With 27 different songs and over 20 characters, strong communication and careful planning are “vital” to the show, according to theatre senior and production manager Sunaina Singh. Preparing for the show required staying after school in the Brandt Black Box Theater to drill choreography and guide actors through cues until every flair of the hand was synchronized and sound effects played at the right moments. By opening night, most of the cast and management team had dedicated approximately 170 hours to the show at school and an extra 130 hours outside of school.
“The rehearsal process was super fun because not only were you trying to master all the blocking like you do in every show, but I got to work with a character as complex as Audrey (who has) such physical quirkiness and like habits that you wouldn’t have in everyday life,” said theatre senior Grace Trainor, who plays Audrey in the show. “As I got my makeup and costume and hair, it really helped me immerse myself in Audrey, and I think everyone can say the same about their characters.”
Theatre junior Avery Whitacre, the assistant choreographer and understudy for Audrey, was responsible for not only helping to create and teach the dances but also leading stretches and exercises. Before every run, the actors circled around in the green room for a series of warmups to prepare for the upcoming rehearsal.
“Each time we do the warmup, it changes. There’s always different leaders depending on the show, and it is a different time we chant out depending on the show,” said theatre senior Daniel Reiter, who plays Mr. Mushnik. “My favorite part of this warmup is seeing everyone at different levels. If it’s someone’s first show, they won’t know how to do the warmup and tend to pretend they do.”
As individual scene practices came to a close, the team started running through the full show. For director Charles Swan, assistant director and theatre junior Felicia Voehringer, and the rest of the management team, full runs help connect each aspect of the story.
“The typical day in rehearsal changed as we got further into the process, beginning with musical rehearsals where actors got the chance to learn and sing the songs as a group to full runs including tech,” theatre junior and stage manager Devyn Humble said. “We work hand in hand with the crews and crew heads to make sure all technical aspects of the director’s visions are met and executed.”
During a run-through, the management team fills binders and charts with feedback on anything from a slight modification in an actor’s step to the cutting of a portion of a song. After a run-through, they all sit together — typically circled on the floor of the Black Box — as Mr. Swan begins the critiques.
“Okay, are we ready?” he asks. In return, he receives a chorus of “yes,” along with one “here it comes.”
While the feedback is typically centered around the slip-ups the actors made, the critique was not without its compliments.
“I was in the baddest mood when this started for a number of reasons … but by the end I was having a very nice time, so that is the power of theatre. That is the gift of doing what we get to do. For two hours, you could literally help someone not have such a (bad) day,” Mr. Swan said to start off his notes. “You give them two hours of coming up for air, and that’s something, especially in these beautiful, tragic times.”