Last night I had the immense pleasure to take part in a reading of the updated script for the musical, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The Peccadillo Theatre Company produced the reading at The Bank Street Theatre in the West Village, and it was so cool to head down there. The Village just oozes this artsy vibe, and I always love going down there.
When I arrived at the theatre, most of the cast was just getting there as well. Our stage manager, DC Rosenberg, whom I worked with on Hell's Belles , had everything set up for us. Since this was a "table read," there were 3 long tables set up with chairs facing the audience. The main idea of a reading is to simply hear the script brought to life. It is still acted but the actors are seated (in most cases) and are "on book," referring to the script.
I was cast as Hildy, a brassy dame character who starts out as the leading lady's best friend, but quickly becomes her enemy when Hildy's boyfriend (the lead fellow) goes after the best friend, Katie. It was fun to be one of the first voices heard in the show, setting the tone with brass and sass, making way for the bittersweet love story that ensues, and keeping the sparks flying. I also had a juicy scene at the end, showing this "dame" had a heart as well.
The delightful Dan Wackerman directed the reading and also narrated. He welcomed the audience when they arrived and gave them some background on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, saying how the original musical had veered from the novel, focusing on the talents of Shirley Booth, who played the supporting character of Aunt Cissy. If you listen to the original cast recording, you can see how Ms. Booth stole the show. Very funny lady!
Susan DiLallo revised the script to get back to the core story of Katie and Johnny, a young couple trying to get by during hard times, and it seems most effective. I teared up twice during the reading - it is such heart-breaking stuff! And there's still plenty of humor with Cissy, so it's well-balanced. A really beautiful piece.
I was very honored to take part in this production and hope to move forward with the piece as they enter their next phase.
In the meantime, the Hell's Belles cast are getting ready to record some songs for a promotional CD, and I'm looking forward to jumping back into my characters, especially Janis Joplin and Judy Garland. It's gonna be fun to see the whole crew again! Although last night's reading of "Tree" was almost like a Hell's Belles reunion with Omri Schein, Deb Radloff, DC Rosenberg and costume designer Gail Cooper-Hecht there to help make it all happen.