Students Own the Stage in Area Musicals

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Students at Southwestern High School rehearse "Mary Poppins".

Contributing Writer
Stephanie McCraw

People who buy tickets to high school stage productions support the arts in their community, and students get the audience they deserve after putting in months of dedicated work. “The stage is a place for students to grow in courage and test their individual potential,” according to Lauren Scharf, Musical Director at Jamestown High School.
“I’ve been able to watch the kids grow year to year,” Scharf said. “As freshman they start off timid, and then when they’re a Junior or Senior they really begin to own the stage and show lots of confidence.” The same is true from early auditions to opening night. “They just become more eager as practices go on.”

Southwestern High School Students during dress rehearsals

Local Musical Tradition

Most schools in the area plan and budget for a musical to be performed in the spring. They begin work in January, practicing three days a week and then at least five days a week afterschool as showtime approaches. This, along with regular schoolwork, reveals a great deal of dedication from all involved. The benefits of participating have been compared to being on a sports team. Students learn to be organized, to cooperate, and to commit to a cause that’s bigger than themselves. Besides being in the cast there are opportunities to be in the pit orchestra, build sets, and to help run the sound system. A stage production has many working parts, as Helen Keller once said, “

Sharing the Passion

Southwestern’s Director, Linda Ostrom, clearly has a passion for theater, and the actors have caught it. “To see all of the students’ work and efforts come together,” Ostrom said. “It makes me so proud of them. I feel that the most rewarding part of a musical is when the cast takes control of that stage, takes all the characterization, costumes, dances, songs, blocking and hits those stage boards as ONE BIG musical family all working for the same goal…to entertain and show their talents.” Ostrom brings her own acting experience to Southwestern, having recently played Donna in the Lucille Ball Little Theater production of Mamma Mia!

Southwestern High School Students during dress rehearsals

An Invitation

Excitement was palpable at a dress rehearsal when players sang into their mics and the lights dimmed. Backstage, Alexa (Mary Poppins) had nothing but good things to say of her experience thus far. “It’s been amazing. I’ve done a lot of theater, but this is my first lead.” Alexa is a Senior this year and during a special rehearsal she got to test out the flying apparatus. “This is the biggest production Southwestern has done in six or seven years. With the beautiful sets, and the flying scene, it’s one you don’t want to miss.” Readers can check dates and purchase tickets online through the school website at www.swcsk12.org

Students at Jamestown High School rehearse “The Drowsy Chaperone”

Another Great Show

Scharf served as the vocal director for two years, and since starting has helped stage three JHS musicals and two middle school productions. She picked the musical The Drowsy Chaperone this year because it has thirteen lead roles. This is rare for a production but she knew there were many students who could handle the opportunity of a lead.
There is no lack of variety as directors choose musicals tailored to spotlight their school’s own talent. While Mary Poppins is popular, fun, and technical, The Drowsy Chaperone is a lesser known story but will showcase the specific talent at JHS, allowing for many strong leads as well as awesome ensembles.
The Drowsy Chaperone sparks curiosity with the title alone. It’s a “show within a show,” narrated by The Man in Chair, played by Bradley Galeazzo. Director Lauren Scharf explains that “He is a theater fanatic who is feeling a little blue and decides to cheer himself up by playing a record of the original cast recording of a fictional 1928 Broadway musical.” The audience can expect 1920’s big band and jazz music and one of the director’s favorite songs entitled “Show Off” where showgirl Janet Van De Graff, played by Sophia Isabella, renounces her glamorous life in a most ostentatious manner. Other leads include Isaiah Quigley, Corin Derby, Nolan Stevenson, Donovan Gomez, and Abigail Roof.
It would be a tragedy to let spring pass by without catching the entertainment of a live and local musical. Readers are encouraged to support the arts in schools by getting tickets. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do little. Together we can do so much.”