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Behind The Curtain

The cast and crew of spring musical pose for a picture.

The cast and crew of spring musical pose for a picture.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Svec

The cast and crew of spring musical pose for a picture.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Svec

Photo courtesy of Mr. Svec

The cast and crew of spring musical pose for a picture.

Samantha Grunden, reporter

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As the curtains open and a beautiful story is unveiled, it is easy to be captivated by the glamour and excitement of a show. What most audience members don’t see, however, is what happens behind the curtains. The West Springfield High School Drama Club worked vigorously to rehearse and perform the comical musical The Drowsy Chaperone. The show opens with a perfect description of the show: “mix ups, mayhem, and a gay wedding.” The performance required hours of practice and preparation. Dozens of people worked on this production, including the actors and the behind-the-scenes crew members. Crew members are responsible for several important tasks that contribute to the overall success of the show.

On March 28th, 29th and 30th The Drowsy Chaperone hit the WSHS stage in its full glory. The musical is narrated by “man in the chair”, who was played by sophomore, Devin Gearty. Gearty describes his character as “a depressed man who loves musicals and drinking.” The narrator plays his record of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone for the audience as the characters are brought to life on stage. The story follows two love birds who plan to get married. Janet Van De Graaff, a glamorous showgirl, played by sophomore, Robin Thacher, is looking to leave her career on the stage to marry Robert Martin, played by junior, Caleb Jones. “Plan” is the key word there, for the plot is basically several mix-ups that jeopardize the wedding.

The cast and crew had to overcome several difficulties overlooked by the audience. For example, the physical exertion from dancing leaves the cast members out of breath, and yet they are expected to continue singing. High heels are a common shoe choice for actresses in theater. However, dancing while wearing high heels can be somewhat  dangerous and painful. Through hard work in rehearsals, the cast was able to adjust to these demands. In the number, “Cold Feets”, Caleb Jones (Robert) and Alex Guevremont (George) showcased their ability to tap dance while singing a duet. These students practiced frequently to present this amazing number to the audience. During “Show Off”, Robin Thacher was lifted into the air multiple times by her fellow cast members,  and continued to sing.

Tap dancing, emotional singing, and lifts were only some of the tasks that made this show challenging to perform. The last thing on an audience’s mind are costume changes, which is a challenge for the actors. The quickest costume change in this production was four people in 30 seconds, in complete darkness.

The crew backstage are an often unseen part of the productions here at WSHS. Hair and makeup, done by Molly Ryder, Sara LaFrance, Samantha Grunden, Avery MacGrath, and Mallory MacGrath, required patience and efficiency to ensure the cast looked their best. The stage manager, Isabella Stephens, was responsible for controlling the sound booth. Assisting her was Gillian Gray, who worked backstage giving curtain and lighting cues, as well as helping with quick changes and prop movement throughout the show. Up in the “crows nest” seniors Ben Thacher and Liam Florence controlled the lighting and spotlights that helped set the mood for each scene. Without the contributions of these students, the show would not have been a success.

This year the set was primarily built by Mr. Bell and the students in his Stagecraft class. One of their most impressive contributions was a 1930’s style plane for the show. Junior Mia Sbalbi is in the Stagecraft class with six other students who built the set for the musical this year. “We made a drawing of the set and a mini model to show the director. Once we got the okay, we started building the things and searching through the prop room for props that we knew we needed,” she explained. The process of designing and building took about two months to accomplish and countless hours of afterschool time. All in all, Sbalbi believes, “it’s worth it to see everything come together and seeing the final product on the stage”.

While The Drowsy Chaperone is a comedy, there are points where the audience feels the pain of the characters.  Musical numbers, such as “As We Stumble Along”, brought members of the audience to tears. Senior Faythe Renee sung her heart out in the title role of the Chaperone. The cast brought their characters to life to life on the stage, which requires extreme focus and commitment, even when things go wrong backstage. As with most other productions, the cast had to overcome challenges while performing to put on the best show possible for the audience. During the last performance, there were technical difficulties with the microphones which effected the cast’s ability to be heard by the audience. During the week of the shows, one of the actresses was diagnosed with laryngitis, making performing extremely painful. The struggles continued when two cast members were injured on the stage. In these situations, the crew is relied upon to act fast and help, so stress is high. Crew members were running to get ice and tend to the injuries so the cast members could dance in their next scene.

There is a bittersweet feeling at the end of the last show. After all of the obstacles they have had to overcome, and all of the hard work that is put in, the cast and crew were overwhelmed with emotion. That feeling manifests itself in some bittersweet moments, especially after the curtain closes on the night of the final performance. “During the last scene we all had tears streaming,” said Thacher. This moment was especially touching to senior members of the drama club, as this was their last performance together. There are of course still performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged on May 11th, 17th and 18th, but that production does not include the full drama club cast because of limited roles. Tears were shed at the beginning, middle and end of the final night of The Drowsy Chaperone.  Before the show began there was a warm up circle where seniors gave speeches. One by one each senior stood in the middle and spoke of the drama club and what it has meant to them. The final speech moved every single member of cast and crew to tears and the circle ended with a group hug and singing of the last song of the show, “As We Stumble Along-Reprise”. One of the leaving members, senior Faythe Renee, believes “I could not have asked for a better musical to go out with.” Renee also wants to thank all the people who made drama what it is today, “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to go through it all with.”

Photo by Fatima Ali
A few cast and crew members pose for a picture backstage. From left to right, back row is Meghan Pinter, Lauren Cincotta, Molly Ryder, Sara LaFrance. Bottom row is Alex Guevremont, Ceara Bowler, and Gillian Gray.

Photo by Fatima Ali
Devin Gearty and Faythe Renee perform on stage after Renee’s solo “As We Stumble Along”.

Photo by Fatima Ali
 Director Chris Webber giving a motivational speech before the final show of The Drowsy Chaperone.

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