by TOM SIVAK
This past week has been busy with rehearsals as the cast of “Doctor Dilligaff’s Baboon” prepared for Opening Night—tonight, August 29th, 2016, at the Palladium.
About a month ago, individual rehearsals with myself and each cast member began. Learning new and very difficult music takes time and repetition to master. First rehearsals were with Todd Donovan and Melissa Misener who play the leads, Doctor Dilligaff and his receptionist, Monika because they have the largest roles. Over the course of the past month, they grew more comfortable with the material and about 2 weeks ago, we met to rehearse their duets, which proliferate the opera. Over the same period, I met with Jenny Kim-Godfrey and Brandon Evans, individually, to teach them their music.
This past week is when we put it all together. Full cast rehearsals to master the ensemble numbers, our first run through of the show, plus a rehearsal with cellist, Lowell Adams, culminated in a dress rehearsal yesterday at the Palladium.
A “concert performance” of an opera, is in essence, a staged reading, meaning that there are no costumes or sets, no choreography or stage blocking. Performers sing the material standing at music desks, and any stage movement that is essential to the understanding of the show is related to the audience by a narrator. Although it may seem limited or 2-dimensional, staged readings are wonderfully entertaining and give the audience a real feel for the show without the cost or time commitment that a full production requires. It is a standard way to begin the life of a show as it heads to a the goal of a full production.
The cast of “Doctor Dilligaff’s Baboon” is engaging and I say this from the bottom of my heart: I could not have found a better cast anywhere. No one has ever played these roles before. I may have written the music and the words, but it takes a talented performer to make that character live and breathe on the stage. I couldn’t be happier with what Todd, Melissa, Jenny and Brandon have created from the words and little dots I put on a page.
Juliana Davis, our director, worked with the cast to help them make their performances ring true. She has brilliantly incorporated minimal movement to convey the intent of the script in a way that will delight and inform the audience. She also serves as narrator and moderator for the evening’s proceedings.
I have to mention Lowell Adams our cellist, as well. He serves as Second Principal Cellist for the Florida Orchestra, as well as playing for Opera Tampa. A big fan of opera, Lowell is a consummate professional and truth be told—I probably wouldn’t have been able to procure his services if not for the fact that he and I attended Northern Illinois University together, where we both obtained our Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music. It has been great to reconnect with him and he brings so much to the score with his sensitive, emotional playing style.
There will be a second performance of “Doctor Dilligaff’s Baboon” at the Octagon Arts Center in Clearwater on Wednesday, August 31st. Both performances are free.