On and Off-Broadway, pit musicians increasingly in spotlight

Posted on: March 14, 2012

In Wednesday’s (3/14) Wall Street Journal, Joanne Kaufman writes, “Real estate is famously at a premium in this city. But squatters, take note: There’s square footage going a-begging—granted, you won’t have much of a view—in numerous theater orchestra pits on and Off-Broadway. For sure, the musicians are on the premises. There they are playing the score right up on stage. … Or they’re performing on platforms behind the set (last summer’s ‘Death Takes a Holiday’) or in the boxes on either side of the stage (last season’s ‘The People in the Picture’). … An orchestra at large means additional pressures on the production’s sound engineer (how do you keep the crash of the cymbals from causing problems with the leading lady’s microphone?), on the set designer (is the sleek platform big enough to accommodate drum kits, keyboards and speakers and, oh, yes, musicians?), on the wardrobe staff (all those additional costumes!) and on the musicians themselves. Comb your hair and put down that newspaper. Everyone can see you. … The payoff for the orchestra is a slightly heftier salary—and, according to [composer and lyricist Marc] Shaiman, an added sense of worth. ‘They can tell they’re being celebrated,’ he said.”

Posted March 14, 2012