The show goes on this weekend
(From left, Bryant Lo and Sayeel Alam rehearse scenes from Scarsdale High School’s production of Guys and Dolls at Scarsdale High School Auditorium on Nov. 8, 2012. Photo by Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News.)
In theater, the week before the show opens is spent in often tedious technical rehearsals, where set changes are perfected, lighting cues are mastered and costume changes and orchestra solos are ironed out.
It can be so frustrating, with stops and starts and “holds,” that it is often called “Hell Week.”
But after weathering Superstorm Sandy (which closed schools for at least a week) and a nor’easter (which dumped heavy, wet snow across the Lower Hudson Valley and canceled rehearsals), this “Hell Week” — for shows set to open this weekend — must seem like, well, heaven. It means rehearsals won’t take a back seat to the forecast with the show just around the corner.
One production planned for last weekend, Lakeland High School’s “Once Upon a Mattress” — about a princess who’ll swim the moat and do anything to find her prince — couldn’t overcome the loss of rehearsal time and was done in by the weather. Director Darrin Grimm plans to reschedule its performances to Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
In Nyack, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” had to wait a week, but will go on this weekend, along with several other shows, from the whodunnit “But Why Bump Off Barnaby?” in Eastchester, a“Tartuffe” in Armonk and Briarcliff’s “Our Country’s Good,” set in an Australian penal colony.
Barring another megastorm, a few schools will stage musicals this week: Scarsdale’s “Guys and Dolls”; Walter Panas’ “The Sound of Music”; and “Gypsy” at Horace Greeley in Chappaqua.
In Scarsdale, this is the only musical of the school year. At Panas and at Lakeland, there’s a second all-school musical, traditionally in the spring. At Greeley, this is the only all-school musical; there’s an all-senior show a Greeley tradition, in May. (This school year, it’s “Psycho Beach Party,” presented May 2-4 by what is typically about 150 soon-to-be-graduating seniors.)
Audiences who support these intrepid teams of actors, musicians and technicians this weekend will be rewarded with classic musical theater.
“Gypsy,” the story of famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, is really the story of her domineering, damn-the-torpedoes stage mother, Mama Rose, one of the form’s greatest roles. The songs, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, include “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” and the game-changing “Rose’s Turn.”
“The Sound of Music,” is as iconic a musical as they come, with songs ranging from the title tune to “My Favorite Things,” to “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”
Liora Bogin, who was Eliza Doolittle at Panas last spring, is playing Fraulein Maria this fall.
The 17-year-old senior says having two shows bookending the school year is a luxury, but she adds that the only downside is the long break between musicals, when theater kids at Panas tend to get “down in the dumps.”
What might seem inconceivable to those older than, say, 20, is that many of the kids in the cast had never seen the l film before beginning work on this production.
“The first time I saw the movie was two weeks ago, when Dominic (Pironti, who plays Max) lent me the DVD,” says Danielle Hanney, 17, a senior, who plays Baroness Elsa Schraeder at Panas.
“Guys and Dolls,” Frank Loesser’s Broadway fable, is based on the world of Damon Runyon.
With songs like “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” “Fugue for Tinhorns,” “If I Were a Bell” and “Luck Be a Lady,” it’s another classic.
“It’s exhilarating, putting on a show,” says Scarsdale senior Sunny Feinstein, 17, who plays one of the showgirls. “The stakes are so high. You can’t repeat it. Every performance is a new experience.”
Ali Whitney, who plays Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” is a member of Scarsdale’s ski and golf teams. She says the pressure she feels waiting to go on stage is different than the pressure standing over a four-foot putt.
“It’s good nerves. You sort of black out when you get out on stage. The music starts and something just takes over in you and somehow you get it all out and you come off stage and it’s like ‘Wow! That was amazing!’ I love sports and being on a team, but this is more like a family. You come here and everyone’s different, with different personalities working for months for this one weekend.”
Senior Gavin Elwes, 17, who plays Nathan Detroit, the well-intentioned but slightly dim proprietor of “the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.” He says the comic role give him “a chance to bring out my dumb side, which is a lot of fun.”
Theater runs in Elwes’ family: His cousin, Cary, played Westley, the dread Pirate Roberts, in the classic 1987 Rob Reiner film “The Princess Bride.” Elwes says he hopes to study theater in college next year.
“Guys and Dolls” is full of laughs, but one lyric is sure to get a louder laugh in this production, when the cool customer Sky Masterson (Nick Cioffi) tells the mission doll Sarah Brown (Sophie Laruelle) that her dream man is “a Scarsdale Galahad.”
Each production this weekend — musical or otherwise — is a team effort, an enterprise fraught with emotion and sacrifice and lots of rehearsal, even in the face of superstorms and nor’easters.
If you go
Here’s a sampling of high-school theater offerings this weekend:
Eastchester: “But Why Bump Off Barnaby?” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17. $8, $6 students. 2 Stewart Place, Eastchester.
Nyack: Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” 8 p.m. Nov. 15 and 16. $12, $7 for students. 360 Christian Herald Road, Upper Nyack. 845-353-7100.
Blind Brook: “The Laramie Project,” 7:30 p.m., Nov. 16 and 17. $10. (Not suitable for elementary-school students.) 840 King St., Rye Brook. email@example.com
Briarcliff: “Our Country’s Good,” 7:30 p.m., Nov. 16; 2:30 and 8 p.m., Nov. 17; 2:30 p.m., Nov. 18. $15. 444 Pleasantville Road, Briarcliff Manor. firstname.lastname@example.org
Horace Greeley: “Gypsy,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15; 8 p.m., Nov. 16, 17. $10. 70 Roaring Brook Road, Chappaqua.
Byram Hills: “Tartuffe,” 7 p.m. Nov. 15, 8 p.m. Nov. 16, 17. $15, $10 students and seniors. 914-273-9200, ext. 4550. email@example.com.
Scarsdale: “Guys and Dolls,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16, 17; 2 p.m., Nov. 18. 1057 White Plains Road, Scarsdale.
Walter Panas: “The Sound of Music,” 8 p.m., Nov. 16, 17. 300 Croton Ave., Cortlandt Manor. 914-739-2823, Ext. 555.
Ardsley: “Almost Maine,” 7:30 p.m., Nov. 16, 17. In the Ardsley High School Library.