Cabaret legend Sylvia Syms
Welcome to Cabaret Tip Tuesday at McElrath Cabaret, where we offer cabaret performance tips to help you put together a great performance at your next show!
Today I’m thinking about rehearsal techniques, so my tip for you today is this: use a speed-through rehearsal prior to your cabaret performance.
Today’s tip is easy to put into practice, just as we did over the weekend. We have a new cabaret show that we just previewed to our first audience this weekend, and the show went great! It’s called “From Broadway To Hollywood: A Celebration Of Song,” and it contains a number of favorites from classic stage and screen productions. (To learn about when we will be performing this show, you can visit our “Upcoming Performances” page to learn about all of the dates and details!)
So our most recent gig was scheduled for a Saturday night. For many weeks prior to this, we had done all of the memorizing and running of the show, so now it was time to fine-tune it prior to performance. What we did was Friday night, we did a speed-through of the show. This is something that is often done in stage play rehearsals, and for those not familiar with the term, it goes like this: Instead of going through all of the stage blocking and everyone saying their lines at a normal speed, instead you sit where all the performers can see each other, and as quickly as possible you perform all the lines in the show.
Now, to adapt this to a cabaret rehearsal, we did our patter as fast as possible, and then KJ played the music as fast as possible and we spoke or sang the song lyrics as we wanted. We got through the show in about half the normal time it would take.
The benefits of this process are: A speed-through helps you to pick up your cues, so there is no downtime in between patter moments and song lyrics. It improves the overall flow of your show, because all of the “dead air,” to coin a radio term, is taken out of the show, leaving you with just the important words that need to be spoken. In order for this to work, you have to be so off-book on your show that you really don’t have to think about it so very much anymore when you are performing. It does help you to get your focus back on the meaning of all the words you are saying, so that they are well-acted even at a fast pace. This type of rehearsal just tightens everything up, (and who couldn’t use a little tightening, hm??)
After the Friday night speed-through, we stopped and had dinner, and went to bed. The next day was the performance day. In the morning, we ran the entire show at regular tempo, singing lightly, as a warm-up and to get it into our heads and muscle memory. Then we went about our day, but we had the show in the back of our minds all throughout the day. Then we got ready and left for the gig, and sang the show Saturday night. Have to say, it was a very good performance–we didn’t forget anything, and we could be smooth and focus on reading the audience to give them what they wanted. We could focus on entertaining them, which is the point of cabaret, isn’t it.
How do you use speed-through rehearsals to fine-tune your cabaret performances? Have a cabaret performance tip you’d like to share with us? Let us know down in the comments, —we always love to hear from our readers!
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