Monday, April 2, 2012

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs: Spotlight on: Music

Musical Director Julia Norton has worked with BACT on several shows, including Go Dog Go, Frog and Toad, and most currently, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. She is an internationally acclaimed voice teacher and performer based in the Bay Area - we are so lucky to have her! Here, she answers some questions about being a musical director for an adapted children's story.

BACT: What do you think music brings to a show that non musicals don't have?

Julia: I am biased of course, but I think music has the ability to heighten the emotional content of a play whether through humor, sadness, anger or excitement. When you think of a song from a favorite musical or opera it can bring back the whole scene or show. I find that doesn't happen for me in the same way if I remember part of a monologue. But like I said I'm biased :)

BACT: Some shows are written as musicals, but some, like 3 little pigs, are stories with music added. How do you think this changes the experience of the story, especially for children.

Julia: I think music pulls children in like nothing else. It speaks to them in a way that sometimes words alone can't.  When my son was very young and was trying to memorize my cell phone number for emergencies, he had the hardest time, until we made up a little melody to go with
it. Then he had it straight away. Children can sing whole songs from memory before they can write or read!

BACT: What is difficult about doing a show with music over a non musical show?

Julia: Well, I don't know if difficult is the right word, but there are certainly different considerations. First of all the actors need to be able to sing, it's helpful if they have a good sense of rhythm
and can harmonize too. A lot is expected of the 'musical' actor. Then as music director I'm not only trying to make sure everyone knows what they're supposed to be singing & when, but also that they are blending together or sometimes singing in character voices and are still able
to be understood. At the same time I want to advocate for the actors if I think the dance or costumes are compromising their ability to be able to sing. Finally as a voice coach and singing teacher I want to make sure that the cast members I'm working with are using their
voices in a healthy way.

BACT: What's your favorite song in 3 Little Pigs, and why?

JULIA: 'The Pointy,  Pointy Maneuver of Blame-osity'. I love the James Brown feel of this song, it gives the actors a chance to really spread their wings and have fun using their voices in a big and soulful way.Then out of nowhere they are challenged to sing their fear and 'pigsteria' in the second half of the song with lines like "he's a critter a mongrel, he sure don't belongrel"  The child in me gets really excited about breaking the rules with language and rhyme. Then there's this tiny break in the music where poor Julia has to squeeze in her dialogue before the final chord slams in.  Very exciting stuff I'll tell you.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, featuring Julia's musical direction, opens at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley April 14.

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