The Nance - meet music director Christopher Tomasino!
Tell us a little about yourself. I am the Music Director for The Nance. I have music directed numerous shows at the theatre, most recently Legally Blonde, and I will be music directing the upcoming production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I have been music directing at LTA since its production of Chicago in 1988 and counting The Nance will have worked on 32 shows here. In addition to LTA, I am the music director for Bishop Ireton High School’s theater arts program.
How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on? I mainly work on musicals, though I have provided musical input on some plays that had minor musical elements. However, this is the first show I have worked on that I would say is primarily a play with music. Roughly I would say the play to music ratio is 60/40. Most musicals have songs that provide the exposition, develop characters, propel the story line, and provide the resolution. With The Nance the music, which is original to the show, provides atmosphere, and along with the vaudeville routines helps comment on what is happening in the story.
What made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA? I have always loved theatre. The first show I ever saw live was a community theatre production of Brigadoon. From that point on I was hooked. I loved going to see the shows, and eventually started playing in pit orchestras (clarinet). Once I graduated college, I knew I wanted to get more involved – play more, but also wanted to music direct and conduct. I replied to a notice for music directors posted by Port City Playhouse, interviewed, and was given the opportunity to be Assistant Music Director for their production of A Chorus Line. For their next musical, Cinderella, I was given the Music Director title and have gone on from there. I got involved at LTA because someone saw a Port City production and recommended me to the Producer of Chicago. I was very interested in that show, so I interviewed, got the gig. The next show I worked on at LTA was The 1940s Radio Hour which is the show I met Frank Shutts, the Director of The Nance which started a fantastic collaboration and friendship. That show was in 1990. Hard to believe we have worked together for over 28 years either at LTA, Bishop Ireton, and other theatres.
What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre? Don’t! Just kidding. Love what you do. Learn from your producers, directors, choreographers, design staff, and actors. Everyone has a valid viewpoint and incorporate their view into your work. Constantly support the view of the director and interpret their view into the music. However, you must always be true to the composer and lyricist. While the vision of the particular production belongs to the director, the show belongs to the composer and lyricist and you must honor their work. Lastly, have fun. When this becomes work, then it is time to leave.
What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show? Firstly, enjoy the show – laugh and cry. Then once you have had a chance, sit back and think about what you have seen. This show is fiction based on reality. While Chauncey and Ned are not real people, they are based on real lives of that time. Then think whether times really have changed since 1937. Certain rights and freedoms exist now that did not then, but have things really changed? If not, then work on supporting people to accept themselves so people do not have to hate who they are and can be free to be themselves without being called out.