I just noticed the last paragraph in my recent entry about the Rescue Party, where I said that the best performance high for me seems to come from being fully out there playing without any nets, doing my own musical interpretations - I think I have to modify that a bit, because I was really surprised tonight upon finding that I got a similar effect from playing in a pit orchestra for a community theater production of Annie!
Perhaps it doesn't need much modification: while "doing my own musical interpretations" certainly is not true about playing from a rented score for a 25-year-old musical, "being fully out there playing without any nets" may be the more relevant part. After the Orpheum gig last February where we had less than 2 hours to go over 15+ charts for 8 or so different 70s soul groups (some of whom were not singing in the key of the chart), it felt luxuriant to have two full rehearsals to go over parts, cuts, cues, etc. But the production was still a moving target in terms of following, vamping, trying to keep the singers on tempo, etc. I didn't play the opening show last night because I'm only taking two of six performances, covering for another violinist, and there were more changes based on how things went after the first show.
So the fact remained that even though I was playing from printed music, I was not only solely responsible for my part but had to maintain alertness for when it was played, know where to come in based on how the actors were doing (and as amateurs they tended to be highly variable), hope for cues from the music director but be ready to do what was needed without any (since she was playing keyboard and also trying to deal with the amateur singers, cues sometimes fell by the wayside), ... It wasn't an improvised or self-composed performance, but it was much more on the edge than, say, being one of many violins in an orchestra, or even one of Paula's completely-arranged string section parts; and I was also aware of being regarded as a "professional" that the amateurs expected would help hold the show together.
And also I'm still enjoying being a violin slut: pit this week, writing a part for a country song last week, lush pop at Johnny D's next week, reinterpreting a Bach sonata the next, etc. I'm having the time of my life, so why not ride it?!