Made In China: The Saga Continues

Well, guys, we’re finally here. The world premier of Made in China is tonight, and I’m very excited about it. Tickets for tonight are selling pretty well. We got some good write-ups in the SF Weekly and SF Chronicle (96 Hours), and I’m sure that helped with ticket sales.

We’ve been working our butts off this past week building a great set and a nice lighting design. Two nights ago, I got home from the theater at 4:30 AM, so we’ve definitely been spending most of our days and nights working on the show. My co-producers in this thing, DL Soares and Clint Winder, and DL’s girlfriend, Hannah, have been true champions this past week. They haven’t slept very much at all, especially Hannah and DL, but I think the sleep deprivation is about to pay off.

There’s a lot I could say right now, but I think the best thing, at this point, would be for you readers to just come to the show. It’ll be a lot of fun. You can buy tickets at the door starting at 7PM at Bindlestiff Studio (185 6th St.) or purchase tickets online at http://madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com/tickets. I can’t wait to finally perform this musical. It’s been a long journey, and the greatest part of it is coming tonight! I’ll hope all of you will be coming tonight…or at least to one of the performances, if not multiple. Hope to see you all there!

By the way, if you’d like to read the SF Weekly and 96 Hours write-ups, please visithttp://www.voiceplaces.com/made-in-china-san-francisco-bay-area-3342251-e/ andhttp://www.sfgate.com/performance/article/Made-in-China-at-Bindlestiff-Studio-4236818.php, respectively.

Thanks for reading!

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Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicholas Weinbach continues to chronicle his musical as it moves from concept to opening night.

Well, we’re just two weeks away from opening night, and the nerves are definitely with me. We’ve done so much work, but there’s still a lot to do in the next two weeks. Crunch time is certainly upon us. Since my last entry, we had a pretty successful rehearsal with the orchestra and singers. We got through all the songs in about an hour and a half, which was great considering previous orchestra rehearsals took the span of three hours and there were always a few songs we weren’t able to go over by the end of the rehearsal. I’d say the orchestra is in great shape.

The cast is trying its hardest to solidify and perfect all the choreography for this musical. That’s probably the most challenging aspect of this show, but we’re almost there. Things are really starting to look great. I feel like we’ve got a great show on our hands, but I know the next two weeks are going to be arduous for all of us. I can’t wait until we get to opening night and see how much our hard work has payed off. Some cast members are making great leaps for the success of this production. I think a couple are working harder than they ever have before. I want so much for them to be rewarded with a good show and a large embracing audience.

For me, worrying about all my lines, lyrics, and choreography is just one part of the whole picture, large as it may be. Being a producer is the other big puzzle piece and its tough work. It requires a lot of patience and planning, and, after having produced this show, I now have a deeper understanding of what producers do and how important their job is to the success of the show. I respect successful producers because they kind of orchestrate the whole thing. When you’re a producer for an independent production, it’s even more work. My hats off to producers…I wish this could be a toast, or something of the nature, because producers rarely get enough credit, or it seems as if people think they don’t really do anything when in fact they kind of do everything.

Two weeks away and I’m excited and anxious at once. I’ve never worked on something so hard for as long of a duration in my life. Made in China is truly my offspring, and it’s almost time to show it to the world. I want to be proud of it. I want it to succeed. I have a good feeling.

If you haven’t already done so, please buy your tickets to Made in China at madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com/tickets or here. I look forward to seeing you at the show!

One more entry for sure in two weeks, but, perhaps, that will be my last. Until then, get your tickets!

P.S. $5 off general admission promo code offered on our Facebook event page here.

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicky Weinbach brings his new musical ever closer to opening night.

We are currently in our last month of rehearsals for Made in China. With that said, tickets for Made in China are now on sale here and at madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com/tickets. Get your tickets now, and visit our Facebook page here for a promotional code to receive $5 off a general admission ticket for opening weekend. We also have a new poster design (below) from artist Andy McKeegan.

All business aside, the last couple of weeks have been a little tough, scheduling-wise what with the holidays and what not. But, we are headed in the right direction. We’ve accomplished a lot so far but still have a good amount of work to do. Tomorrow, we have our first sitzprobe (rehearsal with the singers and orchestra without blocking). I’m hoping the rehearsal moves pretty smoothly. The sitzprobe for the staged readings went pretty fast back in April, so this one should be pretty good, too.

I don’t have too much to say this time around. The cast is certainly working hard, and their effort is showing. The quality with which they sing at a stand still now needs to be applied to when they’re actually moving. It’s always a little trickier to sing your best when you’re performing choreography, which is why breathing as much as possible helps so much. The musical director for a production of Into the Woods in which I performed during my senior year of college told me once that Broadway singers breath a lot. They breath all the time because they’re moving a lot as opposed to opera singers who pretty much stand still the whole time. I suppose that’s when it’s more important to follow good technique. For musicals, you want to do your best to hit the notes well while still moving. Thus, breathing a lot helps a lot. Perhaps, this isn’t the best advice to reveal over the Internet, but it’s what works.

Anyway, I hope to see all you readers at one or more of the performances of Made in China. Buy your tickets now, and enjoy this really cool poster (again, below). Until next time!

MadeInChina_MF

Made In China: The Saga Continues

The last two weeks have been both fruitful and a little difficult due to actors either getting sick or going away to spend time with their families for the holidays. December is always pretty tough that way. Luckily, next week will be completely devoted to choreography rehearsals and working on music. We’ve got most of the major dialogue scenes blocked out, which is good. The show has really become a matter of choreography at this point, and there’s still a lot to be done. We have done a lot, too. Hopefully, by the end of the month, we’ll have only a select couple of songs that still need to be choreographed.

The actors are working hard on their singing. Some of it is pretty tough to nail, but they’re getting there. Some higher notes are a little tricky for a few, but I think, with a bit more practice and rehearsal, they’ll get it.

Tomorrow, we have another orchestra rehearsal. It’ll be the final one before our first sitzprobe – that’s when the actors and musicians all get together, and the actors sing without blocking to the accompaniment of the orchestra. It should be fun. It’s the first time the actors will really get a chance to hear the full orchestra playing ,and it really gives them a sense of what the whole sound of the show is like. I’m excited myself to hear everything played and sung together. For the staged readings of Made in China, I was able to hear all the parts sung and played together, but there have been some pretty significant changes to the score since then, so it’ll be nice to hear how the music has hopefully improved.

We are quickly approaching our opening date with just a little over a month and a half to go until the debut performance of Made in China. I’ve been very nervous, especially the past few days, just thinking about all the things that still need to be done. We still have a good amount of choreography to learn. We’ve definitely put in a lot of time so far into this production, but crunch time is certainly upon us. I just can’t wait until opening night, when we can finally perform this thing and please a crowd with a worthy show. By the next entry for this blog, I hope that we’ll have made some remarkable progress. Until then!

By the way, below is the new logo for Sir Windsorbach Productions, our theater company that is producing Made in China. Enjoy!

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Made in China: An Original Musical by Nicholas Weinbach

Nicky Weinbach continues his chronicle of bringing an original musical to the stage for the first time.

In my last entry, I talked about how we were in the process of deciding on a final cast list for Made in China after having held the auditions a few days before. It was a very difficult choice to make because there was a lot of great talent that came to the auditions. We didn’t want to let anyone down. I’m sure that must be one of the harder parts of any director/casting director’s job: having to let someone great know that he or she has not been cast.

On the upside, I think we made a good decision on our cast (listed below this blog entry), and we’re really happy to start rehearsing with our actors. Our first read-through is tomorrow, and I’m very excited about it. The hard part is all the tedious things I needed to do during the past week to prepare for it. I didn’t just have to print out multiple scripts for everyone involved, I had to organize and print out all the music for every actor and musician and the full score for the conductor (my twin brother, Max). It would be too difficult for me to explain the tiresome process of going into Finale (the computer software on which I wrote out and arranged the complete score) and having to extract every part from each song of the score, but let’s just say it’s long and arduous, and I ended up having to print out almost 1700 pages of music and script two days ago. That’s a lot. After that, I had to go back into Finale and merge – here come the technical terms – every vocal part with its accompanying piano part into separate two-part scores of their own, then save those scores as MIDI files, and, finally, burn a CD of the appropriate MIDI music for each cast member in order that he or she easily practice his or her part at home. I know it all sounds complicated. It is.

On another note, a week ago, co-producer Clint Winder and I met up at the theater where we’re putting on this production (Bindlestiff Studio) to discuss and plan out how we’re going to set-up the actual theater space for the performances. This is also a little complicated because you have to think about where to put the pit orchestra. You want them to be out of the way and not overpower the actors’ voices, but you still want your audience to see and hear them because it’s a musical, and it’s comforting and exciting to know that there’s a real orchestra accompanying the show. When you see the orchestra there, the magic is heightened.

Anyway, I think we came to a pretty good understanding of how we’re going to set up the theater and a general idea of how we’ll want the set to look. I locked down a set designer a couple of days ago. He’s actually a friend and former roommate from college. I think he’s going to design something great but something that meets our modest budget.

Overall, I’m a little nervous about the days and weeks to come. I hope it all goes well. I’m losing sleep every night thinking about how much work needs to be done and how much work I’ve already done. With a little luck, my next entry will highlight some of the ups and downs (hopefully, mostly ups) of our first few rehearsals. Until next time.

Made in China Cast List

Max – Nicholas Weinbach
Amber – Marisa Gregory
Gary / Mr. O’Meckles – Henry Kelly
Harry / Date – Jan Gilbert
Larry / Mr. Cousins – William Douglas Lester
Mary – Katy Yost

Made in China, An Original Musical by Nicholas Weinbach

Nicholas Weinbach continues to offer us a glimpse into the world putting together a new indy musical. 

Since my last entry, director Ashley Cowan and I have held auditions for Made in China and are currently in the process of making a decision about a final cast list. Auditions are interesting: they can be long and tedious and enjoyable at once. It’s nice to sit behind the other side of the table and watch actors come in and basically try to impress you. The exciting part is looking forward to what the next actor will bring – if he or she can bring anything – to the table. You hope that that next actor will be right for a part. It sucks when they’re not. You end up tediously going through the motions of reading the same sides with people whom you are not very likely to cast. The fun part comes when the actor does have a spark, and you smile at the idea of possibly including this person in your cast.

Because I’ll be playing the lead character in Made in China, it was important for Ashley to have me read with the other actors, especially those whom we would possibly consider to play the role of Amber, my character’s love interest in the musical. When the chemistry wasn’t there, I was bored. When it was there and there was something intriguing about the actress reading opposite me, anyone could recognize the magic. There were a couple of girls whom Ashley and I both instantly thought, “This girl is it. She’s the one.” It can be very relieving to know that you’ve found someone who can potentially fill the role as if the search can be over at that very moment. But, you have to give a fair shot to everybody else. Subsequently, when another girl comes along who also evokes a similar chemistry, you’re left racking your brain as to who would be the better choice. It’s hard. You feel bad if you don’t cast an actor who is very talented but wasn’t quite right for the part, but when he or she is right for the role but someone else is just a little bit more right, you feel worse not casting that actor.

For a musical, you not only have to audition for acting skills but also singing skills. There are a lot of factors that go into the singing alone. It’s not enough, sometimes, that an actor can sing well the song that he or she chose and prepared for the audition. You have to test the actor’s ability to adapt his or her voice to the music of this particular musical. You have to test how well he or she can pick up the melodies that you are presenting right then and there. If the actor can sing this new material on the first try, you know that you won’t have as hard of a time teaching him or her the music during rehearsals and time can be better spent working on something else.

Another related question concerns the actor’s vocal range This is so important. Even if the actor sang his audition song well, would he or she be able to hit all the notes that your musical’s music demands? Does the actor read music? This is something Ashley and I are currently worried about for a particular actress who seemed to have the magic when reading a side but didn’t seem to adapt as quickly to the musical material. We know that if we cast that particular actor, a lot more work will be needed to mold and strengthen the actor’s singing voice into something as magical as the chemistry she elicited during our reading together.

In order to accomplish a better understanding of each actor’s musical adaptability, during the callbacks, I taught two groups of five or six actors at different times two different songs. I would sing the melody with the piano accompaniment played by our pianist, Jon Gallos. In fact, I would sing line by line and then have the rest of the group repeat what I just sang. We’d repeat lines over and over again until it seemed to me that they should feel comfortable with the melody. After singing the melody (and this is just a little snippet from each song, not the whole thing) a few times as a group, I would call upon each actor to attempt to sing the new melody on his or her own. How well was each actor able to learn the melody within the short span of five to ten minutes? How many mistakes did each actor mistake? If the actor made a mistake, did that necessarily disqualify him or her from the final casting decision? These are all question we had to take into account during the auditions and thereafter.

There’s a lot to consider when casting for a musical. The skills required of an actor in a musical makes the musical audition process more difficult than casting for a normal play. I suppose, by the next time I write a blog entry, we’ll have made our final casting decision and begun prepping for our first rehearsal. Look forward to telling you more in two weeks!

 

Made In China: A Chronicle Of An Original Musical As It Moves Towards Its World Premiere

Nicholas Weinbach, an up and coming Bay Area composer and performer, writes about what it’s like to bring an original musical to the stage.

For those of you who don’t already know me, my name is Nicholas Weinbach, and I’m an actor, musician, and composer currently based in San Francisco. For the next few months, I will be contributing a guest blog every two weeks detailing the process of putting up the full production of an original musical I wrote called Made in China. Here’s a press release I wrote for the staged readings of the play back in April earlier this year which should also serve as a brief synopsis:

“From San Francisco writer/composer Nicholas Weinbach comes an original musical about a child-like up-and-coming postman, Max, who must deliver a mysterious music box to an address that doesn’t exist. In a moment of curiosity, Max shakes the box, and a house magically appears along with the girl of his dreams. Backed by a live 6-piece chamber orchestra, Made in China‘s melody-driven songs and quirky humor will take you on an exciting adventure of what it’s like to think and act like a kid, again.”

I suppose I’ll start from the beginning. A couple of years ago, my twin brother, Max, wrote, directed, produced, and starred in his own original one-act musical called A Match Made in Hell in which the devil plays matchmaker. Max put on this production for his college honors project, and it turned out to be a success. I was so impressed that I had an epiphany: “This is what I should be doing, too. I should be writing musicals. This is a way I can combine both my passions of theater and music.”

That summer I began work on what would come to be known as Made in China. Actually, the title was one of the first things I had down. I began to work ardently on the book and music concurrently. Some of the songs I had already written over the previous four years, but I wasn’t sure when I would use them. The time had come. There was one song in particular called “A Letter Written on the Back of Yesterday”, which I had written during my year studying abroad in France, and I knew I’d use this song for a musical one day, but I didn’t know what that musical was. Now, “A Letter Written…” is one of the most important songs in Made in China, and its melody is a motif that appears throughout the play.

A year after beginning this project, I had the first draft of the book and most of my songs complete with lyrics. Soon, I moved on to orchestrating the music. This was a challenging and tedious experience, but I learned a lot doing it and, ultimately, had a lot of fun creating parts for different instruments. At one point, I had written the score with a harp in mind, but, when it came time to find musicians for the staged readings, I found it too difficult to find a harpist who would play for free, which brings me to the next part of the process: finding musicians.

When you’re initially starting out, it’s hard to get anyone to do anything for you, so you take what you can get. That’s how it happened with my musicians. I posted ads everywhere for musicians from Craigslist to sending mass e-mails to music majors at U.C. Berkeley and S.F State. I finally got some musicians together, and we soon began rehearsing. Right away, there were noticeable mistakes in the musical score. When you actually have real musicians play your music, you can hear where you messed up as a composer. And, so began the first of many revisions of the score. Every time I met with the musicians, which soon became every Saturday, I had revised versions of the music ready for them to play. I’m sure they got a little annoyed at my constant changing of the score, but it was a learning process for all of us.

Meanwhile, I had some actor friends on board to act and sing for the staged readings. They thankfully put up with my many revisions of the script and my many demands to practice even though there wasn’t really anything in it for them. I guess it helps to be connected and have friends who share similar interests. We had a few informal readings before the actual staged readings. As far as practicing the music with the actors goes, a couple of them would come to my house each week, and we’d rehearse on the keyboard in my tiny room. A lot of the time, I would meet up with them in the practice rooms in the music building at U.C. Berkeley. Somehow, my student ID still worked to get me into the practice rooms (they didn’t notice that I had already graduated).

Finally, in April 2012, I put on the staged readings of Made in China. Though the attendance was fairly poor for both matinee performances, I think I impressed the right people, and it was great to hear everything all at once. Most importantly, the orchestra, conducted by my brother, Max, sounded great. The house manager and technical director for the two shows, DL Soares and Clint Winder, respectively, were among those who were very enthusiastic about the show, so much that they offered to co-produce the full production of the musical.

Cut to a few months later: I had held a couple more informal readings and revised the book and music a lot more, and, now, we’re preparing for the upcoming auditions for Made in China, which will be taking place on Monday and Tuesday, October 1st and 2nd from 6-10 PM both nights. We now have another set of eyes on the project with our director Ashley Cowan, and we officially booked the venue back in mid-August. The show will go up in February 2013 at Bindlestiff Studio in SF and play every Friday and Saturday night of the month.

Some of you may ask, “How are you funding this production?” Well, aside from launching a Kickstarter campaign in a couple of months, I’m personally putting aside descent chunks of money each month out of my own pocket for this thing. That’s paycheck money and tip money (I’m a cocktail server at two popular comedy clubs in SF). I’ve been doing this for a year, now. I think that’s what it takes if you really want to produce something and you haven’t, yet, achieved the kind of success where people are throwing money at you to put on a show.

Well, I think that about covers it so far. If you are an actor and singer, I’d love for you to audition for Made in China. You can e-mail me at madeinchinamusical@gmail.com to set up an appointment. I’ll leave you with a musical highlight from the show called “A Song that They Call Love”: http://made-in-china-musical.bandcamp.com/. Hope you enjoy, and I’ll be posting again in two weeks!