“This is a show about family,” explained Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein as he kicked off the meet and greet for The Most Beautiful Room in New York. Of course, he was referencing the story in the new musical, but if you didn’t know that you’d think he was talking about the dozens of people surrounding him in that rehearsal hall.
You may have heard how a new work is often called a playwright’s ‘baby’. It makes sense when you think of the amount of time (usually years) and nurturing they put in to creating it. But just like raising a child requires the help of an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc., developing a show for the stage requires the support of a slightly different, nonetheless necessary, family for it to be successful. From the director and actors to designers, production crew, and administrators, standing at a meet and greet for any show at Long Wharf makes it easily apparent how many individuals, all with specific skills to fulfill specific needs, it takes to make theatre happen. Being at a meet and greet for a new musical like The Most Beautiful Room in New York blows that out of the water.
The first production of any show usually has the writer in the room throughout the rehearsal process continuously providing guidance and rewrites. Add to that a musical’s need for a composer, music director, orchestra, etc. and you end up with a meet and greet room like that for Beautiful Room where 70 or so people crowd shoulder to shoulder to introduce themselves to each other. Some had joined this family years before when this musical was just a rough draft from the minds of its creators, others had been welcomed in along the way at a staged reading here or production meeting there, and still for others this day was their initiation into the family.
Those of us in theatre commonly refer to our co-workers as our ‘theatre family’ mostly because throughout the course of a show you can easily end up spending more time with these people than your actual family. But there’s also something familial feeling about being surrounded by a bunch of people who are all focused on one common mission. At first glance, that mission simply appears to be about making a show happen successfully, but there’s another element to it that’s of particular importance to the first production of a work. Standing with all the other members of The Most Beautiful Room in New York family at meet and greet the realization was that the family wasn’t complete. Starting at that moment our collective job was to be ready in six weeks to welcome the last member of the family: you, the audience.