Sounds of the ’60s: With Skiffle Band, CTC’s ‘One Man’ Takes Audiences on Upbeat and Musical Adventure

From left, Sofia Bunting, Tommy Crawford, Drew Brunson, and Alexander De Vasconcelos Matos perform Chautauqua Theater Company’s “One Man, Two Guvnors” perform as the in-show band during a dress rehearsal Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Bratton Theater. MHARI SHAW/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Walking into Bratton Theater, the usual pre-show buzz of voices and people searching for their seats is on full display. But amidst the mix of murmurs and whispers, an unusual element is present: the upbeat tunes emanating from the front of the house as a live band serenades audience members to their seats.

Chautauqua Theater Company’s One Man, Two Guvnors is full of music from start to finish.

“The music is supporting the story and helping with the world-building in the show,” said Sofia Bunting Newman, CTC conservatory actor and show band member, at the show’s second Brown Bag discussion last Thursday. “(The band) is separate from the plot, but they’re tied in a little bit and help to tell the story.”

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the melodic mayhem can come to see the show at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, August 7 in Bratton, or at any of the subsequent shows until Aug. 11.

The show’s band, appropriately named The Beadles as an homage to the influential quartet that got its start around the time when the show is set, is woven into the story of the show. CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba said the cast and crew worked to give the band an even larger role than they have in the story.

“I tried to stitch music into the story a little bit more than is actually written,” Borba said at the Thursday Brown Bag. “(In the script), it feels like the band should be like it is on ‘The Tonight Show.’ We were a little more interested in weaving it a little more into the piece than that.”

In the context of the show, the band is actually the group that recently ejected the show’s star, Francis (played by Alex Morf).

Tommy Crawford, the show’s musical director, said by integrating the members of the band into the world of the play, they’re able to help tell the story, in addition to providing the soundtrack. Crawford said the music gives audience members a window into both the sounds of the ’60s and the plot of the play.

“The songs in Act I are inspired by skiffle classics of the era, which combine rockabilly, folk and country-western blues aesthetics, and riff on themes and characters in the play,” Crawford is quoted on One Man posters hanging in Bratton.

Additionally, every song in the show was written specifically for the play.

“That gave us a great jumping off point for digging into the music of the show,” Crawford said at the Thursday Brown Bag.

Throughout the show, the music evolves as the plot progresses. It goes from early-era skiffle music to the rock tunes indicative of the British Invasion. Crawford said the change in music helps to guide audiences along as the plot moves forward.

“The music in One Man mirrors the revolutionary progression from skiffle music to British Invasion rock music,” Crawford told CTC. “Several of the songs are modeled directly on early Beatles hits such as ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Please Please Me.’ Listen close and you might catch a couple references.”

And while mixing music into the show gives the audience more to enjoy, Borba and Crawford agreed that it was tricky figuring out how to make it work in Bratton Theater.

“We’re not really quite built for it,” Borba said. “It’s stretching us technically quite a bit. There’s a little bit of excitement in that newness, but also extra issues. We don’t have immediate mic setups, we didn’t have setups for the band and we didn’t always know where the band was going to plug into.”

In addition to the looming technical challenges, Borba said there were a few more lighthearted hurdles to overcome when working with the band.

“They played their instruments all the time,” Borba said at the Brown Bag. “Tech rehearsals were impossible; you couldn’t hear anything.”
Tags : Bratton TheaterBrown Bag discussionChautauqua Theater CompanyOne Man Two GuvnorsThe Artstheater

The author Duard Headley

Duard Headley is from tiny Yellow Springs, Ohio, and studies journalism and American studies at Miami University in Ohio. Coming hot off the heels of performing in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream last summer, he is excited to cover theater at Chautauqua, merging his love for writing and theater into one experience. In his free time, he enjoys acting, reading, and staring wistfully into the distance as though he were deep in thought (He usually isn’t).