Happy Thanksgiving, gentle readers!
I have a lot to be thankful for, including a wonderful family, great friends, good health and a terrific job.
I’m also grateful for my recent experience as the director of High School Musical
- it was a tremendous success for the First Stage Theatre Company
, it was (I hope) a great experience for the young people involved, and it gave First Stage a chance to give back to the community by offering its support to the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center
As a holiday treat I’m going to take you backstage. Just before the last show on Sunday, I continued a tradition that I’m going to share with you - a talk with the cast about all the people who deserve recognition for their work to create the show. Working on a show is a true team effort, and it only works if everyone does their part.
So here’s what I said to them: High School Musical
has been an incredible experience! You’ve made new friends and performed before some amazing crowds - Wednesday’s school show was the most energetic and fanatical audience I’ve ever seen.
There are lots of people to thank, like:
- Your family, friends and loved ones who supported you being part of this show.
- everyone at the Marshall Artists Series
and the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center
for their kindness and hard work in allowing us to perform in this great facility.
- the union crew of Local 369 of the International Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees
who ran the rails and lights for us...
- Jeff Riley
and his crew for an amazing job of managing the mics and sound.
- your tech crew, they’ve done an incredible job behind the scenes, moving sets, managing props and special effects - Zach Davis, Daniel Phillips, Jessica Handloser, Joseph Enders, Emily Goetz, Christopher Crawford, Claire Boyles, Lindsey Cremeans
and Mary Frances Wilkes
. - they make the on-stage performers look good, and you should thank them for it.
- even our talented leads couldn’t do this show without everyone in the cast doing their job and pulling their weight... so congratulations to:
- the Skaters - Troy Nicely, Sarah Clark, Marissa Clayton, Chloe Donahoe, Brooke Estep, Chloe Herrold
and Ashlee Matthews
- the Thespians - Alissa Fetherolf, Morgan Jacobson, Sydney Pay, Sarah Wolfe, Clark Lewis, Mary Kate Young, Courtney Cremeans, Emily Davis
and Amy Klim
- the Brainiacs - Maggie Saunders, Jacob Smith, Todd Childers, Sophia Berhie, Rachel Enders, Ashley Johnson, Alisa McGrony, Christa Navy
and Ashlee Simkins
- the Cheerleaders - Allison Bartram, Hailey Bellamy, Grayon Collins, Allison Harker, Angel Harrison, Morgan Raines
and Meg Riley
- and the Jocks - Eric Newfeld, Caleb Donahoe, Garrett Gaunch, Avery Kitchen
and T.J. Thompson
for a job well done!
- a special thanks to the adults in the cast - there are actually five - including Ryan Riegel
; our Mascot, Zach Davis
, who keeps going despite illness and having to wear the fur suit; and of course, our faculty - Bill Bartlett
, who stepped in late in the game and saved my hide - and my pal Debbie Wolfe
, who keeps reminding me that I told her that Ms. Darbus was only in a scene or two - hey, I miscounted! I’ll talk more about "Ms. Tenney" in a minute...
I’ve been so impressed with this cast! We’ve seen great work from everyone... but I want to shine the light for a moment on three guys who’ve gone beyond the call of duty, both in their part and helping out in many other ways... namely Jacob Smith, Morgan Jacobson
and Caleb Donahoe
I always enjoy seeing the natural cast leaders emerge - the ones who lead by example, by hard work and by their dedication. I’m talking about Alissa Fetherolf, Maggie Saunders, Hailey Bellamy, Eric Newfeld
and Mary Kate Young
Now I want to talk about our leads. For Drew Sowards
and Hannah Boyles
, this is their first show, but you’d never know it. They’ve both done a fantastic job rocking the house, and I’m so proud of both of them.
You’ve all been lucky enough to see an acting clinic put on during rehearsals, and Jordan Sager
and Josh Meredith
have demonstrated what it is to get the maximum impact out of your role. It’s been a blast to watch you guys at work!
Last but not least, the stars of the show - Elliott Imlay
and Angela Pino
. You know, everyone who tries out for a show wants the lead roles, but they usually don’t realize how difficult those roles can be. The leads shoulder much of the responsibility for the show. Troy and Gabriella are the heart of the show - so much of whether or not the show works depends on the two of them being sympathetic, believable, convincingly in love with each other - not to mention great singers and dancers. You two were perfect in the roles, and I am so proud of the great work you’ve both done.
Now we want to take a moment to recognize the Seniors in our show - we have two seniors this time around. That means this might be their last time on stage as a member of First Stage. So let’s get Daniel Phillips
up here! He’s my hero - he’s all over this stage, moving set pieces, managing slo-motion effects - all while maintaining the coolest hair of any guy in the show! (Daniel has his hair spiked up high in the air.)
Our other senior is a First Stage veteran. Jordan Sager
has played dozens of roles, including a cowgirl in “Schoolhouse Rock”... she got “killed” on stage in her last two shows - Les Miz
... and she’s had another star turn here as Sharpay. But all that aside, she’s always impressed me with her dedication, her hard work and her sheer talent. You won’t find a cast member more dedicated to making the show better... so let’s hear it for our seniors!
OK, now we need to talk about the first ones in line to make this show happen - your directing team - like our marketing director, Justin Minsker
; our tech director, Schotch Donahoe
; our costume director, Jeanette Bills
; our Stage Manager, Ashleigh Bills
, who has done an incredible job running all the tech elements that make up this show; our set contruction director, who’s responsible for this amazing set you’re performing on, Jack Welch
; and our Producer, who not only coordinated a million details that made this all possible, but she also took on a stage role (Ms. Tenney) to help make the show happen! Let’s hear it for our producer, Jeanette Rowsey
You can’t have a musical without the music, so let’s hear it for the master of the keyboard... the sultan of song... our musical maestro... you know him, you love him.. give it up for Mr. Mark Smith
And finally, my usual line about Amy Browning
is that she’s like a Swiss Army Knife, in that she can handle a hundred different jobs without batting an eye, whether it’s teaching dance steps, fixing hair backstage, finding props that no one else can dig up, tweaking performances., adjusting costumes, mediating misunderstandings... heck, I’ve seen her sweeping up the auditorium between shows. She’s absolutely been dedicated to making this show the best it can be.. and she’s dedicated to making it a great experience for you all. Every show has its stars and its supporting cast, and when it comes to this show, Mark and Amy are your directing stars!
As for me, this is the eighth show I’ve directed, and each show is special in its own way - but given the size of the job... the size of the stage... and the fantastic job you’ve all done... I have to say that I don’t think I could be more proud of a cast than I am of this one. This is one of the best shows First Stage has ever done, and that’s because of your hard work and dedication, and it’s been an honor to be part of your show.
For almost a year this show has been in the works... and it comes down to this. So get your energy up... focus on where you have to be and when to get there... and most of all... have fun!
Saturday’s show was awesome - the best yet! You’ve got five outstanding shows behind you... you’ve been working on this for almost three months now... you have one more chance to bust up the joint! (and they did, too - in the best possible sense.) GO WILDCATS!