Inner Circle members received a rare glimpse into the orchestra pit of the Ahmanson Theatre at the Inner Circle’s most recent Up Close Dialogue as producing director Doug Baker sat down with Jay Alger, the music director of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Up Close Dialogues are opportunities for members of the Inner Circle to hear Center Theatre Group’s actors, directors and designers share stories about their lives in the theatre.
As both the music director and the conductor, Alger conducts the orchestra for each performance of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. He explained that his job involves collaborating with the director to ensure the music helps tell the story of the musical as well as the overall vision of the production. Together with the director, he decides on the tempo (or speed) of songs, the dynamics (or volume) of the music, the acoustic qualities of the show, and exactly when the underscore should start within the performance.
Alger is also in charge of working with cast members and local musicians on performing their music. The company travels without a permanent orchestra, and Alger is instrumental in selecting local musicians to form an ensemble in each city they visit. As the tour of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella arrives in a new location, Alger told the Inner Circle that he only has four hours of rehearsal with the newly assembled orchestra before their first performance. He shared his belief that due to caliber of musicians in Los Angeles, “L.A. will be the best orchestra we’ll see on tour.” Alger speaks from experience—he has served as the music director of many Broadway shows and national tours including Cats and Les Misérables, and was at the Ahmanson Theatre most recently for 2012’s Anything Goes.
Alger has travelled internationally as a music director, taking productions on tours across the globe. When asked about the hardest part of travelling with touring musicals, he laughingly answered it is working with shows translated into foreign languages. Inner Circle members in attendance asked Alger questions about his life as a touring music director and behind-the-scenes details about Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. As a classically trained vocalist, he spoke to the beauty he personally finds in performing the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein on a nightly basis. “I wanted to do what’s fun and get paid for it,” Alger explained.