The role of musical director, or MD, can vary hugely between shows depending on the importance and amount of music involved. The MD is responsible for:
- Teaching actors vocal parts
- Adapting the musical score of a show where necessary - this is particularly relevant if the show is student written (many licensed shows will not allow changes to the score)
- Accompanying rehearsals where songs or backing music is integral to the scenes
- Organising the instrumentalists for the show band (also known as the pit band)
- Leading the band during shows - this maybe conducting if a larger pit band or leading whilst playing, for example, the keyboard 1 part
For musicals, the MD is likely to be required at (almost) all rehearsals to help with the above and so is often a demanding role, particularly for large musicals like the lent term musical or pantomime. It is however very common for the role to be shared by Co-MDs or for the MD to have one or more Assistant MDs (known as AMDs).
The pit band is the show band and is generally only required for a few rehearsals before the show and the shows themselves. The most important of these rehearsals is the sitzprobe but the number of rehearsals of the band alone, before or after the sitzprobe is up to the discretion of the MD who should know the capabilities of their players.
There are several places in which players are commonly found: the pitband mailing list (email@example.com), 'Cambridge Theatre' and 'Cambridge Theatre Pitband musicians' facebook groups. Equally, word of mouth is often a good way to get new players involved and fill awkwardly-shaped pitband holes. Whilst it's important to encourage new faces to pitbands, don't be discouraged if you struggle to find new players because the instrument combinations required are often quite niche and make this hard. Pitbands are commonly very small bands in order to fit in limited theatre spaces, players - especially woodwind - may be required to play multiple instruments during the show.19:15
If you want to get involved as a pit band player it is always worth emailing the musical directors of shows. There is often a limited turn around to recruit bands so it may be tricky to open applications. Equally, longer shows like panto and LTM often have a rota of performers to cover all nights so will need multiple players.
The location of the band during the show is a decision to be made in conjunction by the entire production team; in the ADC it may be on the stage incorporated into the set or wings, or in the Larkum, but rarely in the pit since this is a small and awkward shape.