After a year and a half since its last show, the Charleston Light Opera Guild returns this week to the Clay Center with “Putting it Together”.
The outdoor show features a small cast, no costume or set changes, few props, and music from 13 of Broadway titan Stephen Sondheim’s musical catalog.
“It’s a journal but spelled” journal, “said guild director Nina Pasinetti.
“Putting it Together” takes songs from this baker’s dozen of shows and dramatically remixes them into a new story.
“If you know the other musicals, you can see the songs in a different light,” she said. “With the script and the theme, in ‘Putting it Together’ the songs maybe have a different meaning.”
In addition to a return from the guild to the stage, Pasinetti was excited about “Putting it Together” because the show presented her and the theater company with a different set of challenges.
“Putting it Together” premiered off Broadway in 1993 and featured Julie Andrews’ return to the New York scene. It aired on Broadway again in 1999 with Carol Burnett, but Pasinetti said she hadn’t seen any of those shows, which was a bit unusual.
“I’ve seen so many shows on Broadway,” she explained.
Before COVID-19, Pasinetti visited New York and its theaters regularly. Not only has she been a lifelong theater fan, but the director is looking for these shows as potential future guild productions. She pays attention to the style and look of Broadway.
“We don’t copy,” she said. “But we certainly respect the original intention.”
With “Putting it Together” Pasinetti just didn’t have the same degree of exposure. His research was largely limited to a few Youtube videos and a broad knowledge of Sondheim’s work.
“Sondheim changed the course of Broadway, and her job isn’t the easiest to learn,” she said.
But the show matched the guild’s needs, although that wasn’t necessarily what the guild tended to prefer – especially in the summer.
Summer shows may move towards larger casts, with the guild relying on high school cast and students returning from college for the summer.
Additionally, the Light Operas Guild has not done an outdoor performance or revue for decades.
“We did them in the 1980s and the 70s,” Pasinetti said.
Nonetheless, new circumstances require new solutions, so the guild chose a musical with only a handful of players that was light on extras, including dialogue.
Cedrick Farmer, one of the five actors in the musical, said: “It was basically an opera.”
A little bit of trust was involved.
The liners were not chosen. If anything happened, if someone got sick, the whole show could have gone off the rails, but Pasinetti said his cast was very conscientious. They followed safety protocols, monitored their health, and wore special masks that made it easier for players to sing along until health guidelines said it was okay for them to take off the masks.
Rudi Arrowood said the rigid protocols are worth it.
Arrowood starred in the guild’s only production in 2020, playing “Maria” in “The Sound of Music”.
While Arrowood said she usually takes breaks between shows, not having a show on the horizon hit her hard.
“I developed a lot of hobbies during downtime,” she said with a laugh.
After the guild announced that they were moving forward with a production in June, Arrowood said they didn’t care what role they got, as long as they got a role.
She said, “Sign me up. I’ll play a bale of hay, whatever. I’m super happy to be back.
Arrowood landed the role of Woman # 1.
None of the characters in the musical have a name. Arrowood is the # 1 woman. Chris Terpening plays man # 1. Christa Navy is Woman # 2. Farmer is man # 2 and Jacob Fleck is man # 3.
Farmer said it was good to be back too. Last year he completed his singing studies at West Virginia State University. Besides concerns about the possibility of falling ill, the pandemic has put a cloud over his musical future.
“It scared me,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.
The guild didn’t have a huge audition turnout, Pasinetti said, but did attract some of the best talent in the area.
Everyone was careful and they were serious about the job.
“No one called back. No one got sick. I don’t think anyone was late for the rehearsal, ”she said. “It went very well.”
The entire cast was vaccinated as soon as possible, Pasinetti said.
“It wasn’t because of the show,” she added. “Everyone was nervous about COVID. Everyone knew someone who had had it.
To put on the show outdoors, the guild turned to the Clay Center’s Susan Runyan Maier Sculpture Garden, which the Arts and Science Center developed as an outdoor performance venue.
The sculpture garden also seemed to serve the aesthetics of the room.
“The characters are in formal dress,” Pasinetti said. “The men are dressed in tuxedos.
There had been concerns about the rain, she said. The June weather in West Virginia is regularly fickle. Showers, abnormal wind or scorching heat are all possible and almost impossible to predict for weeks or months.
Pasinetti said they had rain dates available for missed shows and thanks to changes in sanitary guidelines, the ability to move production indoors if necessary.
As the show got closer to opening night, she said it finally felt like things were getting easier, things were heading towards normal, if not exactly, better than they were. had been.
The restrictions loosened and there was a feeling of relief.
“The important thing is that we get back to what we are supposed to do,” she said. “We’re here to entertain and provide an outlet for artists. “