The Wedding Singer closed its sold-out run at OKTC on Sunday evening, and since then I’ve basically been sleepwalking through life. This has been the biggest show I’ve ever undertaken. A full-length Broadway musical with 36 actors (between the ages of 13 and 16), over 100 costumes, wigs and makeup, glitter and shoulder pads coming out the wazoo, a rock quartet, laser lights… it was a lot. Lots of fun, lots of stress, lots of everything. There are some shows that just take over your life, and The Wedding Singer was one of those shows. It has permeated every fibre of my being for the last few months but in the end it turned out to be something magical.
As always, it’s time to reflect on the process of the show and think about what I’ve learned. As Adam Sandler says… “OK now… here we go.”
- Auditioning 36 kids will take more than 3 hours. That probably should have been obvious at the time.
- When you have a massive cast, don’t call everyone to every rehearsal, unless you’re willing/able to deal with the noise.
- Sometimes you just can’t have the entire ensemble in every number, no matter how much you want to.
- Directors, you will push your actors hard, and they will push you right back.
- Sometimes you need to determine how much an actor can handle onstage. Sometimes your actors will determine that for themselves — oftentimes unconsciously, unfortunately.
- If an actor seems unsure of or hesitant about the costume they’re trying on, make a big fuss over them and tell them how great they look.
- With younger casts, when they’re talking, it’s generally better to sit and stare at the ceiling and wait it out, as they tend to quiet down fairly quickly. This doesn’t work with teenagers, especially big groups of teenagers who are all really good friends. What did work? Surprisingly, “If you can hear me, do this.” Yelling never works, no matter how old the actors are.
- Don’t leave choreography of big numbers until the end. Get all the big production numbers out of the way first, so there’s lots of time to review and polish.
- Blocking kissing scenes is just as awkward and embarrassing for the director as it is for the actors involved. Ugh.
- It’s tedious, but take the time to have at least two rehearsals devoted to transitions: one for sitting down in a group with the script and writing out who brings on what object at what time; and one for the actors to actually run the transitions on their feet. It will save you time and headaches in the long run.
- It’s important to pre-plan where you want your lighting designs to go, and have a clear idea of what sort of look you want for each scene. I am fortunate that my good friend Joe is the OKTC production manager and has a pretty good grasp of what I tend to want lighting-wise, but it was still a very long, frustrating process, because I have a hard time articulating exactly what I want the lights to look like. Don’t leave this until the last minute.
- I learned this during Treasure Island, but was reminded of it during this show: allow your cast time to play with the “special” equipment (in this case, it was assisting with handheld mic tests by reciting Braveheart speeches, and taking selfies in front of the 80’s wedding archway).
- During tech week, emotions will be running high. People may argue over stupid stuff. Try to keep a cool head. Try not to cry.
- If you need to, get your MD or choreographer to run interference or play “bad cop” when you just can’t anymore.
- Never again will I have a 90-minute call for shows. People just dilly-dally and nothing gets done. Less call-time = more urgency.
- I feel like I’ve said this quite a few times, but don’t leave things to the last minute. Remember to allot time for things like putting together program information, creating backstage running lists, locating curtains and taping out props tables.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and do accept help when it’s offered. You cannot do everything yourself. Learn to delegate.
- Remember that theatre is supposed to be fun. Try not to get too bogged down in the work. Yes, you want the show to be amazing, but not at the expense of the experience for the actors and crew involved.
I received some wonderful comments about the show, which have made me so happy:
“Wow – amazing!! We truly enjoyed The Wedding Singer! Well done!! It was impressive. A personal thank you to you for having the confidence in [our son] and allowing him this fabulous opportunity. He truly enjoyed working with you again and you constantly inspire him to do better. Your positive energy is contagious! … I wanted to let you know we are thankful for the important impact you have on him. He learned so much and had so much fun doing it!”
“The Wedding Singer was wonderful! Wonderful scenes, wonderful songs and dancing, and such strong performances in both the larger and smaller roles. Lots of laughter and some tears, too. I don’t know how you did it with such a large, complicated show. (I was merely helping with costumes and backstage, and even so at times I felt overwhelmed.) Congratulations on a big success!”
“Congratulations on The Wedding Singer. The show was outstanding. Your directing brought out the best in the cast — and gave everyone the opportunity to shine. Thank you for your direction of [our son] and for supporting his development as a performer. You have left an indelible mark on him and I thank you for that and for believing in him. He absolutely loved working with you, and says ‘Kerry is a gem.’ I concur.”“Hi Kerry, [our son] and I LOVED the show today! I have never laughed so hard at an OKTC show. Kevin totally nailed his role. Wow! And the entire cast… there was SO much talent there. I was completely blown away. Congratulations Kerry. You have really raised the bar with this production. You and your team should be really proud of yourselves. Keep up the great work. It is really paying off.”
I am so thankful to the cast, crew, OKTC staff and audiences who came out to see The Wedding Singer. This has truly been an epic ride. I hope to get back to normal fairly quickly, as I am performing in A Charlie Brown Christmas this weekend (which is entirely sold out as well).
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