Broadway Tests Synthesizer; Replacement for Orchestra?

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

AN increasing number of broadway producers are using synthesizers. But the results are considered uneven. According to union representatives, the hit shows, ``Cats'' and ``Me and My Girl,'' tried a few performances using synthesized music. `` `Cats' was very successful since its music is very modernistic and `Me and My Girl' was a failure,'' says Jack Gale, a musician and board member of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. A typical show using synthesizers - three in this case - is ``Jerome Robbins' Broadway.'' Musician Pam Drews reproduces the sound of the harp, grand piano, marimba, celesta, and xylophone. ``I'm filling in most of the rhythm section,'' she says.

Some musicians fear that ``producers will try to develop synthesizer backups for every show they produce so if there is a strike over minimums, they will be able to produce the music,'' says Mr. Gale.

In return for reproducing more than one sound, broadway musicians get paid a 25 percent premium. However, this saves the producers a lot of money since a synthesizer can replace four or five musicians. During its last contract negotiations, Local 802 agreed to let the producers use synthesizers whenever they wanted, provided producers would wait six years to discuss lowering the minimum number of musicians per theater.

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