Sitzprobe is the German term, used in opera and musical theater, to describe the first time the entire cast and orchestra sit down together to do the show’s music. I must say that I prefer the equivalent term favored south of the Alps: prova all’italiana, which assumes such an occasion is so glorious that it can only be Italian.
Whatever you call it, one of them took place on Sunday for The King and I. LCT staff, assorted friends of the theater and of the production, and even a few young children, including music director Ted Sperling’s adorable daughters, Ruby and Claire, gathered in LCT’s large rehearsal room.
Bartlett Sher, the production’s director, briefly welcomed the guests, before ceding the mic to Sperling, who said, “This is a real working rehearsal, not a finished show.” In fact, I am being metaphorical when I say Sher ceded the mic: there was not a single electronic amplifier in the room. As Sperling put it: “Today is au naturel. It’s a very honest-to-goodness way to hear these things.” In the indelible words of the musical, the sitzprobe is an intimate way for “getting to know you.”
Sperling said that the sitzprobe “is always a highlight of our process.” He wasn’t kidding. You might imagine that after 5 weeks of rehearsal the cast would treat each new day as routine. Not a bit. Their excitement before each number was giddy, and their enthusiasm after each number was audible. If a production rises and falls in part based on what military leaders call “unit cohesion,” then I would say that The King and I is in fighting shape.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.