Middle School Musical

As basketball season wraps up, the middle schoolers at St. Robert begin to focus on the next time-consuming extracurricular: the Middle School Musical.  This year, Director Karl Miller is returning for his third year at St. Robert to direct our production of State Fair.  Unfortunately, our music director from the past two years will not be returning.  We are lucky to have hired Jayne Perkins, a seasoned musical director from the area.  Auditions were held on Wednesday and Thursday of Catholic schools week, and callbacks the following Friday.  The cast list was posted within a few days, and rehearsals will begin in early March to ensure enough time to develop the plot of the show and put together a great production for the community.

The process begins with a meet-and-greet.  All students interested in cast or crew are required to attend.  Karl and Jayne are looking to see the size of the cast and crew and get first impressions of everyone.  Students learn the audition music, separate for girls and boys, and complete a solid vocal warm-up and practice with the music director.  Then, Karl outlines the show and the characters.  He explains his motives for choosing the story and his vision for the unique touches being added.  It is open for questions as all the little details are covered.

To audition for the musical, you must perform a 30 second monologue that conveys as much acting as possible.  You must also prepare the selected singing solo from the script.  Your raw talent, future potential, past experience, performance, and attitude all contribute towards your role.

The directors get an additional chance to see promising students at callbacks.  Singing and reading lines from the script of the show are evaluated thoroughly to determine the best casting choices possible.

Rehearsals take place from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. on three or four days a week.  Not every member of the cast is called to every rehearsal; if your character is not in the scene being staged you get a day off.  It is preferred that students do not have many rehearsal conflicts so it is easier to coordinate the schedule.  It also gives the director more freedom to cast students if he knows they are all available at rehearsals.  As the performance dates approach, everyone is called to every rehearsal and no absences are permitted.

During early rehearsals, the cast members become comfortable with the script and the music.  The bulk of rehearsals in the middle of the production consist of staging the show.  Props and costume pieces begin arriving all throughout and are integrated into the scenes immediately to help the actors become familiar with them.  Towards the end of the process, once the show is completely staged, the director plans for the cast to run through the show for practice.  After, he gives notes to characters on their performances and pinpoints trouble spots.

The final week leading up to opening night is called tech week, where the rehearsals are longer and the crew really begins to get involved.  By this time, all of the sound board equipment is out, the props and scenery are set, and the spotlights are set up.  The cast runs the show, but frequently pauses so the director can work through what the crew must do to maximize the effects on the audience.  As the scenes change, the lighting must be adjusted, and as lead characters are on and off stage their microphone levels must be altered.

Mrs. Haas, a member of the community who has been involved with the play for a long time, thinks that the play is a great way for students and adults that are involved to work together.  She also says that it helps students from sixth, seventh, and eighth grade to bond.  Brigid J., and eighth grader who is beginning her third show at St. Robert, says that the rehearsal process, “definitely pays off because we may be working hard one day and be tired and have lots of homework, but in the end our finished product is solid and smooth.”

The formal dress rehearsal for the show is during the afternoon of the school day of opening night.  The whole school comes to watch, and it is the first chance the cast and crew gets to perform in front of a real audience.  The director gives his final notes after this performance, and then it is all up to the students to deliver for the next three nights.  The musical only runs for one weekend- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m.

The cast must arrive roughly two hours before each show begins to prepare costumes, check props, and warm up physically, vocally, and mentally.  The directors give their final words of wisdom, and the show begins!

After the final Saturday performance, the students and directors clean up the stage and Reilly Hall, the preparation room.  The eighth graders are excused from cleaning up because it is their final year.  Then, they all celebrate their hard work with a well-earned cast and crew party in the gym.  The musical helps students develop their acting and singing skills, build new friendships, and learn the value of diligent work.  Rehearsals can be long and tiring and you may get sick of the same scenes over and over, but the feeling of being on stage makes all the effort worth it.  Mrs. Haas says “It’s not a show without everyone working together.”  

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