East Theatre’s spring musical production of Freaky Friday is well underway with rehearsals running after school in the choir room. Opening night premiers on Thursday, April 23rd at 7:00pm in the Performing Arts Center. The spring musical follows clashing mother and daughter, Katherine and Ellie Blake, who are forced to switch bodies and experience the unknown challenges in each other’s lives. Comedic, heartfelt and modern, Freaky Friday will serve as the conclusion to East Theatre’s 2019-2020 season.
Senior and vice president of East Theatre Olivia Antoniolli has been a part of the program for the last two and a half years. She has learned that having a positive attitude in rehearsals and during showtime is the key to success in these kinds of productions, and she cannot wait to finish off senior year with Freaky Friday.
“It’s a really fun show, it’s super comedic and I know for senior year it’s going to be a super fun time,” Antoniolli said. “There will be tons of new faces and I can’t wait to meet everyone and work to create a really great musical.”
The official cast list was available for viewing on the official East Theatre website on the afternoon of February 7th. Rehearsals began on the 10th and have been running after school since.
Sophomore Zachary Hotchkiss will play Officer Kowalski in the musical and said he was excited to have earned a name role.
“Rehearsals have been going great, I am happy to be a part of such a beautiful cast,” Hotchkiss stated. “Although everyone is equal in theatre I love being a named character. I am definitely looking forward to having my own solo’s and lines to sing and say.”
Since the production is still well underway, rehearsals have been mainly music oriented. Additionally, since there are over 40 students as a part of the cast — cut down from the original 80 that auditioned — cast-mates have been doing activities to get to know one another.
Junior Alaina Hyland, who is to play Danielle of “The Adults” shared that it has been fun learning about everyone else who is part of the production especially after practicing with them during the workshop.
While the magnitude of people could be overwhelming, Gutzwiller explained that the upperclassmen and other students were there to help and make the process smoother.
“There’s a lot of people in the cast, so we are divided into eight groups. If you’re overwhelmed or need some help, you can always ask someone in your group and they’d be happy to help you however they can,” Gutzwiller said.
While the finalized production is meant to appear seamless, the beginning stages of rehearsals and preparation are not hoped to go unnoticed by the East Theatre.
Director and Acting teacher Nicole Chandler stated that all the students involved coming together to achieve one goal is impressive. Between cast members, stage crew and the pit, over 100 students are working to put on a cohesive show.
“They put in a lot of work to do it and people think that theatre is easy because when you see the end product it looks so effortless that you forget there’s all these steps that come before,” Chandler added. “There’s so much intricacy to everything that I think when we sit down and take time to appreciate it, it [becomes a] ‘I could never do that so it’s ten times cooler that you can do that’ kind of thing.”
Behind the scenes
The horseshoe aligned desks in B160 were filled with students of all grade levels on Thursday afternoon of January 28th, but soon the floor quickly began to occupy students as well as the large room quickly became consumed of hums and whispers of lines being rehearsed out loud. East’s musical production of Freaky Friday proved to be in its beginning stages as students were gathered to undergo a workshop for the upcoming auditions.
The Workshop only accounted for the start of the work to be done to put on a full production. The following week — Monday February 2nd and Tuesday the 3rd — would consist of two days of auditions, with a callback after school that Wednesday following shortly and finally the official cast list would appear at the end of the week. Students, both new and seasoned, had much to do in preparation to earn a spot on the cast list.
However, due to the heft of preparation and required materials for musicals, East Theatre Production students came up with the idea to host workshops prior to auditions to ensure students were prepared when it came time to step onto stage to impress the panel. Those who audition are required to sing a song of their choice from the ones provided as well as performing thirty counts of choreography at the audition — Chandler discovered that learning choreography on the spot limited the authenticity of students’ auditions since they were too preoccupied with memorizing the steps as opposed to performing to their full capability.
The after school Workshop held one week prior to auditions began at 2:35pm with East Theatre board members taking to the front of the class to explain what was to be expected at auditions. Antoniolli and junior secretary Cameron Andrea spearheaded the event, offering advice on the importance of presence in the audition in terms of the vitality of eye contact and notable energy.
“I think [workshops] are really successful. All the students leave much more prepared than they came and it helps them to learn the dance and the music with people that have some experience in our program,” Antoniolli stated.
Gutzwiller could attest to the helpfulness of the workshop, having attended the event for extra practice and landing his first name role in the musical a week later.
“[The workshop] provided a lot of helpful information on how you should prepare for an audition,” Gutzwiller stated. “Learning … with my peers made it easier than if I had just practiced it by myself.”
Around 3:00pm Andrea and Antoniolli introduced seniors and vocalists Amy Keca and Morgan Merrell to lead the group in rehearsal for the songs to be sung at the auditions.
The lyrics and sheet music were displayed onto the screen while students pulled out their own printed copies. Keca and Merrell lead the group by singing along and snapping along to the rhythm to keep the others on beat. Every so often the pair paused the music to offer advice on where runs would be appreciated, as well as the vitality of making both vocals and movements unique for the audition — which soon lead in soft hums from the students experimenting with riffs and grace notes.
One of the most notable things to account for, Keca added, was to remember points of inflection, being mindful of singing in character, especially since the two leads have to pretend to be in the other’s body.
They ran through all three potential audition songs two times: “No More Fear,” “Parents Lie,” and “Go.”
Students sang along, some needing the accompaniment of the lyrics on their phones, others added the advised characterization, having already had the words rehearsed. All required materials had been posted to the East Theatre website, leaving those to audition the resources to have their material down pact.
After about a half an hour of singing, the desks were pushed to the side of the large room and students filed into windowed rows to rehearse the audition choreography.
For Hyland, getting the chance to learn choreography in depth with the accompaniment of peers was vital in her preparation for the audition.
“The workshop helped me prepare and learn the dance portion of the audition and get an idea of who [else] was going to audition,” Hyland said.
Seniors Presley Borvan and Alexis McDermott lead the group step by step through the dance, calling the counts out loud as they danced along at the front of the classroom for the others to follow.
“The [workshops] pump people up. It’s exciting to show what we’re doing and everyone’s so supportive,” Borvan said.
The choreography was broken down into segments of eight counts, gradually going through more steps until they made it to the full required length of about 30 counts for the audition. Between takes the room filled with chatter, questioning which foot was to lead at which segment, even a debate on which way to turn after the direction “turn clockwise.” However, after about 20 minutes the group went through the completed choreography along with the music.
Borvan and McDermott have been a part of East Theater for the past two years. Both are varsity dance captains and had led the dance portion of the workshop the year prior for East’s production of Cinderella. They stated that being involved as leaders in the productions helped their confidence and allowed them to grow with the program.
“It’s been a dream come true type of experience,” McDermott said on her involvement in East’s productions. “I’ve always loved musical theater, but I can’t really sing so being able to dance has been really great.”
The choreo practice concluded the workshop. Board members and leaders remained to answer any potential questions before the audition that would take place the following week.
Chandler shared her contentment with the continuation of the student lead workshops. In fact, she left the room entirely as it went on to eliminate the possibility of students feeling judged or uncomfortable since the process was purely for practice.
“The workshop is awesome because it is student lead and … it was born out of the idea from students wanting to provide to other students,” Chandler stated. “ I think [it is] an awesome gesture for them to be able to put this together, which is something noteworthy.”
Coming center stage
On both Monday February 3rd and Tuesday the 4th, auditions took place for Freaky Friday in the Performing Arts Center after school.
For the audition, each student arrives with an audition form which details their background in theater which gives the panel an idea of each person’s experience, especially those new to the program. Then, each person gets an audition number and their photo taken — all standard practice of how a real audition would play out outside of high school with a head shot and resume.
Chandler is accompanied by a panel of directors and outside teachers to determine who makes callbacks. So, at the beginning of auditions students are also given a brief description of what the panel is looking for in the characters.
The, they undergo a vocal warm-up led by student leaders to ensure everyone is loose and comfortable. Each song option is then sung with vocal director Chelsea King and an accompanist on the piano .
Finally, the students audition individually by their song selection. After everyone gets the chance to sing, the group takes a break and the dancing audition begins. Students are grouped into small groups of five and run the dance twice in front of the panel.
Tuesday evening students were contacted for callbacks which took place Wednesday February 5th in the choir room.
Chandler explained that the auditions are reserved for singing ability and choreography, after analyzing where students would fit vocally, the callbacks determine characterization. Students could be asked to read new lines, sing a new song, or even read for a new character.
“The callback is kind of a way to narrow down my casting options,” Chandler said. Callbacks also give the opportunity to explore chemistry between the actors to ensure their roles meld along with others.
“We have a mother and daughter. Do you look like a mother and daughter?Do you act like a mother and daughter? We need to see those relationships because if we don’t believe these people have chemistry it is going to be painful to watch,” Chandler stated.
Freaky Friday will also be the first contemporary, modern musical done in the last couple years. Cinderella and Footloose in the years prior were decade pieces, so the cast expressed their excitement in bringing today onto the stage.
The dance sequences are more quick-paced and upbeat. The songs range in variety from show tunes, to gospel tones and ballads. That, combined with the acting challenge of performing as one character in another character’s body work in tangent to make for a fun show, Chandler stated. There are themes in regards to the importance of relationships and seeing life through other’s perspectives to become more sensitive and appreciative.
Hyland said that she is excited for the production and to show off all the work when it comes together in April, mirroring Gutzwiller’s statement of looking forward to show week and seeing the satisfying end product of hours of hard work.
But McDermott’s excitement lies in the road it will take to get there.
“The whole experience of getting to build the show from nothing … That’s the magical part,” McDermott said.
Jayna Dias is the Personality Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl