Into the pit

Dressed in all black and hidden below the stage, the pit orchestra is an often overlooked component of Theatre West productions.


Courtesy of Charity Nebbe

Sachiko Goto ’23 and Audrey Parrish ’23 in the orchestra pit during Beauty and the Beast.

Maya Chu, Print Feature Editor

It may come as a surprise that the spring musical features a live pit orchestra — not just a recorded soundtrack. Composed of West High band and orchestra members and directed by Jonathan Welch, the pit breathes life into iconic songs and intense dialogue. For “Beauty and the Beast,” which showed April 13-15, the pit was made up of 31 musicians.

Cellist Hana Abou Alaiwa ’23 said she joined the pit last year as an opportunity to try something new.

“I was a little scared of joining at first because of all the seniors in there, but I’m really glad I did,” Abou Alaiwa said. “It’s been so much fun and I’ve grown a lot as a musician because of it.”

Anjali Lodh, a sophomore violinist, also joined last year during “Anastasia.”

“I joined pit last year as a way to get involved with the musical, and I loved it,” Lodh said. “I decided to do it again this year because I love the soundtrack of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and it’s cool to be able to play the music I already listen to.”

For Abou Alaiwa, playing in the pit has been a new and fun experience.

“Being in the pit is a little cramped and really dark but full of chaos. We pretty much have to watch Mr. Welch at all times and be ready to play whenever,” Abou Alaiwa said. “However, we have lots of fun while waiting as Welch tries to make it fun with little tricks with his baton and hilarious stories.”

Violin player Anna Song ’25 says the pit’s environment is rigorous yet lighthearted.

“Mr. Welch pushes us every day during rehearsal but also makes it a fun silly goofy environment,” Song said.

While the actors take center stage, the pit is essential for setting the tone of a performance.

“Pit is something that can be forgotten by others but comes as a great shock whenever we perform,” Abou Alaiwa said. “I love being able to do that because it shows other people who [have] never seen or heard an orchestra perform in a musical before something new and amazing.”