West takes first place in many competitions, but this year we were first for a different reason. Every fall the theater and music departments put on a musical here at West, while this production is often a big deal every year, this year it is extra special. The musical this year is Mamma Mia and West is the first school to gain the rights once they were available.
“I had actually called the people who had the rights to it. I called them and said, I was really interested in doing it. And then they said, you’re going to have to wait and see when it happens, but just so you know, it’ll be around this time. So basically, I waited until the day that it said it was coming out and then I immediately filled them out as soon as possible to get them,” said theater director Brad Rackers.
While the theatre department had the rights to the musical in May they were unable to announce until later.
“It was awkward because we couldn’t officially announce we were doing Mamma Mia until the end of July, because the company that had the rights had put a hold on that,” Rackers said. “So it was kind of interesting, just having like this, there was this sort of secret to the whole thing.”
The secret of the musical was interesting for the students who knew the play before it was officially announced. For students like junior Gracie Heath it meant keeping the secret from fellow students even when talking around them.
“We called it we called it ‘da da dada’ for forever, because we had to talk about it but we couldn’t say the name legally,” Heath said.
Once the musical was announced the expectations for the musical began to become real. Since many people have seen the movie, some expectations may be unrealistic.
“I do think there’s more expectation, you know, people know, a script and know, a title they kind of feel like they have some sort of a connection to them. So they expect it to be like the movie whereas I think if you’ve seen the show like the Broadway show, it’s a little bit more simple,” Rackers said.
Heath said she doesn’t believe Rackers will let the expectations change how he directs the show.
“I think that he’s not really going to change the stakes just because people know the show. He’s gonna direct it just like always, because every show should be best, it should be no matter if it’s well known or not,” Heath said.
The music directors for the show are choir director Jacob Lowry along with Katie Fischer who is working alongside Lowry. In the past Amy Krinke was a director alongside Lowry, however as she has just had a baby and has a new job, Fischer will be taking the place of the second director. “With a show of this magnitude, and with the number of kids that audition, it really does take as many hands on deck as possible to steer the ship in the right direction,” Lowry said.
As music directors, Lowry and Fischer will be making all decisions pertaining to the music. This includes analyzing all solos and chorus numbers to make sure all cast are prepared musically and seeing if there is a place where they need to add a voice or remove it.
With the show being so well known, one would think preparing the cast musically would be easier, however that is not always the case.
“That’s going to create some challenge,” Lowry said, “because everyone who’s going in knows the melody, and there are a lot of harmonic parts are a lot of harmonies that happened. Background voices that sing along to the songs that many students will not be familiar with, but they will be expected to learn. So while they may know the melody is can sing along with the CD, the challenges to learn all of the other parts.”
The increased knowledge of the show also might affect the drive of those on the cast or crew.
“I think that the expectations will push everyone in the show to work harder. Kind of like every year the seniors and juniors will keep the underclass man accountable for learning the material and giving it their all. I think with the students pushing each other it will really make the cast come together as a family and hopefully relive all negative thoughts and feelings from the atmosphere,” senior Jessica Haney said.
Those participating in the musical are already working to make the musical great: Heath, who is props head for this years musical, has been working on props over the summer, and Haney said she hopes to get the part of Donna.
“Well to prepare I have basically watched the movie an absurd amount of times and listened to all the songs in the musical pretty much all summer,” said Haney.
Along with the hard work already going into the musical, the auditions will also take more preparation since the well known musical has attracted an increase in auditions this year.
“It’s weird, we’ve had 55 people sign up to audition for the musical on the first two days… Whereas I think when it’s a show that may be lesser known people don’t jump at the chance as much,” Rackers said. “We’re just really excited to have so many kids interested in being involved.”
The added expectations along with the increased pressure at auditions is also affecting the preparations of those who have been in the musical before.
“I am definitely working harder this year than I ever have for a musical but not because of the publicity most of my preparation comes from wanting to make sure the musical lives up to the hype. That means that I need to step up my game and so does everyone else. It will help us portray the show as best we can,” Haney said.
With so many students signing up, there are somethings that Lowry and Rackers look for among those auditioning.
“Have they come prepared? That’s usually the biggest one. Are they prepared to step up? And are they ready to sing their part have they made a decision on their character? Not necessarily the character that they’re auditioning for, but then we like to see them interpret the character themselves. It’s pretty boring to see the same audition 15 times in a row so we’re always looking for that student who kind of takes the role and makes it their own,” Lowry said.
Being willing to dedicate yourself is a large portion of the audition.
“I’m always much more excited to work with the student who is willing to try, than the student who’s naturally talented, but isn’t going to give 100%. if you’re willing to go outside of your comfort zone. And when it’s time to do dance, like you’re giving it 100%, you’re being quiet, you’re being focused,” Rackers said.