Curtains set to rise on HTA play
Performing Arts: High School students take on Broadway musical
Thursday, Mar 13, 2014 10:34 am
A group of Okotoks high school students are facing one of their biggest challenges yet.
Holy Trinity Academy has been a whirlwind activity the past five months with students running lines, developing characters, designing sets, learning music and perfecting dance choreography in preparation for the school’s upcoming spring musical “Curtains,” set to open next week.
“Some days I would go to school, go to rehearsal, rush home, rehearse, go to work and rush home and go to bed,” said Grade 12 student Jacqui Halase, an actor in the play. “I had to book off work a bunch of times. There’s rehearsals going on every day. In March we practically live on stage.”
Halase said “Curtains” has been her most challenging production as she attempted to develop her general manager character.
“I really couldn’t relate to the character to begin with,” she said. “I had to do a lot of searching and digging and playing around. It’s been this big journey.”
Halase is among a cast of 56 students in this month’s musical, a humerous parody of a 1950s “whodunit” theatre mystery about a police detective who investigates a series of murders that took place behind the scenes of a musical called Robbin’ Hood.
“It’s super funny,” she said. “I laughed out loud lots of times.”
Halase’s choice to audition for “Curtains” was an easy one. She’s been performing in school plays since Grade 7.
“I’ve just loved being on the stage,” she said. “I love drama, I love the community that comes out of the whole process. Whenever a show goes on I have to be a part of it.”
Wendy Doerksen, the school’s drama teacher and musical director, knew “Curtains” wouldn’t be easy, but was confident the students would be up for the challenge.
Doerksen said it’s not a well-known musical, having only been on Broadway for a couple of years, but it was nominated for numerous awards and provided a captivating plot.
“We haven’t ever done a mystery,” she said. “We wanted to do something of a different style.”
The combination of a challenging musical score and numerous singing and dancing parts, including seven all-cast dance numbers, made the lighthearted comedy one of the school’s biggest challenges yet and the students rose to the challenge, she said.
“We have some younger actors in lead roles this year and they have absolutely surpassed our expectations,” she said. “It’s extremely demanding. They find the dancing to be very rigorous and exhausting.”
Among them is Grade 10 students Luis Diaz, who is playing the detective.
Having moved to Okotoks last summer, Diaz figured joining the drama club would be a great way to meet people and has been enjoying the challenge learning the various singing parts, dance choreography and lines.
“It really turned out to be a really great experience,” he said. “It’s an investment of time and effort and you really have to be able to work together. You see how the music and dancing comes together and the company grows together and it’s nice to see how it all evolves.”
Diaz isn’t new to the stage. He performed in numerous plays at his middle school in Chili.
“I’ve always been very interested in drama,” he said.
Grade 12 student Sarah Hoven was also up for the challenge when she signed up to play the keyboard in the pit band.
“A lot of the music is really difficult,” she said. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be. We’ve been working really hard to make it sound like it’s not hard even if it is.”
Hoven, who is in the school’s jazz and concert bands, said the 20-piece orchestra has been practicing a few times a week to perfect its sound for more than two dozen songs.
“I think part of it comes from the keys the singers need are really awkward keys for our instruments,” she said. “We really depend on the singers to add the personality onto the music and at the same time we want to make the singer shine and sound the best they can.”
With a few practices a week, Hoven said the pit band has come a long way.
“When we started playing it everyone was more focused on their own parts,” she said. “It was disjointed at times. We’re now getting comfortable and it all goes together really well.”
To make “Curtains” a success various departments in the school collaborated to construct the set, design posters and programs, do the lighting and sound, play the music, perform the dance choreography and act, Doerksen said.
“We haven’t cut any corners,” she said. “It is the same Broadway show that ran on Broadway. It just shows a real collaboration at our school that all of these department come together and put on this production.”
As “Curtains” falls into place during its final week, Doerksen is noticing some big changes among the students.
“Their confidence has just grown,” she said. “They are collaborating with so many other people. They have to support each other, they have to just be so extremely dedicated and committed to each other.”
The production of “Curtains” takes place March 20, 21 and 22 at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 22 in the school’s theatre.
Tickets can be purchased at Holy Trinity School at 403-938-2477. Tickets cost $12 for students and $15 for adults.