Julie Malloy directs the South Pacific orchestra behind the stage in the shop at the Players Guild of Dearborn.
During the run of South Pacific we’ve had lots of comments and questions about the orchestra. Some patrons have thought the music was canned. Others thought the orchestra might be in the wings. Still other knew the players were in the shop, but wondered why.
Over the years, the Guild has experimented with various settings for the orchestra. In front of the stage. In the stage left wings. In the stage right wings. On stage with the actors. On stage on a platform at the back of the stage. In the shop. All of these have advantages and disadvantages.
Many times, when the orchestra is in front of the stage, they over-power some of the performers and song lyrics can’t be heard. The same thing is true with the orchestra in either of the wings, but we have very limited wing space for things like scenery and props. On stage on a platform works well, although there are orchestra members and directors who don’t like being “up there.” The shop works very well for sound balance, but the audience can’t see the orchestra playing. Many New York venues are taking away the front pit in order to get more seats. We do it to get better sound.