Musical a tribute to pop sounds of the '80s
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013 10:33 am
Big hair and shoulder pads? What were they thinking?
This is the question Alberta High School of Fine Arts students in the Musical Theatre Program, formerly known as the Mainstage Performing Arts Program, have been asking as they prepare for their two-act musical production of “Back to the ’80s.”
Grade 10 student Tessa Waddell said she didn’t know what to think during wardrobe when she saw what people in the ’80s wore and how they styled their hair.
“We just had our costume fitting a couple of days ago,” she said. “The shoulder pads are so big. It’s hard to get used to how big the hair was back then.”
Waddell plays a hopelessly romantic high school counselor in a story about fitting in where a 30-year-old reminisces about his days in high school during the ’80s. The performance features a Star Wars dream sequence, high-
energy dance routines and an ’80s party scene.
Waddell was prepared for her leading role having performed in Okotoks Junior High School musicals for three years. She also attended the Artstrek Camp at Red Deer College last summer. On top of that, she was forewarned by friends in older grades the high school production would be much more grueling and intense than what she was has done previously.
Waddell said she was up for the challenge if it meant being on stage.
“You just get to try new things and really expand your horizons,” she said. “You put yourself on the line when you are in front of
It was worth the hard work and endless hours of practice, Waddell said.
“I think it’s a fun script,” she said. “It’s got some really witty scenes.”
Grade 11 student Will Carr, who plays a straight-laced, conservative vice-principal, struggled with the ’80s music.
“I’ve never been really into the music of the ’80s era, especially not this type of music,” he admitted. “Getting into the groove of listening to that and appreciating it was a bit difficult for me.”
Although Carr has learned to come to grips with the ’80s pop music, he was hit with another challenge — the choreography.
“This year is quite a dance-heavy show and I’m not a dancer whatsoever,” he said. “That’s always a challenge with musical theatre if you’re not a dancer.”
Like Waddell, Carr has experience in musical theatre and even played one of the leading roles in the school’s production “All Shook Up” last year.
Now in his second year with the Musical Theatre Program, he knows what is expected of him as an actor.
“The expectations are always high in the Musical Theatre Program because past years have always put on such remarkable shows,” he said. “Last year I definitely learned to live up to those. Coming into the second year I know what their expectations are.”
Director James Keary said 23 students have shown great commitment in preparation for next month’s performance.
“There is a fair degree of high expectations involved in the program,” he said. “We expect to see the characterization manifested within the music and dance. We directors raise the bar, they come to it and we raise it again.”
To get the caliber of performances expected of the school’s arts program the directors challenge the students’ skills and abilities, said Keary.
“That meets with frustration, stress and periods where emotions get the better of individuals but they all succumb to those stresses and meet the expectations,” he said.
With a group of less experienced students this year, Keary said they selected a play not so challenging.
“We needed to build some skill level with our newbies coming into the program,” he said. “Because of the variety of skill level that’s coming to us we’ve had to go to musical shows that don’t have as much harmony within the numbers.”
Keary said the music is on the simple side, allowing the students to build their skill and comfort level before moving on to more challenging tasks.
Songs in the musical include ’80s classics like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Footloose,” “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “500 Miles,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Love Shack.”
In addition to learning their lines, music and choreography, the students were required to research the ’80s and develop their characters, knowing exactly how their character would react in any situation, said Keary.
Once the performance is set to begin, Keary invites friends who are casting directors from Toronto and Vancouver to see the students perform allowing the students to make connections in the industry.
“Some of my students are looking at post secondary theatre performances,” he said. “Every year we’ve had students go on to Toronto or Vancouver in technical or performance programs because of those connections. I’m about producing opportunities that can open up the doors to post secondary pursuits.”
Carr has big dreams to attend the theatre and acting program at Red Deer College and become a professional actor.
“I would love to do film or TV or anything I can get, really,” he said. “I love being on stage. It’s a real adrenalin rush.”
Performances of “Back to the ’80s” take place on Feb. 1,2 and 6-9 at 7 p.m. with a matinee on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. The cost is $20 and tickets can be purchased by calling 403-540-6574 or by going to email@example.com