He’s the leader of the band.
Carson Eubank has taken a group of musicians who have never played together and created an excellent ensemble that delivers the live music that adds an exciting element to The Prizery’s production of “Mamma Mia,” said Prizery artistic director Chris Jones.
An interview with Eubank provides the following look inside the musical process of producing “Mamma Mia.”
“With this being my second time music directing ‘Mamma Mia,’ I was obviously very familiar with the score and ABBA’s music. In addition to classics like ‘Dancing Queen,’ ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Waterloo,’ what many don’t realize about the stage version is that it includes a number of songs that were not in the movie. I believe these added songs, particularly ‘One of Us,’ are some of the true hidden gems of ABBA and feature some absolutely beautiful melodies.
“When I proposed the idea to Chris of using live music, the biggest issue was the size of the pit. ‘Mamma Mia’ is originally orchestrated for four keyboards, two guitars, one bass, drums and percussion. Fortunately, I have access to a fantastic re-orchestration that reduces the four keyboards and second guitar into two keyboards by using Apple Mainstage keyboard programming software. With this software, I was able to create and program all of the synth, piano and string sounds to replicate the original patches and sounds that were used in the original production’s orchestration. In addition to the two keyboards, the re-orchestration includes a lead guitar, bass, saxophone and drums,” Eubank explained.
For Eubank, live music in theater makes all the difference. Not only does it add an unmistakable and palpable energy to the room, but it also allows the actors to be organic and natural in their choices and not be limited by a track that is making decisions for them.
‘”Mamma Mia’ is a true joy to play every night because, as a music director, you are able to witness how much the music raises the collective spirit of the audience. There is no better feeling than playing the megamix at the end of the show and seeing the whole audience up on their feet singing and dancing along - it truly feels like you’re at a rock concert,” he added.
Eubank also expressed gratitude to the five other musicians in this pit. With a score that features 28 songs and limited rehearsal time, they have each taken it upon themselves to practice and perfect their individual parts which has allowed them to reach a level of detail and refinement that is not always achieved in a shortened summer stock process.
“It is a true joy to make music with them and this extraordinarily talented cast, and I believe that joy is translated and infused into the audience at each and every performance,” Eubank said.
Paul Robleto, the drummer also enjoys the music and this production.
“I was never a big ABBA listener, but the introduction and becoming familiar with their music has been eye opening and fun. This cast in particular is just amazing to listen to. The show is consistently excellent, and at many points in the show we have what I would call ‘musical moments’ when we are jamming, and that amazing cast is singing. Time stops, it’s magic,” Robleto said.
“As a musician playing with a grooving band while the leads are on stage singing and the rest of the cast is singing beautiful chorus parts back stage behind me is an experience I will not soon forget. Playing this show has been nothing but a pleasure.”
Robert Anderson plays bass in the show and concurs with Robleto on everything he said.
“Having been lucky enough to have been involved with several Prizery projects, I never cease to be amazed at how things come together. That comes from all the people backstage, the talent recruitment and the directors. As an aging musician, it does my heart good to see the young talent coming up year after year working with dedication and placing all their efforts to put on the best performance possible. I am proud to be a small part of this process,” Anderson said.
All the “Mamma Mia” musicians enjoy the musical theatre process and agree playing for musical theater is an amazing thing because the musicians get to help enhance the experience of the actors and the audience by supporting their performance, Jones said.
“Mamma Mia!” continues through Sunday.
Call the box office for tickets at 434-489-3154 or purchase online at prizery.com.