In many ways the Homecoming musical has been an institution for the Graceland community. Every year, the theater department works tirelessly to bring together a production of the quality you can usually only find at a major university. Without the help from several teams of dedicated people, the homecoming musical would never be able to come together as well as it does, time and time again.
I have had the pleasure of being a part of this production for the past three years, and can attest to the unique experience I had playing in the pit orchestra. This year the musical is called “Broadway on the Hill,” and involves top hits from some of the highest awarded Broadway musicals of all time. The music is written by composers like Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim, and is different from any other music I have played.
Broadway musicals are a hive of key changes, irregular time signatures, and divas, but through all of the complexity there is a simple brilliance to it. The show forces us instrumentalists to be completely aware of the workings of the show, from blatant verbal cues from the actors to subtle changes in the lighting. For the show to go smoothly, everyone on and off set have to be working together. It isn’t easy by any means, but when that switch clicks and everyone is on the same level, the outcome is nothing short of magic.
The one person who pulls the music for the show together is Jack Ergo. Every year, he comes up with the parts for the hodgepodge of musicians he strings together, and every year we get the parts ready for performance just under the wire. This year was especially challenging to get together because, since it is a sampling of several different musicals, we weren’t able to get parts for any instruments besides piano. This means that Jack, with help from a few of us, had to go through the piano score and decide which instruments he wanted on which part. Though our parts have evolved quite a bit from rehearsal to rehearsal, we wouldn’t have been able to pull this show together without him.
Despite whatever challenges arise, the Homecoming musical is always a hit among alumni, students, and the community. Without the musical, and the talented people that put it together, Graceland Homecoming wouldn’t be the same.
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