BERLIN – Teens in town are trailblazing and defying the constraints of this pandemic to put on a grand production in the spring.
Berlin High School plans to present “Mamma Mia!” Thursday, April 29 through Sunday, May 2. For the first time in spring musical history, all performances are set to take place outdoors.
“We’re very excited to get started,” BHS Theatre and Choral Music Director Tyler Boyle said. “It’s very clear our kids are looking forward to this. Despite all the challenges we know we will face, we know it will be well worth it.”
Drama studies have been well, pretty dramatic since last March, when covid-19 first closed schools.
BHS was able to pull off the premiere of ‘Les Misérables: School Edition’ flawlessly the weekend before the shutdown. Then this October, the school’s traditional evening of cabaret was transformed into a 90-minute compilation of student performances that premiered virtually. Finally before the holiday break, the drama department produced its fall play, “The Rehearsal” differently than ever before.
“Knowing it would be challenging to have a live audience and have students perform live we recorded that production as if it were a TV episode,” Boyle explained. “It worked out quite well and it was actually kind of fun to provide our kids a different opportunity performing for the camera.”
He and BHS Band Director Jeff Sirois are pushing forward with that same go-getter mentality for this next production.
“I think despite some of the challenges we’re facing this year with the pandemic and shifted schedules, there still seems to be the same level of buzz and excitement surrounding the show,” said Sirois, its conductor.
The first round of auditions for Mamma Mia! took place at the beginning of January. The cast is expected to be in place by the end of this week, before rehearsals begin on Monday, Feb. 1.
Students and school staff are preparing to break new ground in holding the performances outside of their state-of-the-art auditorium.
“We’re fortunate to have a really solid core group of students who understand the equipment, materials and technical aspects of what we need to do to make this successful,” Sirois pointed out. “Every year the technical challenges are fun for us to work through, but this is a particularly unique challenge. While it’s daunting to bring all the lights, sound and scenery outdoors I think they’re excited about it and ready to step up.”
Staff have yet to select an outdoor venue for the premiere, but are hoping to be able to host performances on school grounds. Restrictions on outdoor event capacity are still unknown for the April-May timeline, but live audiences are expected to be limited.
The show will be an enormous financial undertaking, given the special circumstances.
“Our theatre program here at Berlin High is unusual in the fact that all of our productions are completely self-funded,” Boyle said. “We are anticipating the amount of expenses we’re going to most likely incur will be high with this production and we greatly appreciate any financial support local businesses or community organizations can provide.”
He’s confident that with a little star power, ingenuity and community support, shows at BHS can go on.
“Our priority is to continue producing high-quality musical theatre productions for our students,” he added.
Secure online donations can be made to Berlin High School’s Theatre Program at singingredcoats.berlinschools.org.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.