The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

Hitting the Right Tone

The Pit Orchestra’s Impact on Alley Cat Players’ Musical
Amelia Coleman

In preparation for LASA’s winter musical, “Les Miserables”, the pit orchestra began rehearsal in early January before the official start of the spring semester. This journey included two weeks with rehearsal nearly every single day, leading up to the opening weekend’s performances on Jan. 26 and 27.

Jesus Torres is the Associate Band Director at LASA, as well as the director of the pit orchestra. This year’s performance was the 11th time he has conducted a pit orchestra and the second one he has conducted at LASA. 

“Every single one is different,” Torres said. “The kids are always different, even when they’re the same, it’s always a different experience. This performance was one of the most challenging, for sure. We played a lot, pretty much nonstop throughout the entire musical. I’ve never had a musical where we’ve played from the beginning of Act 1 until Intermission and the beginning of Act 2 until the end.”

“Les Miserables” is a hugely popular musical, with performances in 43 different countries reported by Musical Theatre International as of 2012. Torres additionally identified “Les Miserables” as one of the most difficult musicals he has conducted.

“The major challenge in this year’s musical was losing so many kids the second week,” Torres said. “Losing all those kids and then having to cancel two rehearsals that week was probably the biggest challenge. I think it ended up being the best thing though, because we had the chance to rest and get healthy.”

Senior Isabela Christian played violin in the pit for the performances of the show. She said she had never done anything like it before but when Torres suggested she join she agreed. 

“Well, I just kind of wanted to do a musical and I decided even if it was trash music, it would be fun and it would be interesting,” Christian said. “Also I was specifically requested to do it by people so that’s a compliment.”

Junior Tavi Tragus played viola for the pit orchestra this year, as well as playing in last year’s “Into The Woods”. Tragus enjoyed both years, but each had different specific perks. Last year, she met and played with many seniors in the orchestra, and this year, the musical took place at LASA instead of the AISD Performing Arts Center, meaning that there was less transportation needed. 

“It was a lot of fun both years,” Tragus said. “Last year I was with a bunch of seniors, and that was cool, because they were all better than me, so I learned some things. This year was fun because we were in the LASA theater so we didn’t have to drive anywhere, and I think the music was more fun this year. It was a little bit less repetitive.”

The pit orchestra faced some challenges on the road to performances. According to Tragus, a freeze removed some rehearsal hours earlier in the preparations process. In addition to this, there was illness going around in the cast, crew, and pit, leading to the cancellation of two rehearsals between the first and second weekend of performances. Torres said this could have been a positive in some ways.

“After the first week there was a snow storm,” Tragus said. “That removed like four rehearsal hours, which was a lot, and so we never really rehearsed the ending of Act 2 together until show week, and that was scary. I think it ended up being the best thing though, because everybody had the chance to rest and get healthy.”

Freshman John Golby is a band member who played multiple roles in the musical this year. He has been in multiple other productions before, but this was his first at LASA. 

“It was really cool because I’ve worked with Mr. Torres before, so I already had that understanding of how he directs things,” Golby said. “In addition to that… I got to work with more of my friends, because I know some people in the pit.” 

Christian said that the pit largely followed Torres’s direction since they had trouble hearing the actors at times and his conducting helped keep them on time even when they couldn’t hear the stage. They had massive amounts of music to memorize so they had many rehearsals. 

“The first rehearsals were purely pit only because we did not know the music at all,” Christian said. “We had never played it together. A lot of us had not looked at it. Those of us with the easier parts had the privilege of not looking at the music before they showed up to rehearsal. And then we would do ones (rehearsals) with the actual group.”

Golby is somebody who has had previous acting experience outside of LASA. When asked about the musical, he especially praised the tech and the orchestra in addition to the cast. 

“It wasn’t really like any other musical I’ve been in,” Golby said. “The tech was great, and it wasn’t really like any other musical I’ve been in. The orchestra, as well, was probably the best one I’ve played with.”

Others agreed that the performances and rehearsals were something special. Despite a challenging preparation schedule for everybody involved in the musical, there was a general sentiment that those involved in it shared. 

“It was stressful, but still fun as it always is,” Tragus said. 

The winter musical was one of LASA’s most successful yet. All four performances were sold out.

More to Discover