CarolineKurzawa, Staff Reporter
The musical theatre department at Chattahoochee High School is well known for their spectacular plays and musicals, particularly the spring musical. Chattahoochee has tackled shows such as: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Chicago,” “Hairspray,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Grease” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Every spring, the students and faculty of Chattahoochee as well as the local community can expect to be dazzled and amazed by Chattahoochee’s spring musical. This year, the musical theatre department has pushed new boundaries with “Follies,” a show composed by the famous Stephen Sondheim. As someone who has worked on these musicals for the past four years, I am able to give an exclusive, insider review of how a fantastic spring show comes to fruition.
Before auditions can begin, the spring musical must be approved, and the rights must be purchased by the directors. This is why it can be somewhat difficult to choose a show. First, you have to make sure the rights are available and how expensive they are. The average cost of rights is $4,500-5,000, with Disney shows costing upwards of $6,000. Shows that are currently on Broadway or on tour cannot be purchased. Additionally, it is important to consider the size of the musical theatre program when choosing a show. If it is a small program, it makes sense to choose a small show. Once the rights are secured, the show must be approved by the administration, so the show is not announced until all these factors are certain.
Many people don’t know how long the cast, crew, directors and orchestra work on the musical. The auditions usually take place around November, and the cast meets in December to read through the script together. In January, rehearsals begin: they alternate between music rehearsals, where the cast learns their songs; dance rehearsals, where they work on choreography; and blocking rehearsals, where the cast works on how they will move across the stage during scenes. Most of these rehearsals last a couple of hours, ending around 6 or 7 p.m., and the stage manager attends these as well as other crew leaders like assistant stage managers or directors’ assistants. By the end of January, the cast is expected to have mostly memorized their script and music.
In February, the rehearsals start lasting longer, the set is being built and costumes begin being made. Here at Chattahoochee, we hire a technical director to help design and build the set, but cast and crew is still expected to come to set builds on Sunday afternoons. For costumes, there are costume designers and seamstresses to make sure that costumes fit the characters and show. By this time, the crew is also attending rehearsals in order to learn the pace of the show.
This year, “Follies” required even more work and dedication than other musicals due to the complex nature of the show. It required elaborate costumes, stunning dance numbers, strong singing and acting, and intricate makeup, particularly for those who were playing older characters. On the technical side, the lighting for the show, which was fantastically done by Ireland McCreadie (JR), needed to showcase the duality of the show taking place in both the present and past.
In March, the show is just around the corner, but there are still a few more regular rehearsals before the dress rehearsals start. Once the finishing touches are put on the set, blocking and costumes, the dress rehearsals begin. For dress rehearsals, the cast must be in full makeup and costume and have microphones by 5 p.m. Once we start running the show, we don’t stop except for a 10 minute break between acts. When rehearsal finishes, the cast takes off their microphones and costumes, and the cast, crew and orchestra all eat dinner together. It’s a fun time for everyone to come together and bond over delicious food. Dress rehearsal week is busy and tiring, but it means that we are that much closer to putting on an amazing show.
On show days, the energy and excitement is high. The crew must be ready to go around 4:30 p.m., and the cast must start getting ready at 5:00 p.m. in order to be ready for warm ups at 6:20 p.m. The orchestra arrives around 6:30 p.m., so they can be tuned and ready to go for the 7:00 p.m. show. Once everyone is ready, we gather in the chorus room for warm ups and pre-show traditions. After warm ups and traditions are finished, the cast and crew gets into places backstage, and the orchestra settles in the pit. The house manager lets the stage manager know how many people are still in the lobby, and once everyone has made it to their seats, the lighting designer or assistant dims the auditorium lights, letting people know that the show is about to begin. Then, the pre-show announcement plays, and the orchestra begins to play, opening the show. Behind the scenes, the stage manager is calling cues over a radio from the tech booth in the back of the auditorium, quick changes are happening backstage and microphones are being checked and having batteries changed. Once the show is over, the company bows, and the cast, crew and orchestra go into the lobby to be greeted by family and friends.
However, the musical process does not end until after closing night because after the final show, we have strike, where the set is taken down and put away for the next year. Once this is finished, the musical season is officially over for the year, and we wait anxiously for the next exciting show to begin.