted to “dominate the space”, “be classy but trashy”, “blend but do not distract”, and “communicate through your face and body”. The group was constantly reminded of the Fosse’s production style—“sexual, sensual, and smooth” (Fosse was the renowned choreographer of the Broadway production of Chicago and many other acclaimed productions on the Great White Way.) The very mention of his name brought awe and envy to the faces of those who hoped to emulate his style in the SLT production.
The cast has 10 speaking parts with a dance ensemble of approximately 25. The backstage running crew will be 10 in number and there are 12 on the production crew/creative team. At a minimum, each show will encompass over 6 hours from start to finish— from the time the theater is opened to cast and crew until all leave the building.
For those selected, the journey onto the boards for “Chicago” has just begun. Rehearsals do not start until June 1; between now and then the cast will learn lines and songs on their own. Once rehearsal starts, the cast and crew will be virtually consumed with the production until the end of July. The hours that will be expended by cast and crew are for “fun”— a non paid hobby that is rarely recognized for the personal sacrifices that must be made to participate in mounting a production. (Yes— No Pay).
And if one has a fragile ego, this is not a past time to pursue while trying to make the grade. Audience applause is the reward for a job well done; it is short-lived and only heard on the night the show actually runs. When the show closes, a tee-shirt, a resume listing, and many memories (hopefully mostly pleasant) will be the ultimate reward for the entire cast and crew.
NOTE: “Chicago” opens on July 15 at The Shreveport Little Theatre.