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April 29, 2017:

FINDING THE PITCH

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, we had our auditions at LACC yesterday from noon to four. As always at LACC we have kids who’ve never done musicals, never sung in public before, are petrified, have never stepped out of a comfort zone – as well as some of our L.A. Now and Then cast and some kids who’d done musicals before. Because I’ve been down this path before many times, what we do is get everyone in the room. I tell them a bit about the show, my history with the school, and just before we sing I have my standard line: The person who comes to me and says this is so out of their wheelhouse and they can’t do it or they’ll die, is the first person I cast. They love that.

They all got up, one by one, and of course having their classmates there sending positive energy made them more at ease. I took notes, occasionally I’d make a comment about audition tricks, we took a break at the halfway point, and then finished. There were only a couple of people who really couldn’t find pitches – literally could not hear the notes. I’m always fascinated by that and so after we finished, I got everyone on their feet. And then I did part two of what I always do. We do Do Re Mi – surprising how many kids don’t know the song – I kid you not. We sang through it the first time and suddenly all these shy, nervous kids were singing out and singing loudly. We did it four more times like that and I said this is what happens – strength in numbers. Then we did it again, and this time I said I’d be pointing at people during the song and when that happened that person had to sing the line solo and keep the group energy. We did that many times and by the end of it everyone was in the swing of things. My one really out of tune guy was really out of tune, so the next pass I had only about fifteen people in the group on the left sing – he was completely off the note, but I walked over to him and pointed up and said “higher” – he tried as they kept singing, and I pointed up again and you know what – he got it. Then I did the same with the other groups then went back to my group on the left. This time the fellow was too high so I pointed down and within two seconds he’d found the pitch – even he was, I think, amazed. The kids seemed to have a great time and I certainly had a great time. I’ll be using many of these folks in the Sherman Brothers musical – it’s a huge cast.

After that, my set designer showed up and we sat in the black box and tried to figure out how to make it work and we realized we were fighting a losing battle and that it would be nothing but compromise. So, we made the decision to use the big theater. In the small space, at 99 seats we would have sold out every show – here in the big space it’s close to 300 seats and that just doesn’t happen there and hasn’t for years. But maybe the name value and the world premiere aspect will be helpful. But if we get our 100 people that really does fill up most of the center section and we’d cover the side seats if necessary so it doesn’t feel empty. I think we’ll be much happier in the big space, scenically, and we can have the band onstage and elevated as we did in the Brain.

Prior to that I’d gotten close to eight hours of sleep, got up, got ready and moseyed on over to LACC. After the auditions, I was on the freeway by four-fifteen thinking it would truly be horrid but the fact is I was home twenty minutes later, so not bad at all. Once home I just ate junk all night for a total of 1200 calories – the junk included a salami sandwich, four mini-tacos (170 calories), some fruity snacks and some chips. It was filling but calorie-friendly, so that was good. At some point I sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched a documentary on the Flix of Net entitled Mifune: The Last Samurai about the actor Toshiro Mifune. I didn’t love it – some nice interviews and footage, but a lot of off-topic stuff at the beginning, when one wanted more stuff about the Kurosawa collaboration. For example, they only mention in passing two of my favorites of that collaboration, The Bad Sleep Well and High and Low – I mean, they literally mention the titles and say not one word about either. But they spend twenty minutes about the samurai film in silent Japanese cinema, which, of course, has nothing to do with Mr. Mifune. No great shakes, but I enjoyed it save for the mind-numbing narration by Keanu Reeves – it sounds like he’d taken some sleeping pills before recording it.

Then I began a motion picture on Netflix entitled Trust, about an adult sexual predator posing as a teen and getting involved with a fourteen-year-old. It was directed by David Schwimmer – certainly it was forthright but he’s not really an interesting filmmaker. The script is, at times, very good, and at other times too cliché and manipulative where there would be more interesting avenues to explore. Clive Owen and Catherine Keener are very good as the girl’s parents, and Liana Liberato is terrific as the young girl. The long sequence when she meets up with “Charlie” and finds out he’s thirty-five is very hard to watch but done very well. And the film doesn’t give you a release at the end with the capture of the predator – rather we see some home video of him with his family – nice, upstanding family man who you know will be doing this again.

I’d also finished watching I Bury the Living starring Richard Boone. It’s a super low-budget film directed by the truly mediocre Albert Band, but there’s something that’s so creepy about it that it just works. This was a staple on television all through the 60s and 70s, which is where I fell in love with it. Boone and Theodore Bikel are very good, but the star of the film is the map of the cemetery – it gave me nightmares as a young teen. So, while it’s certainly no masterpiece, it’s just so creepy that I must recommend it. The transfer from MGM/UA is the second one I’ve seen recently that begins with a British censor card – why? It’s a cheapo American film – is that the only element the studio has? It’s baffling. They should have all the elements or they should get out of the licensing business because it’s ridiculous what they do. That said, the transfer is mostly fine – according to one online “reviewer” it’s great-looking with only two frame specific marks. Really? How about that minute long sequence in the first ten minutes where the film image is literally bobbing and weaving in the transfer gate? What about the scratches and dirt? But it’s reasonably sharp and a whole lot of creepy.

After that, I just relaxed, printed out orders, answered e-mails and had a telephonic conversation.

Today, I’ll be up by nine-thirty and over to have today’s auditions at eleven-thirty. Those will be done around two, then I have someone coming to the house to make some notes for me by watching a video – that should take about four hours and while she’s doing that, I’ll do work on the computer. I’ll eat, I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, and I’ll relax.

Tomorrow I get to visit with Richard Sherman, which I’m really looking forward to. Monday is our first Kritzerland rehearsal, then there are meetings and meals, callback, the second Kritzerland rehearsal, then our stumble-through and then sound check and show.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, have auditions, eat, hopefully pick up packages, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: What are your favorite films of Richard Boone, one of my favorite actors, and your favorite super low-budget scary/creepy movies? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, always happy when I can help anyone who can’t find the pitch, to find the pitch.

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