Musician Wears Many Hats for Broadway on Budget

Broadway honors its own at the annual Tony Awards Sunday night on CBS. Even though there is no Tony for "Best Performance by a Musician Playing Multiple Instruments" maybe there should be, CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason reports.

Complete Coverage: 2010 Tony Awards
(Note: will webcast an interactive show here live from the Tony Awards starting Sunday at 6 p.m. ET with interviews on the red carpet with nominees and presenters.)

If you go to see "West Side Story" on Broadway, you won't see Dan Willis, but you will hear him. Willis plays a big part in the orchestra. Actually, he plays eight big parts: piccolo, flute, bass clarinet, clarinet baritone sax, tenor sax, English horn and oboe.

"Being versatile" are the words he uses to describe what it takes to work on Broadway now. As ticket sales have been shrinking during the recession so have Broadway orchestras.

"It's increasingly common to see the new version, the new revival of a show exist in a smaller, more modest form," Variety theater reporter Gordon Cox said.

In its 1973 Broadway run, "A Little Night Music" had 15 musicians. The new production, with Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta Jones, has just eight.

Five years ago, the original production of "La Cage Aux Folles" had 24 musicians. This year's revival with Kelsey Grammer has only eight.

@katiecouric: Kelsey Grammer

"The reason they're doing this is to save money," said Tino Gagliardi, president of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York Local 802. "It's a bottom line for everyone."

Willis does pick up a little extra pay for playing eight instruments although not every performance goes smoothly. Sometimes he picks up the wrong instrument.

"It happens," said Willis. "Unfortunately during 'America' when the changes are the fastest, on occasion you go like this and say 'Oh no, I'm supposed to be doing this.'"

The new "West Side Story" has chosen to use a full orchestra as a selling point. It has 30 musicians, but between them they have to play 52 instruments.

Willis, who's worked in 13 Broadway shows, knows the closing notice eventually comes.

"I know we're good," said Willis, "through the end of the week."
  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"


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