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"Stereophonic" cast brings 1970s band to life while making history

"Stereophonic" actors on music hurdles
How the actors of "Stereophonic" became a convincing band 08:14

The play "Stereophonic" made history when it received 13 Tony nominations — the most in history for a non-musical production.

The story, written by David Adjmi and scored by Will Butler, centers on a band struggling to create an epic album while dealing with rivalries and resentments that boil up when they are trapped in a studio for a year from 1976 to 1977.

Butler, a former member of the band Arcade Fire, began collaborating with Adjmi in 2014, long before there was a cast, or the script was even finalized.

"My attitude when I joined in was, 'This'll be a lark,'" said Butler.

Finding five actors who could convincingly become a band was another challenge. Only Chris Stack, who plays drummer Simon, had prior band experience. Sarah Pidgeon and Juliana Canfield, who play Diana and Holly, had never sung professionally.

Canfield believes that the group was all cast because Butler and Adjmi thought they could act the parts and then "sort of crossed their fingers" that they would be able to work musically together.

The actors rehearsed for hours daily. Some took lessons. Tom Pecinka, who plays the lead guitarist, said he had only ever played "garbage guitar."

"My hands shake all the time. I mean, they don't shake anymore, but off-Broadway, they shook a lot," said Pecinka.

"He made them cry playing the song that he played in that audition," added his castmate Eli Gelb. "So, shaky hands, trembling hearts."

Gelb and Andrew R. Butler play the studio engineers trying to keep the peace and finish the record. For the fictional band, the creative process turns to turmoil.

Will Brill, who plays bassist Reg, confronts both sobriety and divorce in the play. Brill said his character's journey paralleled his own life in "pretty intense" ways. "That was a really fun weekend with my therapist to figure out," he said.

Despite similarities, the show's creators insist the story is not based on Fleetwood Mac.

In "Stereophonic," the group doesn't have a name. But the cast came up with one themselves — which they won't reveal.

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