The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

JCHRants

What I Learned About Frankenstein

To compensate for the aforementioned (and frankly inexplicable) lack operatic income, I’ve been playing with some local funk and blues groups which were quite well paid but I found myself repeatedly self-destructing. (More on that in a separate rant.) So I’ve been begging, borrowing, stealing work for various local pit bands—community theatre, dinner theatre, etc. Since my various maladies, I sure ain’t the picker I once was, but thank goodness there are still gigs where reading is a pre-requisite; and thank goodness all the jokes about guitarists and sheet music ring truer than ever. It’s a living.

And it’s given me a chance to watch all the low budget ways that you can stage various gags. I kept getting hung up on ‘impossibilities’. There are so many events in any staged production which defy believability if you think about it too much. But it seems that I have to constantly remind myself the very thing I love about the theatre: people want to suspend disbelief. I don’t have to worry so much about whether or not the singer can be heard above the choir.

But I’ve been able to score all manner of cool freebies to local shows. One was Danny Boyle’s film of Frankenstein with Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting and the new Sherlock TV show) and Benedict Cumberbatch (If that isn’t the most toff-joke ever invented I dunno what is…I can’t even write it without giggling.) Pretty cool. If you saw the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics, you’d recognise the staging. One conceit of the show is that they swapped roles every other show. And they filmed both versions so, since I had nothin’ goin’ on before going to work, I stuck around for the reverse-o version. I was feeling sorry for myself that I had nothing better to do, but it was a revelation!

The first version (with Miller as ‘The Creature’) is obviously the ‘A’ version. The ‘B’ version has all manner of little technical nigglies. It’s like the ‘Extras’ on a DVD. Cumberbatch’s ‘bald wig’ starts coming unglued. His body mic (which is hidden by the various ‘stitching’ makeup) comes undone and flakes out due to his gesticulations (I should explain that in most big budget contemporary productions the cast wear body mics which are usually placed near the chest, with a wireless battery pack/transmitter hidden on the lower back. Every time he pounds his chest in frustration the mic pops) Miller’s wig moves (he shaved his head to play The Creature so he wears a full romantic era wig with sideburns when he plays Frankenstein). Beyond that, there are changes in dialog. And on top of that, the film director gives us slightly different shots. Overall the editing isn’t as tight. There are focus-pull issues in a couple of scenes.

My point is that I’m sure the ‘B’ version was intentionally left ‘raw’; perhaps as an exercise for young actors and directors. What got me is that no one who hadn’t seen both versions&#8212who wasn’t looking for the gaffes—would notice. But even if you did notice, those issues in no way detract from the play. What does make the ‘B’ version the ‘B’ version is simply that the performances in the ‘A’ version are better. The drama is deeper, the jokes funnier, but still, the play is the thing.

Frankenstein has given me some confidence that various technical issues don’t matter so long as the performances are good. If you lead them in a good way, people will follow… and not even notice the occasional pothole along the way.

*Classic Musician Jokes From A Previous Century
Q: How do you get a guitar player to turn it down?
A: Put sheet music in front of him
Q: What’s the fastest way to clear a noisy dance floor in a rock bar?
A: Shout ‘Bass Solo!’
Q: What’s the fastest way to clear a noisy dance floor in a rock bar?
A: Shout ‘Bass Solo!’
Q: Did ya hear about the drummer who got into music school?
A: Me either.
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