Singing for Spring: High schools bring out their best for this season's musicals

2014-03-23T07:00:00Z Singing for Spring: High schools bring out their best for this season's musicalsJennifer Pallay Times Correspondent
March 23, 2014 7:00 am  • 

High schoolers look forward to spring as a time for prom, time for baseball and time to sing. Spring musicals fill local school auditoriums with song and dance, showcasing the triple threat for students who can act, sing and dance.

Whiting High School performed this year’s spring musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” mid-March and received a lot of community support.

Scott Allen, theater director for school city of Whiting and a second-grade teacher, directs plays for students in third grade, middle school and high school. He does musicals with the third-graders and high schoolers and said by having the students for nine or 10 years, he can choose productions that will play into their strengths. He also chooses musicals that the students will have fun performing.

This was the first time Whiting High School has performed “Little Shop of Horrors.” Allen said he tries to choose popular musicals where the audience and students are already familiar with the songs and plots.

“It seems (the students) have more fun with a musical, with the choreography and the singing.” During rehearsals, they will ask to perform a certain song again and again. When doing a straight play, that does not happen, he said.

Musical theater also helps increase the range for what types of roles students can play in the future.

“It will definitely help them if they want to do more after high school and a lot of them do.”

The kids had a blast performing “Little Shop” and the audience responded well.

This year’s performances had extra meaning as students dedicated them to Penny Banfield, a Whiting elementary school principal, who died suddenly a few weeks before the shows.

“She was big into theater,” Allen said.

At Griffith High School, this year's spring play will be "Willy Wonka," a musical version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The song choices and message behind the story were among deciding factors, said Griffith High School theater sponsor Jenna Candiano, who is working with director Casey Varody to help students put on the show.

The students voted to do a musical and this selection offers something for everyone and plays to a sense of nostalgia for all ages.

"They always like doing musicals because they have a lot of variety, and it also gives the chance to sing and act all in one performance. That’s a big one," said Candiano. "It shows their talent more. It shows their range. If they are seriously pursuing acting, it’s the triple threat." The musical is the top performance an actor can give, she said.

"If they can pull it off, it will look good for them in the future."

Musicals are  fun and hopefully bring in a big crowd, she said. "You can bring your grandparents as well as your younger siblings. It’s a good family show."

The school has not done a musical in two years. The decision typically depends on budget and the students involved in drama from year to year.

Steven Caraher, a Munster High School senior, who will play Teyve in Munster Theatre Company’s spring musical, “Fiddler on the Roof," said he loves to perform in front of people.

"The musical offers a truly unique way for me to do just that. All the costumes, lighting, and sets make it possible for me to be transported to another place and time without ever leaving the stage. Nothing beats the feeling of pretending to be someone else for a couple hours."

Caraher is a veteran on the Munster High School stage, having worked as a performer, assistant director and co-director on various plays and musicals freshman through senior years.

This year's musical will offer high quality live theater for a low price, he said.

"We have a very talented cast for ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and you most certainly will not be disappointed."

Larry Brechner, the auditorium director for the Munster school system and producer and director for the Munster Theatre Company that will perform “Fiddler,” said the high school has always done a spring musical since it was built in 1966. “Fiddler” was previously performed in 1972 and 2000.

“This is the second time I have directed it here at Munster,” said Brechner, who has also directed, produced and worked as lighting designer for the show at other venues.

The Munster High School spring musicals are typically Broadway classics featuring a large number of student talents on and off stage, while the fall musicals usually feature a smaller cast and a more contemporary show selection.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is important for many personal reasons, Brechner wrote in his director notes. “In spring 1972, the Gary Music Theatre presented one on the first productions of this show in Northwest Indiana at Highland’s Monbeck Auditorium. Working as the lighting console operator, I watched from back stage each night as the story unfolded. Still in high school, the magic of this story transported everyone who saw it and the themes left an indelible impression on me.”

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