Musical overcomes many obstacles

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Drama students in Okotoks’ public high school have been facing some challenges as they prepare for this fall’s school musical.

With Cyrano de Burgershack just days away from hitting the Alberta High School of Fine Arts’ new theatre, musical theatre students have been working around some technical difficulties.

The school’s new drama teacher, Bruce MacDonald, said there have been some hiccups getting the theatre show-ready as his technical class works to set up the lights and sound system. It’s been a lot of trial and error, he said.

“We ran a cord to the speaker and it was flawed so we had to rerun it,” he said. “The actual sound system won’t be in until after Christmas.”

Retractable seating won’t be installed until the new year, so temporary seating has been put in place in the meantime, he said.

More work was involved than usual for the crew to create a 10-foot-tall backdrop, which will be used for future plays, MacDonald said.

“There was a lot more painting because it’s brand new wood,” he said. “I have a class that that’s what they do. That class has been working on that technical aspect of it.”

As for the acting side of Cyrano de Burgershack, a high school musical rewrite of the 1897 classic Cyrano de Bergerac, it’s been a breeze, said MacDonald.

“We are a bit ahead of schedule,” he said. “Everyone was off book two weeks before I expected them to be. Everything is coming together.”

That preparedness came in handy last week when one of the actors had to leave the province due to a family emergency. The role was handed to a Grade 10 drama student, MacDonald said.

“I think we will be good,” he said. “We’ve got lots of rehearsals over the weekend.”

MacDonald said the students embraced the musical, despite not being familiar with the story.

The musical tells the story of Cyrano, who frequently gets into fights because of his big nose, falling in love with fencing instructor Roxanne.

“I’ve got to really hand it to them,” he said. “They don’t know this musical because it’s new, but they’ve really bought into it and are having a good time with it.”

The students took the lead on various projects related to the play including vocals and choreography, MacDonald said.

“This group has a lot of basic skills down so you don’t have to teach them – things like being still on stage, projection and they can all sing and dance,” he said. “I was pretty surprised about that.”

Grade 11 student Tseide Krekelberg was put in charge of choreographing almost 20 songs the actors will sing throughout the two-act play. She had moved to Canada from the Netherlands last summer with experience in musical theatre. She also taught choreography at her old dance school.

“I can hear a song and make a dance,” she explained. “I made dance moves everyone can do, movements that are not really hard.”

Krekelberg said she created choreography with hip-hop moves.

“I want the audience to feel what we are feeling,” she said. “I really want the public to see what we mean with it.”

The actors caught on fast when she showed them the choreography and Krekelberg, who has two small roles in the musical, is happy with how it’s coming together.

“I think it’s going to be great,” she said. “I don’t have a really big part. For me, the dancing was enough.”

Three students took charge of the musical component of Cyrano de Burgershack. Among them was Grade 12 student Mackenzie Sutton, who helped to lead rehearsals and made sure they were on track with each song.

Sutton, who plays one of Cyrano’s friends in the musical, said she helped students with pitch and notes.

Teaching vocals was the easy part. The challenge for Sutton was adjusting to the new theatre.

Unlike the previous theatre, Sutton said the stage is an elevated platform in the middle of the room and there is no space for a green room.

In addition, the actors have to really project their voices to ensure they will be heard by the audience, she said.

On the other hand, Sutton is excited about the ability to move the curtains and that it’s the first time the school has a red curtain at the front of the stage.

Tickets to see Cyrano de Burgershack cost $15 and can be purchased at fchs.fsd38.ab.ca. Children ages six and under are free.

Performances run Dec. 14 to 16 at 7 p.m., with a matinee Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.

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