My wife and I went to the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA to see 42nd Street, a musical by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, which is based on the novel by Bradford Ropes. IMDb simply describes the show by saying, “A producer puts on what may be his last Broadway show, and at the last moment a chorus girl has to replace the star…”
It was a fun evening and we actually saw Joey Fatone, former NSYNC star, play one of the parts. The audience had a real treat by getting to see Mr. Fatone. When he stepped out on the stage they responded with such a thunderous applause that the actors stopped the show to wait for the applause to die down. If the actors didn’t stop we would have missed part of the show due to not being able to hear what they were saying.
I was able to talk with the conductor of the pit orchestra, Frank Ostrowski, but he declined being recorded. Mr. Ostrowski has been the conductor of the Benedum Center pit orchestra for 18 years.
The pit orchestra had 16 people in it. The woodwind instruments they used were Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo, Oboes and Bassoon. From the Brass family they used some Trumpets, Trombones and French Horn. There was one person each for Keyboards, Harp, Guitar, Bass, and percussion (who had a plethora of instruments around him). Most of the people in this pit orchestra have been performing together for around 6 years, but a few of them are new to the Benedum pit.
Obviously this musical, because of its age, has been recorded multiple times. I will admit that I have listened to a lot of music from Broadway before and even some of the first recordings of this musical. The quality is definitely better live and the mix was very different than what I heard on a cassette tape. All of the instruments had microphones and were sent through the sound system, which is the only way I would have heard the instruments. We sat in the first balcony and this show contains a lot of tap dancing. I couldn’t tell if the stage floor was also amplified for the tap dancing and did not think to ask him.
Mr. Ostrowski informed me that there is no place in the score for improvising other than the occasional drum fills, but even most of those are written out. He also said that there was some reverb added to instruments and vocals, but he did not think there was any delay or autotune. All of the musicians and actors are with this show full time and receive all of their income from it. I hope to one day be able to play music as my main source of income.
All of the songs we heard were the original songs written in 1980. I can’t imagine that this show would be as much fun without a live orchestra. There are many moments in the show where they interact with the pit musicians. The sound system was also perfect for the room and added to the show. The Benedum is a two-balcony theater and having a good PA is a must.
If you ever get a chance to check out the show I highly recommend it. It is a very classic show that won 8 Tony Awards right after its creation and 8 more in 2001 for its Broadway Revival.
42nd Street (1933) – IMDb. (n.d.). IMDb – Movies, TV and Celebrities. Retrieved June 2, 2013, fromhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024034/
42nd Street Tony Awards Info. (n.d.). Broadway World.com – #1 Site for Broadway Shows, Theatre, Live Entertainment, Tickets & More!. Retrieved June 2, 2013, fromhttp://broadwayworld.com/tonyawardsshowinfo.php?showname=42nd%2520Street