The Wizard of Oz - International - George English

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George English’s setup for The Wizard of Oz at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England.

"As you’ll see from the photos, there’s a large amount of gear, some might say excessive..."

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“I’ve been lucky enough to spend a couple of months playing the RSC's (Royal Shakespeare Company) version of The Wizard of Oz at the prestigious Crucible Theatre here in the UK. Originally done in the 80's at the RSC, this version was restaged and the orchestrations were reduced from the original size down to 11 players.

Conductor/Keys - only triggered harp glisses and the odd extra layer
Keys
Reeds 1 - Piccolo/Flute/Clarinet/Alto Sax
Reeds 2 - Flute/Clarinet/Tenor Sax
Reeds 3 - Clarinet/Bass Clarinet/Baritone Sax
Trumpet/Flugelhorn
Tenor/Bass Trombone
Violin
Cello
Double Bass
Drums/Percussion

The reduction in the orchestration was done by our Musical Director Toby Higgins, a former percussion player, and so from the outset I was expecting a busy play for me. The rehearsals were far more extensive than what we’re used to over here, six sessions of band calls and a Sitzprobe allowed us the freedom to do some really detailed work on the show. Toby and I had a lot of conversations about what was right for the different scenes and sound worlds in the show. I spent a bit of time in cast rehearsals as well, not playing, just getting to know what would sound best when and where.

The fabulous thing about the reductions is that Toby has used the ensemble to it's full potential, replacing a lot of that glorious MGM string sound with wonderful choral writing and adding to the Scarecrow and Tin Man sequences with onstage percussion (washboards, buckets, tin mugs etc.). Much of the Tin Man sequence sounded like tap from my booth above the stage, but it was all carefully played out on assorted metal props to accompany the choreography.

As you’ll see from the photos, there’s a large amount of gear, some might say excessive, but I tried to find the right colours and sounds for every moment, particularly as we were mostly acoustic in the house rather than hugely pumped through a sound system. I used a lot of cymbals, in particular the chinas and stacked splashes for the Wicked Witch and Winkies scenes.

Much of the music I played is taken from the original RSC books, though the vibes book was hugely inflated during the band calls and previews to fill in a lot of textural holes that previously were harp or strings. Again, having the freedom to adjust or change a lot of the moments to suit our specific production has been hugely fun, we’ve ended up with a large amount more timpani/vibes than the original book but kept most of the xylophone/glockenspiel stuff pretty much the same as the original. I mounted a trap tray over the bass drum to place mallets/brushes and the metal sounds I needed for the Tin Man as they were integrated into the kit parts."

The splashes (13", 12”, and 6”) gave me a trashy but not too loud stack to use every time the Wicked Witch’s music happened. In the original part it’s on snare drum, but we altered it slightly just for a different colour in the show. It gave her a bit more of a mean 'bark' to match the muted brass and high clarinet and piccolo.

I used the top end of my TreeWorks Tre70db InfiniTree and the TreeWorks Tre44 Studio Chimes together a lot to keep a sparse texture of sparkle in a few numbers, particularly when the munchkins first appeared."

Complete gear list as follows.

Traps Set:
Mapex Saturn 20”x20” Bass Drum
Mapex Saturn 14”x14” Floor Tom
Sonor Horst Link Bubinga 14”x8” Snare

Cymbals:
Zildjian 14” Avedis Vintage Hi Hats
Bosphorus 12" Traditional Splash
Sabian 17" HHX Evolution Crash
Zildjian 20” Swish Knocker (5 rivets)
Meinl 14” Symphonic Suspended Cymbal
Zildjian 22” Constantinople Bounce Ride (with sizzler)
Zildjian 8" FX Trashformer Splash
Stack (Bosphorus 13" Splash, Bosphorus 12" Splash, and Zildjian 6" A Splash)
Sabian 10" AAX Splash

Percussion:
Pearl Ash Tone Block
LP Red Jam Block
LP Cowbells (3)
Junk Metal Sounds (small brake drum, 2 kidney dishes, 1 metal plate)

Timpani:
30” & 28” Premier Series 2s - These are fabulous drums for theatre, 30” gives me B-D, 28” F#-G (over an octave on each drum!)

Cymbals:
Sabian 17” HH Suspended
Wuhan 18” China
Bosphorus 15” Traditional Crash
Matt Nolan Trine

Musser M48 Vibes
Sabian 18" HHX Evolution Crash

TreeWorks Tre44 Studio Chimes
Sleigh Bells (mounted on leather straps)
Vintage Premier Sleigh Bells
Thomas Rönnefarth Custom Made Schellen
Studio 49 Glockenspiel (2.6 octaves)
Arthur Soothill Pit Xylophone

TreeWorks Tre70db InfiniTree
Meinl Pin Chimes
Ludwig Vintage 1920's 6” Triangle mounted on the Miller Machine

January 2018

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7/13/18