“The audience is the final, and most integral part of development.”
First preview is always a pivotal moment in the theatre. After weeks of table work, musical rehearsals, staging, and tech, it is the first time that an audience gets to submit their opinion through laughter, tears, sighs, and cheers. It is the night when the entire artistic team sits (or paces) anxiously at the back of the theatre, furiously taking notes on the basis of the audience’s reactions and pinpointing any last minute details that need polishing before the long-awaited opening night.
The stakes are high. Being that MANN… AND WIFE is a world premiere, a preview means much more. It is an experiment with no preemptive means to determine how an audience will react. Unlike catching a road show of one of Broadway’s latest hits, those in attendance have no pre-conceived expectations for this production. They have no emotional connection to the story. For the first time in the history of this musical, an audience will see the full fruition of a decades worth of workshops, re-writes, concerts, etc.
Tuesday night’s preview for this opening show in Lyric Theatre’s 2016 season hosted an invited audience of sponsors, donors, Broadway producers, designers, writers, and more. I stood with Director Michael Baron and Musical Arranger Neil Douglas Reilly at the back of the theatre, watching and waiting to see how our weeks of work were going to be received, pens and pads at the ready. In the moments before the show began, there was a twinge of excitement running through me, masking the always-present-at-preview worry that the audience may not be impressed.
The lights dimmed. The actors entered. The musical began.
Two hours later, it was over and the audience left seeming to have really enjoyed their night! It was a success! Deep sighs of relief were made, but the work was far from over. With pads full of last minute ideas, the musical team and designers were back at it Wednesday morning pumping more life into what was seemingly already so complete. The writers were busy over their computers making tweaks and edits and additions. With three days left before the official opening, the last minute rally has begun.
This is how it works when creating new theatre. The audience is the final, and most integral part of development. This is why we have previews. Your opinion is the one that truly counts because, all in all, you’re who we’re making it for! So congratulations to the cast on their terrific First Preview and thank you to the wonderful crowd who helped shape the ever-so-different production that will go up tonight. And who knows, after two more of these there’s no telling what exactly will be on stage come Saturday night.