Way Off Broadway, episode 7: Look at the circles under my eyes. I haven’t slept in weeks!
This week’s episode of Way Off Broadway is the beginning of the end—at least it seems that way for director Sarina, who’s channelling Debbie Allen in Fame a little more each week. She’s on a mission to remind these cast members that while they’re having fun, it’s time to, you know, actually focus on the show. Sarina opens a rehearsal saying, “I’m a kickass director…and I will kick your asses.” Snap. Throughout each episode, the overarching theme has been that Sarina has her work cut out for her. That’s the point of the show, but it’s time for us to see some fresh material, complete with cast struggles. Can someone have a legit mental breakdown and drop out? Maybe Taz? Short of that, our faithful cast is going strong (so far), and you can tell they’re getting much more comfortable with each other. But they’re exhausted, and it shows.
With the curtain going up in four weeks, it’s time to start rehearsing everything that’s been worked on so far—and it’s exciting to see the progress they’re all making. But before group rehearsals start, Rick, Taz, Bernie and Debbie—the four most distinct/mismatched personalities—learn and perform a new song together. Oh, brother. In a shocking yet delightful twist, Taz has a surprisingly lovely voice that is both powerful and confident (channelling Elaine Overholt, perhaps?). Taz also has a major freakout when it comes time for her to ride a bike in her scene, which is significantly less shocking given what we’ve already learned about the diva.
While trying to keep her sanity intact, Sarina invites celebrity choreographer Clarence Ford to help out this week. He’s instructed to work on the show’s encore: an original dance/pop/rap number penned by musical director Shelia. To be honest, we’re a little confused about the need for this. The track sounds interesting enough—and to hear Sean, Jon and Michael “rap” about Dorothy is the highlight of the episode—but we realize at the end that it is just for the curtain call, not an integral part of the show. In our experience, isn’t the final call when the cast can enjoy an audience’s applause? They don’t need to sing and dance anymore—the performance is over. Just let them bow and relax!
But back to Clarence. He’s an oddball, isn’t he? For one, Shelia’s daughter, playing Toto, looks terrified of him, and so do the other cast members. He’s got so much energy that even we are stressed watching him work out his dance madness. And he’s got big, conflicting ideas. He keeps edging Shelia to change up her encore song to make it work for him, throwing around words like “let’s make it more dirty” or “gospel.” You’d think he was trying to choreograph/conceive the final song from Sister Act 2. Sarina reveals that she “[hates] losing control,” making it apparent to us that she can’t handle Clarence. Eventually, she decides to tell him that she can’t stand his methods, but is somehow able to make peace with their differences. During his next rehearsal with the cast, Sarina decides not to hover, and Clarence actually gets the skeleton of the number done, but we can’t help but wonder if the cast will be able to soak it up along with everything else on their plates.
Siobhan and Kathleen. While we’ve seen very little of these small actors, they’re constantly working hard to memorize lines and be on point, despite Kathleen’s lack of confidence. In Kat’s words: “Just because I don’t say very much doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention.”
All of the cast members who aren’t practising. Stop showing up and “going through the motions.” You’ve got an actual show to pull together! David and Jodi, we were rooting for you, and now we’re totally bummed you two aren’t on top of your game. Hopefully things can only go up from here.