Joshua Mark Samuels’ percussion setup for the North American tour of Aladdin at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington.
“As you can imagine, the musical Aladdin is full of percussion. The drum set book is pretty standard (the drummer only has a few extra hand drums and toys), leaving the bulk of the percussion literally in the hands of the percussionist. The show was also re-orchestrated for the tour (the guitar book and some horns/reeds were cut), so a lot of what they were playing was put into the percussion book. Thus, this show, being incredibly difficult to play on Broadway, has become even more difficult on the road, as I am also covering many guitar and reed lines.
I cannot take credit for any of this setup, as it is mirrored after Mike Englander's original Broadway setup. Also, most of what I am playing is exactly taken from what he is playing (for example, the hand drum segments where no specific groove is written). Mike labored over the parts and the setup, creating a vast world of ethnic range and sound, and I want to give proper credit: this is all him.
That being said, taking this rig on the road has proved difficult. For one, it is a massive setup. I had to figure out ways to make the rig smaller without losing any instruments, even to the point of having to crawl under the xylophone in order to get in and out of the setup itself. We eventually did lose a few instruments due to the fact that they were either used very little or not heard.
Another difficulty was the fact that in the Broadway pit, Mike has many instruments hanging/suspended from the ceiling/stage (a tam-tam, wind gong, concert bass drum, thunder sheet, and timbale). We couldn't hang the gear because we knew that many pits would be too small to even fit in and I would need to setup in a remote room. So there was no possibility for any kind of “suspension”. The first solution was to get some lighting rigs which we positioned around the setup to hang everything from there. This proved to be very bulky and cumbersome, and took up even more floor space. The second solution was to get Meinl gong stands. We ordered several, and hung the two gongs and concert bass drum from them. We cut the Thunder sheet from the show, and I found a timbale that could clamp onto another stand, which took up very little space.
The setup uses four music stands but five are used in the Broadway production. I cut one stand that was for the crotales because I knew I would have to sub out in many cites, and as you can imagine, having five music stands with music on each makes it very difficult for page turns/etc. You have to plan everything accordingly so you know exactly which stand you are going to and what page it needs to be turned to. It is a huge choreography puzzle and I figured eliminating one stand would make it easier on a sub.
Danny Taylor, the drummer for the tour, is also the assistant conductor. Therefore, when he conducts, I move over and play the drums, and a sub covers the percussion. I had been subbing the drum book on Broadway for many years, and the team knew I also played percussion, so I was asked to play percussion on the tour, and cover the drum book as well.
In all, this gig has been an incredible experience. The music is exciting, beautifully written, and so much fun to play. I never get bored (how could I?) and everyone on this tour has been really great to work with. It has been especially exciting because Danny Taylor and I have been long time friends, and finally getting to play together in this setting is a real treat.
Special thanks to Billy Miller for coming out and taking the pics, hanging, and for the write up, and shout out!”