Our fall play this year is Murder by the Book, which is a mystery/comedy. It's the second time I've directed this particular play, but the first time the actors have acutally learned their lines. As I recall, the last cast relied heavily on improvisation, and the last half of Act Two did not resemble the original script in any way, shape, or form.

I was an inexperienced director then, so I didn't know that sometimes threats are good, as in, "If you start ad-libbing, I will march onstage and disembowel you in the middle of your performance AND THEN WE CAN TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU LIKE IMPROVISATION." So far, it seems to have worked, since our first performance was ad-lib free.

This year, I took my directing cues from Scooby-Doo--the cartoon series, not the movie--and I'm very pleased with the results.

One of my favorite things to do during the course of production is put together the play's soundtrack. Even though most of the songs play for only 30 seconds during scene changes, I still spend a lot of time trying to find exactly the right tune to convey the theme.

Here's what I chose (with my explanations):

1. "Overture (The Big Race)," Danny Elfman, from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
There's a dreamy quality to the song, but it's not entirely pure or childlike. I listened to a lot of Elfman's stuff but kept coming back to Pee-Wee, mostly because I love this movie.

2. "The Towering Inferno (Main Title)," Joel McNeely, John Debney, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony Orchestra & Varujan Kojian, from Great Composers: John Williams
I don't care if it's not cool: I love John Williams' music, so there. I originally bought this song to play while reading "The Most Dangerous Game" in my English classes. It sounds like an adventure.

3. "The Firebird, Symphonic Suite (1919): Infernal Dance of Kashey's Subjects," Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra & Jansug Kakhidze, from The Classical Halloween Collection - Classical Music of Doom, Dread and All Things Wicked!
This song sounds like a person is running for his life.

4. "The Battle," Harry Gregson-Williams, from The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
It starts out with low, foreboding strings, and moves into something that sounds heroic. I think this came out of my soundtrack for "The Cask of Amontillado."

5. "Funeral March of a Marionette," Arthur Fiedler & Boston Pops Orchestra, from Classics for Children
I'm not going to lie, I just wanted to shoehorn the Alfred Hitchcock theme in there. Whenever I hear it, I get a mental picture of Hitchcock aligning himself with his silhouette at the beginning of the tv show. Probably only two grandmas and I will understand this choice.

6. "Requiem (The Fifth)," Trans-Siberian Orchestra, from Beethoven's Last Night
A rock version of (duh) Beethoven's Fifth, there is a driving bass line throughout this piece that makes one believe there's a killer coming after her. (That might just be me.)

7. "Theme from Halloween," Orlando Pops Orchestra & Aleksander Santi, from The Classical Halloween Collection - Classical Music of Doom, Dread and All Things Wicked!
I've never seen Halloween--nor do I want to--but the piano theme makes the hair stand out from my arms, and I can't listen to more than a few seconds of it without experiencing a full-body shudder.

8. "Carmina Burana: I. O Fortuna," London Symphony Orchestra & Richard Hickox, from Orff: Carmina Burana
I don't listen to opera, but I was watching an episode of Glee that used this song to underscore an epic face-off between Sue Sylvester and Will Schuester, and my eyes lit right up. It's perfect.

9. "Romeo and Juliet: Love Theme," Arthur Fiedler & Boston Pops Orchestra, from 20th Century Masters the Millennium Collection: The Best of Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops
An inside joke with myself, as one of the characters directly references Romeo and Juliet right before a scene change. The song is melancholy, with its french horns, and R&J is all about death and doom, so it's not out of place.

10. "Psycho: Suite For Strings," Orlando Pops Orchestra, from Monster Mash and Other Songs of Horror
I thought using the "eee-eee-eee" music would be too obvious, so I went with something a bit more subtle. Also, I kind of think this music is used in the movie Clue (which also inspired my direction), but I couldn't find its soundtrack anywhere.

11. "A Night On Bald Mountain (Featured In "Fantasia")," New Symphony Orchestra of London & Sir Adrian Boult, from Reader's Digest Music: Fright Night: Classic Halloween Music
I thought this song was part of Wagner's Ring Cycle. I'm so embarrassed.

12. "In The Hall Of The Mountain King," Grieg, from Classical Relaxation Collection - The Greatest Tunes On Earth
I knew I wanted this tune, but I didn't know its title, composer, or where it came from. I had to go back to the last time I heard it, and guess what I wound up googling: ... the Smurfs soundtrack. Yeah.

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