PICTURED ABOVE: Lights, Camera, Action! Upper School Dance Faculty Beth Wortley teaches “The Drowsy Chaperone” choreography to students.
On May 10, an email was sent out to the community that announced that “The Drowsy Chaperone” was the selection for the 2017-2018 musical. The show was written to be a parody of the American musicals of the 1920s.
“We choose musicals based on what will stretch our students without overwhelming them,’’ drama teacher Emily Gray said. “Whether it’s for dance, singing, or acting, we want to offer roles to our student that will let them go further than what they had gone before but they will still be able to succeed at.”
The musical announcement brought excitement amongst the students. For senior Allison Daniels, it brought back good memories.
“I am really happy, personally this is one of my favorite shows” Daniels said. “At my old middle school, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ was the first musical they put on and now it kind of went into a full circle because it was the first musical I did and now it is the last one.”
But others wondered why such an old-timish musical was picked compared to the more contemporary and well-known musical “Beauty in the Beast” that Hockaday performed last year.
Ultimately, this musical selection initiated a variety of questions about the annual musical and play selections. Junior Megan Muscato for example, wondered about how the musical is chosen each year and why the Fine Arts faculty chooses that specific musical.
“I never knew how they chose the musical,” Muscato said, “I always assumed they drew it out of a hat or something.”
According to Performing Arts Chair and Dance teacher Beth Wortley, five Fine Arts faculty members get together every spring to decide on the following years performance selections: choirs and music teacher Bonnie Jean Coleman, dance teacher Christie Sullivan, technical director and auditorium manager Robert Kallos, Wortley and Gray. In addition, Fine Arts accompanist Bob Snook often sits in on these meetings.
“Mr. Snook helps with all of the tech crew stuff,” Wortley commented.
Gray refers to Snook as the “tech guy.” His input is always highly regarded in the meetings, as he is the one who takes into consideration the opportunities the tech crew will get.
When the six faculty members get together to decide on the musical, the first thing they do is pitch ideas of which musicals would be appropriate to perform. From there, they assess the talent and participation of the students for the year and the number of props and costumes the musical will require. Once this is done, they decide on which musical pitched will fit best in each of these aspects.
But Wortley said that there is no set criteria for choosing the musical. However, they look for a musical different in style and language than the musical produced the previous year. A musical’s educational impact on the students is also important when making the selections. For example, they see it as an opportunity to showcase the architecture, artwork, clothing and vernacular was at the time the play is set.
The six faculty members also have to consider the all-girl aspect of the school.
“I’m always on the lookout for shows that either have women heavy cast or with characters that can be changed to female or characters that are gender neutral,” Gray explains, “for example, I knew in Beauty in the Beast I could change many of the characters, like Chip and Lafeu, to girls without too much confusion.”
The cost of producing the play or musical is not necessarily a deterrent in the selections.
“The budget we are given is the same no matter what show we use. Last year we spent a lot of money on the musical [‘Beauty and the Beast’], but we also made a lot of money because every show was sold out,” Gray said. “While Beauty and the Beast was fairly expensive, we sold out all five showings which made up for the cost.”
Other Dallas schools’ musical productions aren’t considered when making the selections. While Gray does talk to musical instructors from other schools at the Theater Education of Texas Conference each year to get ideas on how plays went for their schools, none of the faculty members who take part in selecting the musicals call other schools for the sole purpose of discovering which musical they have decided on for the year.
The Upper School musical, the Drowsy Chaperone, will be featured on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m.
Ashlye Dullye, Staff Writer