TheaterMania U

Under the Stage

A rehearsal for Albemarle High School’s 2010 production of Beauty and the Beast

There is no musical without the music. There is no expression of love without “Tonight” in West Side Story or heartache without “On My Own” in Les Miserables. There is no cheekiness in seven children going to bed without “So Long, Farewell” in The Sound of Music or the true sense of theatricality in a criminal trial without “We Both Reached for the Gun” from Chicago.

The music does much more than bring the story to life — it brings the emotion, the “realness” to every audience member. It invites what cannot be conveyed merely through the spoken word, and in doing so, it can enlighten, agitate, and move us.

I know this personally because I am an orchestra musician. And while there is often a divide between those who take center stage and those underneath at the start of a show, I see the role of those us in the pit as intricately connected to the actors, crew members, and directing staff. Although we contribute different pieces of the puzzle, we work together, not separately, to create a work of art.

Yet, most people’s first thought upon hearing the word “theater” is automatically those who physically act in the production. For example, the image that accompanies a news story about a musical at TheaterMania often consists of the star of the show, but never the cellist or percussionist in the orchestra ensemble. And I truly believe that an orchestra member is just as, but by no means more, vital to Beauty and the Beast as the girl who plays Belle.

And now that I am living in New York for the summer, I have started to realize that this city is like a musical. Of course, there would be no New York City without Times Square and the Financial District. But there would also be no New York City without Soho and Murray Hill or Chelsea. And there would be no New York without Kings Plaza, Belle Harbor, or Ocean Avenue either. Together, they create the city that I love.

You may not think it’s cool that i live in Flatbush, Brooklyn with my grandparents. But I think that we do ourselves a disservice by picking and choosing components that matter and don’t. We should see the bigger picture. In life — and in theater — everything has its place. Everything is equally important. I am happy to live there. And I am happy to be an orchestra musician.