Cue the marching band: How the L.A. Phil will bring a little mayhem onstage for Bernstein’s ‘Mass’

Orchestra members, dancers and one Gustavo Dudamel rehearse Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" on Wednesday on Walt Disney Concert Hall. The L.A. Phil extravaganza will be presented Thursday through Sunday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

For two words to describe Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” as a work of musical theater, try “ambitious” and “sprawling.”

Composed in 1971, shortly after Bernstein left an 11-year stint as music director for the New York Philharmonic, his “piece for singers, players and dancers” is about a priest officiating a religious service, surrounded by choir singers and a “street chorus” of hippies as they all struggle with faith in the tumultuous era of the Vietnam War.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic will present four performances of “Mass” in Walt Disney Concert Hall beginning Thursday and calling upon a host of, yes, singers, players and dancers. The director is Elkhanah Pulitzer, who directed the L.A. Phil’s production of the John Adams opera “Nixon in China” last year.

Bernstein, a strong proponent of eclecticism, mingled avant-garde classical, rock, blues and, of course, his own Broadway-friendly style within the score. He also wrote most of the lyrics. To tackle this musical sprawl, “Mass” features an orchestra, multiple choirs and a marching band — and an excuse for us to look at the production, by the numbers:

Dancers surround Ryan McKinny, who plays the Celebrant as Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic during rehearsal of "Mass" at Disney Hall.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Minutes of music: 100

Set pieces: 6

UCLA Wind Ensemble players: 29

L.A. Master Chorale singers: 64

L.A. Children’s Chorus performers: 36

Other human voices: 22

Total number of instruments: 100-plus

Dancers: 7

Props: 158

Total number of people on stage: 242

How many costumes in the extravaganza? Even the L.A. Phil has lost count. Here, Gary Marshaler steams some of the pieces backstage.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $72-$225

Information: (323) 850-2000,

Eleven hairpieces, all ready to go.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

See all of our latest arts news and reviews at