By Mary Hursh
SYRACUSE — For the past month, 50 students and five support staff have been rehearsing for the March 23-25 play “High School Musical” in the auditorium of Wawasee High School.
I thought it would be interesting to watch a few rehearsals from start to finish, so I chose the end of February to make myself comfortable in one of the seats close to the stage — actually right behind Director Cyndi Thornburg. Rehearsals have been part of life after school for the cast from 3:30 to 6 p.m. every night. From my vantage point, I could observe the fun, casual dress the students chose to wear to rehearsal: Purdue and Indiana sweatshirts, camo shorts, ripped jeans, black boots and Converse tennis shoes.
Thornburg has directed more than 60 productions at the school since 1989. This year she is quite delighted to offer this particular musical for the enjoyment of our community. “It seemed like a fun musical, and my assistant director, Kris Bonner, did it at NorthWood last year so she was comfortable with the set and costumes.”
From her seat at rehearsal, about eight rows back from center stage, Thornburg observes all aspects of rehearsal. I watched her take notes on her red and white chipboard. Those notes find their way to Google Classroom.
Google Classroom is a type of app on each student’s laptop. Assignments and grades are available there as well as any communication from teachers and staff. Thornburg’s “Musings on a crazy rehearsal Tuesday, Feb. 27,” were quite interesting: “We are still running lines like we are in a race. Please slow it down, people!!” “Now is the time that we start adding nuances and fun stuff, but if I cannot tell what you Speedy McSpeedersons are saying it is hard to comment.” “Stay in character — I know you crack yourselves up, but let’s stick to the script until it is perfect!”
Suggestions are often offered by the directors as well as the students. I knew there was good karma all around when one of the students said the following: “Isn’t that right, Thorny!” And those of you native to Syracuse know Cyndi Thornburg’s nickname is “Thorny.”
Choreographers Mercedes Winkleman, Gabrielle Fiscus and Brianna Stewart go over parts and wholes of each dance move in the play with the actors. This musical includes jazz square moves and the Charleston. In between the dances the choreographers put emphasis on the importance of listening to directions and focusing: “This show is close. Let’s get this done!”
“High School Musical” is a delightful story of Troy Bolton, a star athlete, and Gabriella Montez and their passion for singing. The message is to be yourself and follow your dreams. The cast dances its way through some pretty creative choreography.
“We are so fortunate to have Dr. Joyce DuBach playing the piano and Kris Stump as the music director,” said Thornburg. Other staff on set include Devin Van Lue, chimes, tambourine, auxiliary percussion; Shae Henn, quint (five) drums; Kristin Bonner, costumes and set; Max Hurst, drums; Shannon Rose, voice coach.
To me, having 29 high school students on stage seems like a massive undertaking, but guidance from the directors cuts to the chase. “Be excited quietly;” “Memorize your lines because you will be off the book soon.”
“I love being in this play,” said freshman Bennett Mickley.
“High School Musical” runs from March 23-25. Performances are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors. Student tickets are $7.
Note: This article was submitted by Mary Hursh, guest writer for The Mail-Journal.