Jay and Alyssa Daly have been making beautiful music together for 10 years now.
They met in the orchestra pit during a production of “A Christmas Carol” at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, where Jay plays trumpet and also hires the musicians.
“I had a French horn player hired, and about a month before the job, he bailed,” Jay said. “I’m like, ‘What am I going to do?’”
Luckily, the man said that he had found a French horn player to take his place and vouched for her skill as a musician.
“He sent her in, and we got married,” Jay said with a laugh.
The couple’s musical careers as teachers and performers have continued to flourish since then, although Alyssa stopped playing in “A Christmas Carol” when their daughter Adalyn, now 7, was born. Adalyn was followed soon enough by Anabel, now 5.
Alyssa, 47, now plays for the Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at Christmas, but the couple still occasionally perform together, as they just did this fall for “Jekyll & Hyde” at North Shore Music Theatre.
“I would have to say Broadway shows are my favorite thing to do, by far, but I love orchestra playing, too,” Alyssa said.
Jay, 61, said that there is a large group of musicians who make a living freelancing in New York and Los Angeles, but Greater Boston is a much smaller market.
“There’s a small amount of us doing it in Boston, but they’re not always working,” he said. “The North Shore Music Theatre has been a great base for us.”
A dazzling debut
This past summer, Jay and Alyssa also got a taste of Broadway when both were asked to play in the orchestra for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre. The show is a stage version of the 2001 film and will debut in New York City in a year.
From June 11 through Aug. 19, the Dalys rehearsed the show and played 23 previews over seven weeks before it opened, at which point they played eight performances a week for three more weeks.
Alyssa said that, while the lapse of time between the Boston and New York productions of this musical is unusual, the practice of trying out a Broadway-bound show in another city is well-established.
“During previews, they can still change the show,” Alyssa said. “They’re really working on it, totally tinkering. Some things, you cannot know what’s going to happen until the audience reacts.”
Unanticipated laughs are eliminated by revisions to the script, while other elements of the show may also need tweaking.
“We would spend two hours rehearsing one scene that would last maybe less than a minute, and we’d go over and over it,” Jay said. “They’d work on set pieces that would move, or a costume change or a certain line. They would change a little bit in the choreography and we’d be sitting there — we’d play the eight measures, and we wouldn’t do anything.”
By contrast, for an established Broadway musical that is preparing to go on national tour, Jay and Alyssa normally spend a week rehearsing in Providence, Rhode Island, where many such tours are launched.
“It’s just a week of rehearsals because that’s a show that’s been on Broadway for years, and they’re just changing it slightly,” Alyssa said.
For regional productions, they will spend three hours rehearsing before performing a show that night.
‘Its own thing’
But working on “Moulin Rouge!” allowed them to be part of the show’s creation.
“Because it was a pre-Broadway run and we were part of it in the beginning, that was the most exciting thing for us — to be part of the artistic process,” Jay said.
The original film version of “Moulin Rouge!” was written and directed by Baz Luhrmann and combines a love story set in late 19th-century bohemian Paris with popular music from the 20th century.
That structure has led critics to describe it as a jukebox musical, which typically creates a unique dramatic setting for familiar songs, but Alyssa doesn’t think that’s quite right.
“I feel like this is its own thing,” she said.
However the show is defined, Alyssa admired the way its dialogue would sweep audiences into the first lines of a song.
“Sometimes the audience laughs because they’re like, ‘We know what’s coming,’ and the audience would go nuts when their favorite songs would come up,” she said. “It was like nothing I’ve ever played before.”
A reviewer for The New York Times was certainly impressed by the Boston production, calling it a “smart, shameless and extravagantly entertaining production.”
Jay said that “the choreography is unbelievable,” and Alyssa said the show’s choreographer, Sonya Tayeh, is famous from her appearances on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“We were walking down the street next to her, and a whole group of people were like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s Sonya,’” Alyssa said. “She is like a star.”
While both Jay and Alyssa admit they weren’t wild about the movie, they feel the stage production is an unqualified success.
“They nailed it, because when you take out all the trippy stuff that is so jarring, then you have this beautiful, sweet, simple love story set in a beautiful place,” Alyssa said.
A series of firsts
To make the experience even more unique, this production is the first to be held in the theater since renovations began three years ago.
Jay said the Colonial Theatre was once a popular spot for breaking in Broadway shows, and he hopes this summer’s production signals a return to those times.
Alyssa said that the set for “Moulin Rouge!” was like nothing she had ever seen.
“It’s like Broadway, because they build a show in, and they expect it to be there for five or 10 years,” she said. “The set comes out into the audience. They have an elephant coming out — confetti comes out of its trunk in the end. The lighting is phenomenal.”
The production also employed the latest technology, with the result that the orchestra played in a “remote pit,” a room about 50 yards away from the stage.
“We’d watch the conductor from a little video monitor” that was clipped to their music stands, Jay said, while their playing was picked up on microphones and transferred to the stage. Different parts of the orchestra were grouped in different rooms, then were combined electronically by a sound designer.
Jay said remote pits are becoming more common in professional productions, but they make him uneasy.
“I like the connection with the stage and with the audience — that’s how we’re trained,” he said. “I like, at intermission, saying hello and having people say hello to us.”
When the show was over, the Dalys treated themselves to a brief vacation in New York where they took in — what else? — three Broadway shows.
They saw “Frozen” and “School of Rock” with Adalyn and Anabel in mind, but also “Wicked.”
“I’ve played the show hundreds of times in Boston and Providence, but was curious about seeing it from the audience,” Jay said.