High school musical offers unique twist

Theatre: Foothills fine arts production bringing audience on the stage

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am

Alberta High School of Fine Arts student Jordan Kunz rehearses with classmates for the school’s upcoming musical “The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
Alberta High School of Fine Arts student Jordan Kunz rehearses with classmates for the school’s upcoming musical “The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Anyone planning to take in this winter’s high school musical theatre could find their literacy skills put to the test in a most public platform.

The Alberta High School of Fine Arts’ upcoming two-act comedy “The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will bring three unsuspecting audience members onto the stage alongside the high school’s 10 actors each night as contestants in the spelling bee when the production hits the school’s stage in the new year.

“I will, in conjunction with the comfort counselor, scope three people in the audience to bring on the stage,” said artistic and technical director James Keary. “They will be called up intermittently with the other spellers in the bee and will be asked to spell a word.”

Keary said those wanting to enjoy the performance just as spectators need not worry, those selected can opt out.

This is the first time the school’s musical theatre is bringing audience members on stage and Keary said he knew it would take big talent to pull it off.

“Because of our talent pool with the strength of students who have been in our program the last couple of years we really wanted to focus this year on characterization and building that strength because we know there’s a number of our students this year compared to other years who most likely will be pursuing performance-based art program this year,” he said. “We as directors know their degree of commitment from the previous shows.”

Grade 12 student Will Carr, who wants to pursue a career in musical theatre, is perfecting his role as a high-achieving former spelling bee champion.

“The stronger your character the easier it is to improvise in that character,” he said. “It all takes practice. We are going to be bringing in people who have not seen the script into our rehearsals so we can work with them.”

This role is a new challenge for Carr, who performed in numerous plays, attended acting camps and took part in acting workshops.

“Everyone I talked to in the theatre community around Alberta says it’s a great show and it really gets the audience involved,” he said. “Even though I’ve done improvisation in the past I’ve never implemented it into the show.”

The biggest challenge for Carr is the musical numbers. With just two years singing experience he found a voice coach to help perfect his performance.

“The male vocals are always quite high,” he said. “I’m really working on opening up and using my technique and enhancing what I can do. It’s really pushing my range of what I’ve done in the past.”

Grant Taggart, also in Grade 12, had to dig deep for his character – a contestant with ADHD who was brought into the bee unexpectedly and doesn’t expect to spell one word correctly.

This is Taggart’s second performance with the school’s musical theatre.

“There is so much to (my character),” he said. “You’ve got to really dig to get everything out of him. Once you really have the character down it’s not really what should I do in this position but more what would my character do.”

Taggart said he’s confident the cast of 10 will do just fine when it’s time to perform.

“Everybody was picked very well for our characters,” he said. “It was a long process as far as auditioning went. We really stand out well and really work well together.”

Taggart said he is glad to be among the talented cast.

“I had always been fond of acting,” he said. “I wanted to act since I was very young. I thought it would be a good thing to try out to see how it went and it just kind of stuck on me.”

With the performance more than a month away, Keary said there is still a lot to do.

“Come the end of December our show is really done as far as most of the rehearsal musically and developmentally,” he said. “When we get back after the holidays we use that time to polish. That’s why we put on the caliber and quality of shows we do because of the polishing process. The students keep pushing us directors to bring the bar up.”

When the cast, seven band students performing the musical numbers and technical crew return to school following the Christmas break in early January, Keary will give his usual pep talk.

“One of the things I talk to them about mostly in January is about making the magic happen on stage,” he said. “Not just for the audience being engaged in the show and the spectacle of the show but making the magic happen for who they are as actors or musicians or technicians developing their crafts.”

Performances take place on Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and $25 on the closing night where food will be provided. To purchase tickets call 403-540-6574.


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