This season, musical lovers had a lot to be grateful for. 15 musicals opened, featuring a variety of scores covering everything from historical classics and repurposed jukebox songs to traditional and country. There was even a new style for Broadway - the international techno-pop sound of K-Pop. But for this musical fanatic, there was an even nicer trend.
With shows downsizing their orchestras and adding computerized tracks, it was indeed wonderful to hear (literally) that several shows this season were opening with more than the average number of players in the pit. In fact, nearly half of this year's new productions had 15 or more credited musicians playing!
The average for all of them came out to just over 13. KPOP had a mere 3 players - amazing considering the huge sound they brought to that Tony-nominated score. On the other end of the spectrum, Lincoln Center really brought their A game with their superb 30 piece orchestra for Lerner and Loewe's Camelot. Such a deserving score to have that kind of size. To be fair, every time they produce a classic revival, the band is always huge. I can't be the only one who is still flabbergasted by that big reveal at South Pacific, can I?
The other big orchestral news came from the revival of Stephen Sondheim's masterwork, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Seven times a week, and for the first time on Broadway since its original production, the score is being played with an impressive 28 players. Perhaps even more importantly, the show boasts the original Jonathan Tunick orchestrations. It is a truly gorgeous thing to hear.
While it'll always be my hope that musicals will have a full complement of musicians, let's just keep away from making cuts for the sake of a buck. Thankfully, this season we were gifted with amazing music from amazing scores, each one played to perfection.