Recently, during the first two weeks of February, BHHS theatre put on the musical The Music Man. The musical features the singing and acting talents of many actors, as well as the miscellaneous and indispensable talents of many musicians, techies, and teachers.
A great deal of work goes into the production of the musical, the performance time of which is almost two hours. Actors rehearse for about three hours after school each day for over two months leading up to performances. They practice dances, music, and lines for the musical. Lead roles often work closely with Dave Heywood, the director, for their individual scenes. The chorus members too have a great deal of work cut out for them.
Although the actors are the most visible component of the musical, many more people are needed in behind-the-scenes work. Mr. Heywood stressed that in order to make the musical what it is, “you need a team.” Indeed, the production relies on the hard work of musicians and techies as well as actors. The pit orchestra met two days a week for two months leading up to the shows, playing for at least an hour and forty minutes each practice. In that time they had to learn and perfect the entire soundtrack to the musical: over thirty songs of varying complexity. The pit orchestra is comprised largely of band instruments, plus a violin and an electric bass guitar. They provide live music for each production, conducted by Andrew Landowski.
Techies are also vital to the successful production of a musical. Senior Brianna Smith oversees a lot of the behind-the-scenes work due to her position as Stage Manager. Leading up to the showings, Brianna and the other techies organize costumes, make props, paint, and do other miscellaneous work required for the musical. During showings they help backstage and control the soundboard and the lights, both positions essential to the viewing and listening pleasure of the audience. Generally, teching “helps add structure”, says Brianna Smith. She added that taking up a role of a tech is a way to get involved with the musical that is alternative to acting: “I am not really a singer or dancer but I can still contribute something I enjoy,” she says. Being a tech also comes with a less strict time commitment than either acting or playing in the pit, as techies can usually dictate their own schedules.
There are a few additional student roles involved in the musical. For example, senior and Set Designer Rylee Eberle planned and painted the stage. Four students were involved in choreography. With some also holding acting roles. According to Gabby Connors, one of the choreographers, this work is quite important because dance is “one of the main elements of [a] musical”. She also finds it personally rewarding, continuing that being allowed to create choreography allows the choreographers “to continually develop some of our own skills . . . [and] develop as artists.”
The musical doesn’t just involve the work of the students. Mrs. Alviar teaches the music to all of the actors, Mr. Landowski directs the band, Mrs. Zelenak is in charge of costumes, and Mr. Zelenak works with the set. Mr. Heywood has the role of both the director, instructing the actors in all of their roles, and the producer: He coordinates with the teachers involved as well as the students like Brianna Smith and Rylee Eberle who hold specific roles. Heywood “wear[s] a lot of different hats in the musical.”
Despite the massive amount of work that goes into making a musical, nobody seems to regret their involvement. Being involved is a great way to bond and make new friends, and there are many traditions that run through the theatre. Also cited as perks are the reward, the team effort, the fun of performing, and the chance to “experiment and be experimented on.” Mr. Heywood states that the musical is simply “so much fun”. When asked whether there was anything specific she wanted to say about being involved as a tech, Brianna Smith said simply, “I wish I’d started it sooner.”
Photo Caption: The Pit Orchestra watches the action onstage during a break in the music during dress rehearsal (Photo credit: Wren Brastow, BHHS).
By Fiona McBride