Arts and Culture

Backstage Pass: A Look into the Production of a Musical

By Kayla Coursey

March 24th, 2015

Every spring, the Monticello Theatre department produces a musical, complete with previews during the school day and five shows throughout the weekend. This year, the grand finale is West Side Story.

West Side Story is about two opposing gangs, the Sharks, who are a group of immigrants, and the Jets. The story revolves around Tony from the Jets, played by Aaron Cohen, and Maria from the Sharks, played by Ellie Muraca, and how they fall into a forbidden love.

Before the drama department can put on the show, they have to organize and rehearse it. The process of creating and presenting any dramatic production, especially a musical, seems largely underestimated by students and staff.

Auditions for the musical begin in the middle of January, or in this year’s case, the week of January 12 through 15, with Friday the 16th as callback day. Callbacks are when the directors request to see actors again to test them out for a particular character. During callbacks, they might be asked to sing a particular song or do an improvised scene in character with a director or another actor. A few days after this ordeal, the final casting is released. Then, rehearsal can begin.

Yet, before rehearsal can really begin, the choreographers have the task of choreographing the musical numbers. This year, the musical will be choreographed by Gaby David-Guzman and Alex Espinosa.

A common misconception about theatrical productions is how rehearsals are ordered and organized. Rehearsals rarely begin with the first scene of the first act. Instead, the cast tends to tackle the largest, most complicated scenes first.

With musicals, the first part of the play learned is the music and choreography, usually beginning with the most complicated. The first scene learned in terms of music and choreography was “America”. This scene features strong dancers and leads, including Nina Gates, Ellie Muraca, and Malcolm Wills, as well as the entire Shark gang.

Another common misconception is how the technical part of the show relates to the physical acting part of the show. The technical crew, or the “techies”, consist primarily of lighting, sound, and set crew.

The techies work independently from the acting cast until the last few weeks before the musical, and only fully merge during ‘Tech Week’, which is usually the week before the show. This also includes the band in the pit, who play along with the singers onstage.

The pit under the stage is where the band provides the musical accompaniment. The band, after acquainting themselves with the music, collaborates with the cast so that the band and chorus can get a feel of how the other part of the music works and sounds. Then the band rejoins for tech week.

All of the parts of a musical do not come together and rarely even interact until the last weeks before the musical. Theatrical productions progress and develop in their own unique order and rates, and come together at the end of the year to create a magnificent spectacle of student talent, teamwork, and cooperation.

This year’s productions open on Thursday, May 7th and close on Sunday, May 10th.

Categories: Arts and Culture

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