Partnership Draws Rave Reviews, Young Musicians and Actors Stretch Their TalentPublished Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Syncing live music with actors for a musical is tricky business, but it’s working for The Roxy Theatre Group and the Greater Miami Youth Symphony.
Actors and musicians for the two organizations dedicate upwards of 100 hours in rehearsals and performance time in an effort to coordinate the musical score with the acting. In addition to the hours in rehearsal, daily practice at home is essential. All this on top of a teen’s hectic pace with school.
Yet Relyn Myrthil, a 14-year-old violinist with the GMYS, jumped at the chance to form part of the volunteer orchestra that plays for The Roxy Theatre’s performances. The two organizations have partnered to offer five collaborative performances over the past 18 months, and musicians like Relyn, though she also must keep up her rehearsal schedule at GMYS, volunteer repeatedly. On a personal level for the young actors and musicians, and at an institutional level for GMYS and The Roxy, the partnership has proved to be a smashing success. Both organizations are supported by The Children’s Trust.
“It’s really fun playing with the cast and very rewarding. It’s really helped me become a lot better musician – I really don’t care how much I have to practice,” says Relyn, squeezing into her spot in the orchestra pit for a rehearsal. A home-schooled teen who has played with GMYS for seven years, she hopes to attend the prestigious Boston School of Music and knows that the experience of playing live music for Broadway shows is valuable.
“We’re so pleased with the opportunity for the children; it’s a blessing for us. Bill [Duncan, musical conductor] is amazing – really patient,” Myrthil added.
“There’s such closeness that comes from the partnering; when the show finishes they’re sad to leave.”
Two years ago, a Children’s Trust contract manager suggested the collaboration idea to the directors of both organizations. They loved the idea and grasped its potential immediately, remembers Susie Pinedo, publicist for The Roxy. Rehearsals began three months later and the first collaborative show, West Side Story, opened in early 2009.
“As high schoolers they’re used to playing high school music. These are professional scores, and the music is like a jazz script,” Duncan explains. “The music requires that most of the musicians play multiple instruments. It’s fun and a thrill for them, and a lot of work.”
“It’s very tricky to coordinate the music and the acting, a real challenge,” says Ana Andreu, Roxy program director and along with Jorgina Fernandez, a co-director of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Lead actors log close to 120 hours of preparation time, ensembles 80 and more, both begin preparing months before any show. The music and acting begins to come together a month prior to the opening at Saturday rehearsals, sometimes eight hours long, Andrea explains.
“The collaboration has been excellent. It gives our students an opportunity to perform in a different medium and to see another way they can use their instruments,” says Melissa Lesniak, executive director of GMYS.
“It’s a pretty serious commitment in terms of rehearsals and shows, yet a lot of the students have done multiple shows so they must be enjoying it. They seem excited to perform in a musical and they get to expand their circle of friends in the arts,” she added.
Knowing that the scores were professional works that called for multiple instrument parts, Lesniak remembers being a bit wary for the opening night of the first show. Yet she was very impressed with the performance and has been since.
The idea for collaborations both with the Roxy and other organizations has continued to flower.
The Roxy recently formed a partnership with New Theatre, offering its space on SW 107th Avenue for the professional theatre company’s rehearsals and performances.
“For our students to have access to professional actors and playwrights has been fabulous. Both organizations have so much to gain from partnering with each other,” Pinedo said.
“It’s super fun to have the GMYS musicians with us. The live music adds spice to the show, and we’re very lucky to have them. It makes our shows that much richer.”
Written by Michael R. Malone, The Children's Trust