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The Artist’s Journey: Brendan Milburn - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

The Artist’s Journey: Brendan Milburn

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Each week, The Artist’s Journey will provide an insider look at the creation of a production, from first rehearsal to opening night, through the eyes of one of the show’s key players.

Brendan Milburn is the composer for Sleeping Beauty Wakes and founding member of the acclaimed rock trio GrooveLily.

The view from tech rehearsals:

Mandell Weiss Theatre

We’re in the darkened theatre–the big proscenium stage of the Weiss Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse. We stay in this dark room for 10-12 hours a day now, with brief 10-minute breaks every hour or so when they turn on the house lights on and we go outside to get a moment of beautiful Southern California sunshine.

The rehearsal process was very abbreviated–a mere three days–which isn’t out of the ordinary when you’re taking a full production from one theatre (McCarter) and essentially importing it whole to another theatre (LJP). Now we’re in the midst of six days of technical rehearsals on stage before the curtain rises on Sleeping Beauty Wakes with a paying audience again.

Our mood is upbeat–we did a week of rewrites in Princeton during the final week of the McCarter run, and then even more rewrites after we turned in that draft and met with exhortations for “even bigger, bolder steps forward” from director (Rebecca Taichman), choreographer (Doug Varone), McCarter producer Mara Isaacs and LJP artistic director Chris Ashley. Rebecca promised us that no matter how vast the scope of our rewrites, she’d get them on the stage despite the short rehearsal period.

And so she has. Despite the typical slowdown of tech rehearsals–when everything must move only as fast as sound, lights, projections, stage crew can work through the show for the first time–the show feels tighter and the storytelling more followable than before. Doug Varone choreographed up a storm during the first two days of rehearsal, essentially restaging everything from the moment the patients fall asleep in Act 1 until they wake up again, 17 continuous singing, moving, dancing, dreaming minutes later.

I continue to make tweaks to the underscoring of the in-between bits. Val’s rewriting lyrics here and there. Rachel is down in the front row next to Rebecca, making on-the-spot rewrites of little moments to increase clarity.

Carrie Manolakis, carriemanolakis.com

My favorite new thing about the show is Carrie Manolakos, who is our MVP for the week. Carrie was actually called back for the role of Beauty when we went through the exhilarating, exhausting, filled-with-peaks-of-joy-and-depths-of-despair process of casting the McCarter production. It was a very tough call, but we ultimately decided to cast Aspen Vincent in the role of Beauty…but we all harbored a very soft spot for Carrie Manolakos and her gorgeous, agile, Valerie-esque voice.

 

During the run at McCarter, our Cheryl/Night Terrors Patient, Donna Vivino, discovered that she wouldn’t be able to participate in the La Jolla run…so we knew early on that we’d need to find a replacement for her. What we didn’t expect was that Carrie would be big-hearted enough, and open-minded enough, to come on board to replace Donna.

In our process of doing rewrites for the show, it was wildly helpful to know that Carrie was going to be stepping in, and Val actually wrote new harmonies and melismas for Carrie’s voice in the opening song. Carrie fits in like she has always been there–and the four-part writing for the patients sounds simply sublime with her as a part of it. I’m so grateful she took this gig.

I’m so glad we got another chance to make little fixes–they make such a difference. The show is already so much better, in this stop-start version of tech rehearsals.