If you thought Elphaba had to work hard to save the animals, try assembling a tribute to the music of Stephen Schwartz. While none of us have to pretend to die and go into hiding, the men of the AGMC are going full-steam to prepare for our upcoming performances of “No Rest For The Wicked.” I must say that in my six years with the chorus, this is perhaps our most ambitious project yet. As Schwartz wrote in his current hit, “There are buildings tall as quoxwood trees, dress salons, libraries, palaces, museums a hundred-strong.” It is starting to feel that way as all the moving parts of our show take final form this coming week. We are definitely pulling out all the stops on this one.
But as we approach the final days of rehearsal, I wanted to take a moment to share a piece of AGMC history that was made last Saturday. At 1:00 PM, the chorus gathered in the rehearsal hall to begin a long afternoon of working through the show. For productions of this size, it’s not unusual for us to spend a Saturday or two ironing out the non-musical elements. But last week’s was very special. Just over an hour into our rehearsal, members of the AGMC Women’s Chorus Project gathered in the room across the hall. As we were completing a walk-through of the first act, we could hear their lovely treble voices in warm-up — a stark contrast in timbre to our own.
As we wrapped things up, I said, “Gentlemen, let’s go to break. The women are here and we need to work through their entrance and exit patterns. You’ll also get to hear their wonderful singing, so please listen and cheer them on.” As the men left the risers, the room filled with sound. There was the usual commentary on what we’re doing, the questions, witty banter, and the cackling. As many went for water, a snack, or a seat, the creative team and I took stock of the schedule and the time. With so many details in our heads, the last thing on anyone’s mind was the fact that we were minutes away from something so fantastic.
I had heard the women in rehearsal a week earlier and knew it was going to be a treat for the men, but it never occurred to me what a magic moment it would be when they first entered the room. These two choruses had never met, and this was the first performance by the WCP in front of an audience. And though I had reminded the men to be welcoming, I had no idea what kind of mat they were about to roll out. As conductor Melissa Arasi brought the chorus into the room, there was thunderous applause. The 40-voice ensemble of women took their place while the whistles, cheers, and hooping continued. There were big smiles, lots of laughter, a little embarrassment, and tears of joy on both sides. After about 60 seconds of this celebration, Melissa had to put up her hand to quieten the room. I suppose she and I could have had some “official” exchange at that point to signify the christening, but there was no need for it. Especially given what followed.
Director Eric Klem walked the women through the traffic pattern of entering and exiting, and after a few times we were ready to give it a full go. Our small vocal ensemble sang two lines that introduce the women: “One short day in the Emerald City, One short day in the Emerald City…” and the rhythm kicked in. The women owned the entrance with enthusiasm and joy, and what followed was just stunning. And if there was any doubt whether we’d chosen the right piece to launch this ensemble, it disappeared. Wicked‘s “One Short Day” delivered. The women sang of their temporary visit to our land of Oz and a resounding commitment to return for good someday — and that is exactly what we hope will happen next season with an ensemble to become known as the Atlanta Women’s Chorus.
I’m not sure any of us could have asked for a better display of the potential of this project. It may sound like I’ve given away a big moment in our show here, but no words can describe the energy that our audience will experience when this new ensemble makes its debut at the 14th St. Playhouse in less than one week. If you haven’t gotten your tickets, you may soon be out of luck. Saturday evening is sold to the wall, but there are still tickets available for Friday night and the matinee (at the time of this writing!) That being said, you might want to click here.
To hear an interview with the creative team of “No Rest For The Wicked”, click on the image below. We’ll see you in one wonderfully wicked week!