They weren’t in costume or colorful feline face makeup yet, but I caught the company of “Cats” at North Rockland High School at a key moment in the musical’s journey.
They call it the “sitzprobe” — although I recall a Broadway vet telling me that’s not the right term — that moment when hard-working cast meets hard-working orchestra for the first time.
(Aside: My favorite sitzprobe moment ever was watching Ted Sperling put his Lincoln Center “South Pacific” orchestra through its paces, as “Bloody Mary” Loretta Ables Sayer wept at the sound of that huge, gorgeous band.)
At North Rockland, maestro John Bjorkman had the baton as the cast of 67 and 30-piece orchestra gathered in the band room behind the North Rockland stage to hear each other for the first time.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sung-through setting for T.S. Eliot’s cat poems is part synthesizer, but plenty of horns, strings and woodwinds, so Bjorkman’s job is to find just the right balance.
At this rehearsal, though, it was about fitting voices into what up until then had been an orchestra-only affair. And vice versa for vocal director Jamie Santillo’s voices.
Director Sol Bloch was on hand to answer questions, but this was, by and large, Bjorkman’s show and he ran it well, calling up cast members for solos, adjusting flutes and horns, asking more here, less there.
The orchestra sounded great and the voices were strong.
It’s kind of fun to see them before you can’t recognize them, when tights and wigs and gloves and makeup have turned them into, well, cats.
Here’s the Running Lines video I shot at North Rockland, just outside the band room where the sitzprobe was under way. Enjoy.