Life backstage is often entertaining – and how could it not be? You have professional entertainers milling about before and after curtain and some of them are naturally funny in their casual interactions. Occasionally, the entertainment is more organized. This past Sunday, for example, Ted Sperling, the music director for My Fair Lady, put together a chamber-music concert in the large rehearsal room backstage. The playing began two hours before the matinee.
Similar events were put together by Sperling of other LCT shows he music-directed: The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific, and The King and I. But none of them were quite as freighted with meaning as the My Fair Lady event. The concert commemorated the end of Sperling’s time with the musical – he and his family are about to head out on vacation – and the leave-taking was marked after the concert by the cast of the production serenading Sperling with “Happy Trails.” What’s more, it was Father’s Day, so Sperling and several members of the cast brought their children to the music-making. There was a brunch buffet table set up at the end of the rehearsal room opposite from the musicians.
How I envied those kids! I grew up in a musical household, but it entailed my mother playing solo piano for us. There was nothing as wondrous and complex as hearing a group of highly trained instrumentalists on a casual Sunday. Most of them were regular musicians from the My Fair Lady orchestra, with a couple of substitutes added here and there.
The concert fare included Schumann’s Piano Quintet, Bach’s Brandenburg Concert No. 3, Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, Mendelssohn’s Octet, Schubert’s Octet, and Schubert’s Piano Quintet, familiarly known as the Trout Quintet. That last piece was written when Schubert was 22 year old. Sadly, it was not published until a year after his death. Its playing by the My Fair Lady musicians had melancholy edges but also vibrant joyfulness, and the mixture of sorrowful and sweet reflected the occasion of Sperling’s departure: sadness at his leaving but happiness that he and his family are off on a well-deserved rest.
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com