My 2017 has been a little slow on the rock front, so when my friend John Munson called to pitch the idea of playing in a musical it didn’t take much convincing. “Sure!” I say, not really a) being a fan of musical theater; b) not knowing what to expect playing musical theater; c) not being entirely confident about the two-month commitment.
So here it is, two months later, and the run of Fly By Night, produced by the Jungle Theater here in Minneapolis, is almost over. And? Well, it’s been nothing short of a great time, and I’ll honestly be a little bummed when it’s over.
I’m still not sure if I’m the right drummer for musicals, in general, but being the drummer in this musical has been pretty fun. The band was picked because we weren’t a “typical” theater band, and the “book” (industry slang for the musical score) was pretty open to interpretation, so I got to make a lot of musical contributions instead of simply reading my way through the material. The cast is incredible and I’ve learned so much from observing how they absorb and commit themselves to their roles and pace themselves through a run. The crew at the Jungle has been great, and overall the vibe has been one of a big family from day one.
The mental headspace required to play a musical (vs. a rock show) was interesting for me. There’s not much in the way of, say, getting carried away emotionally in a part and steering the band to a new dynamic level. Or extending a solo if everyone’s feeling good. The challenge is in being engaged emotionally and mentally enough to create a world where the actions of the actors onstage are completely believable. It requires a complete sort of mental dedication, not unlike a recording session, but for a few hours at a time versus a few minutes. I put more time than I was expecting into learning choreography, of sorts—committing stick changes and sampler patch changes and percussion moves to muscle memory to navigate through the music quickly and smoothly.
I’m counting myself lucky to have learned more than I was expecting to, in a positive and supportive environment, making new friends with talented and good people. In this crazy world of making music, that sort of combo is a gold needle in an oversized haystack.
There are four shows left in the run as I type this, so if you’re near Minneapolis it’s worth a shot to see if there are still tickets available.
And finally, here’s a fun thing from the mind of Royer Bockus—the cast and crew’s contribution to the #Ham4All challenge, a campaign raising awareness and funds for the Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition. I played drums, mixed, and made my acting debut as “Puzzle Ponderer #2”: