|re: Funny Girl 1964 vs 2022 : Streisand wasnt quite 'Streisand' when FUNNY GIRL was on Broadway ...|
|Posted by: AlanScott 01:53 am EDT 08/11/22|
|In reply to: re: Funny Girl 1964 vs 2022 : Streisand wasnt quite 'Streisand' when FUNNY GIRL was on Broadway ... - Delvino 10:32 am EDT 08/09/22|
|In all likelihood, there were 25 players in the pit in all three theatres during the original Broadway run. That was the Broadway minimum at the time for the larger houses, although sometimes news articles said 26, which was including the conductor. (That discrepancy in different articles over the years used to confuse me until someone explained it to me fairly recently.) Some shows employed more than the minimum, although sometimes the additional players would be cut as the run went on and grosses went down. Or sometimes the additional players were cut even when a show was still selling out. Good to have it sound great on opening night for the critics, and then to save money.
Suskin in The Sound of Broadway Music lists 25 for Funny Girl. Sometimes he is wrong about these things, although in some of those cases he does put a question mark after the total. I am not sure where NewtonUK is getting three percussionists. Suskin says there was one, and I think that is probably right. Both Suskin and the published vocal score list the same reeds and brass as Newton lists, plus 10 strings (six violins, three celli, 1 bass), percussion, piano/celesta, and guitar.
In the current production, the conductor is also one of the two keyboard players, and one of the violinists also plays viola. Obviously, there is no way to make three string players sound like nine. (I am leaving out the bass as I imagine it often plays rhythm a lot of the time rather than mostly being used to fill out the string texture, but I could be wrong about that.) In opera, 35 players is considered a chamber orchestra, or at least used to be, before the original-instruments and the historically informed-practice movements took hold, and also before Baroque operas entered the repertory in a big way.
I wonder if the current Funny Girl would have a French horn player if not for the famous French horn solo in the overture (just as Gypsy also has a famous French horn solo in the overture).
One other thing to remember is that many (most?) of the Broadway cast recordings of the 1950s and 1960s added players at the recording sessions. Often it would be 10-12 extra players, and all or almost would be extra strings. The great string sound we hear on many of those recordings was never heard in the theatre, except in those shows that did have unusually large numbers of players in the pits, such as Carousel, The Most Happy Fella, and Camelot. Although I wonder if the pits for those shows got cut down a bit as the runs went on, but in those cases perhaps not. I'm guessing that even if the 35-40 players in those pits (40 for Carousel, 35 or so for the other two) did get lower later in the runs, they remained above the house minimums.
Still, the sound of 8-12 strings, pretty standard for 20-25 years, is going to be audibly different than the sound of three or four (or none). You can hear the difference if you compare the Royal National recording of A Little Night Music, which used a smaller number of players than the original, and the JAY recording, which used a string quartet. Even with the Royal National using fewer players than in the pits at the Shubert and the Majestic (not to mention the OBCR with additional players at the recording session), there is still a very audible difference with the JAY recording.
One the last thing: Even into the mid-1940s, the Broadway minimums were lower. Perhaps up till 1950-1955. Some of the older shows did have pits with a number of players more in line with what we often get today. On the other hand, because of the lower minimums, more shows did hire above the house minimums.
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