Musical’s cast like a family
December 31, 2007
People spend a lot of time with their families over the holidays. But, for the cast of North Summit High School’s musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," this winter break brought a new family to visit or rather practice with.
"We’ve worked together every day," said senior Amanda Hanson, who plays the lead female role of Milly in the play. "We’ve really connected."
High school secretary, choreographer and pianist, Kathy Chappell, said they had a great cast of students this year who have worked hard and got pretty close. "They get to know each other on a another level, more than if they were just in class together," she said.
Bryan Stephens, choral teacher and orchestra director, agrees. "The play has been great, particularly for the kids," he said. "It brings students of different interests together. Some of them are big into sports. Some do other things like music or band. The play allows us to bring kids together and let them get to know one another."
This was certainly true for junior Stephanie Thiriot who plays Dorcas. "It’s been a lot of fun you get to know the cast we’re like one big, happy family," she said.
Thiriot decided to tryout for the play because she’d had so much fun watching plays and she wanted to try acting in one. Other students, like lead male Chase Black, who plays Adam, have been in a couple of school productions.
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Black has had roles in the school’s past two plays. He said he likes performing because it is just a fun experience, and he always enjoys getting close with cast members.
Whether it is a veteran student performer like Black or a newcomer like Thiriot, speech and drama teacher and director of the play, Russell Judd, said there’s always a variety of students that tryout.
"You’ll find some kids excel who’ve never done it before," he said. "I’ve been a drama teacher here for about 20 years, and each year, you’ll have at least one student that you’ll be really surprised with, like those who are really quiet in class and then just blow you away at tryouts."
Until about two years ago, Judd produced all the plays himself. When Stephens came on as a teacher, he assembled an orchestra of students and members of the community for the productions, so Judd no longer had to select only plays that had recorded music they could use.
Chappell joined the team about two years ago as well. "I’m just so happy to be a part of it and thankful the directors have given me this chance," she said. Judd is also thankful for Chappell’s help. "It’s been a lot easier on me," Judd said.
With their combined abilities and talents, Judd, Chappell and Stevens have worked with the students to create, as Chappell put it, "as excellent a product as we can." Part of what Chappell thinks makes the play so wonderful is that everything is done live.
"The orchestra has been awesome to work with," she said. "And we have unique instruments like a harp and harmonica and accordion. It really adds to the setting and style of this particular musical."
When Stephens decided to form an orchestra for his first musical "Okalahoma," he had to asked people from the community to help fill in the strings sections. "This gives kids the opportunity to play in an orchestra, which is something that, because of the school’s size, we couldn’t do," he said. "And it’s so nice that people in the community are happy to give their time and talent for the play."
The community orchestra members are not only there to play, he said, they help mentor the students as well. Unfortunately, the orchestra only performs and practices once a year for the annual musical, but Stephens said if there is interest, he would like to have the orchestra continue once the production is over.
Whether students are performing in the orchestra or up on stage, Judd said that "being in a musical gives the kids a little enrichment, and when it’s over, they’ll remember it forever," he said
Junior Derek Siddoway, who plays a suitor named Zeke, said he performs because he likes "giving the crowd what they want and making people happy."
Siddoway and classmate Shalese Peterson, who plays one of Milly’s sisters, Sarah, both agree that they enjoy the adrenaline rush. For Peterson, it’s also "that you get to express yourself and nobody even cares.
Hanson said acting has always intrigued her. "My sister and I both love it, and we’re kind of the entertainers of the family," she said. Hanson plans to continue performing after the musical by taking lessons at the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street in Park City. She said the hardest part of acting is just really getting into a role.
This is also the most difficult aspect of teaching for Chappell. "It’s always a challenge to have the students catch the vision of what they need to do to put them into the character," she said. "But it’s fun to see the kids come around and push themselves with their acting and their movements."
Chappell said she likes to "push them to their potential as far as making sure their dialog is clear and understood." It’s a great experience for the kids, she said because "it gives them a chance to step into a mature level of thinking in portraying an imaginary character."
Working on this kind of production is something that Chappell feels helps build students’ confidence. "It takes a lot of courage to step up there and let it all out," she said. "Here are teenage boys dancing in front of their peers."
"Being brave and singing out," is the intimidating part of performing for Peterson. Her cast member and sister in the play, Thiriot, said she is just worried about hitting the high notes and remembering her lines.
Whatever students’ fears or challenges may be, Stephens said, in the end, "It gives them a sense of accomplishment to be a part of a professional production."
A production that, the cast and directors hope, will be a big success with their community. "We’ve had packed crowds for the last two years," Chappell said. "I’m just hoping the community and county will come out again and support us."
Black said whoever does come out to see the show, won’t be disappointed. "We’ve worked so hard to put this together, and it should turn out pretty good," he said. "We’ve had fun doing it, and everybody should have fun watching it."
"Seven Sisters for Seven Brothers" is a musical about Adam, the eldest of seven brothers who goes to town to find a wife. He convinces Milly, a local bar maid, to marry him on the first day of his return. When Milly finds out Adam has six uncouth siblings at home, she sets out to reform them. Meanwhile, Adam comes up with a plot to kidnap wives for all his brothers.
"Seven Sisters for Seven Brothers" will be performed at 7 p.m. on Jan. 4, 5 and 7 in the North Summit High School auditorium. General admission is $5. There is no reserved seating.