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A conversation with Michael Raabe

Hi freeFall fans and friends! I was lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with award-winning Musical Director Michael Raabe. We talked about freeFall’s upcoming season opener, ASSASSINS.


Matthew McGee, Community Outreach Director

Matthew McGee: Why do you think freeFall is so well-known for producing high quality musical theatre?

Michael Raabe: Every show I’ve been lucky to work on at freeFall, there has always been a strong vision from the director on how to tell the story and every aspect of the show works together to share that story with the audience. Most importantly, the ground rule is… the story always comes first.  I’ve been very fortunate to collaborate with Eric Davis for the past few years and with Chris Crawford on this show and “Sondheim On Sondheim.”  With both directors, they have been very clear on how they want to tell the journey of the characters, and every artist involved (onstage and off) brings their best to work together and achieve that goal.  It really is a dream to collaborate with that level of passion.  I know the audience feels that.  Everyone in the room breathing the same air… going on the same journey at any given performance.  Being in such an intimate space you really feel like you are all sharing the art together.

Matthew McGee: Is Sondheim a challenge to musically direct?

Michael Raabe: Yes, but also a rewarding joy!  With each Sondheim show I’ve gotten to do, I’ve grown technically and artistically.  Every nuance in the score is there for a reason and throughout the rehearsal process (and even the run of the show) I feel there are layers to discover for everyone involved.  The music can be difficult, but once you learns the basics of the notes you realize everything technically (a slight change of word on the second verse, an unexpected interval you didn’t see coming) is there for a dramatic purpose.

Matthew McGee: Any specific thoughts on the ASSASSINS score?

Michael Raabe: The score is wonderful!  I actually feel it’s a good intro to Sondheim if you are unfamiliar with his work. He’s using the Americana pastiche and other musical genres in American popular music throughout our history.  As we go on the ride of this show and experience events that have shaped our nation’s history the score feels familiar which works so well both musically and dramatically.   I’m also fascinated at how “Hail To The Chief” is used as a motif hidden throughout the score

Matthew McGee: What can audiences expect from freeFall’s production of ASSASSINS?

Michael Raabe: To say that the current mood of our country is politically divisive is a huge understatement.  Yes, elections bring this out even more, but there is huge sense of Americans feeling disenfranchised.  We’re doing a show showing extreme cases of everyday people doing horrible things to make their voices heard.  These are people who feel they aren’t getting their part of the American Dream.  It’s eye opening to look back at these events in our history through the lens of what’s on the nightly news or on your Facebook feed.  The show really is a stunning blend of humor, heartache, and the human side of deeply flawed characters. This is all underscored by the brilliant music of Sondheim, one of our country’s greatest writers of music theatre.