Hitting the stage at last

After almost a full year of preparation, theatre finally performs its annual musical

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Photo by Mandy Lapke

Junior Nathan Bigler pleads with his scene partner senior Dakota Horrocks in the spring musical The Addams Family. The preparation up until this show required a lot of effort from the cast. “[The process] was so intense,” Bigler said. “It was a good experience, but it wasn’t the normal process of musicals, because this whole year has been not normal.”

Edison Geiler, MWHS Wildcat News Editor-in-Chief

As the weather becomes warmer, the skies become brighter and the grass grows greener, the spooky days of late October are well in the past ― except for Millard West Theatre. The group performed its spring musical, The Addams Family: Quarantined Edition, from Thursday, April 29 to Sunday, May 2, in front of the largest audiences of the year.

Casted in May 2020, the show originally planned to hit the stage around Halloween, serving as an eerie-yet-hilarious performance for viewers. However, as COVID-19 raged on into the summer, theatre director Brooke Phillips decided to push the production back to April, hoping the pandemic would become more controlled.

“We made the decision right away in August to postpone the musical,” Phillips said. “When we found out the first week of school was going to be one group of kids in the building per day and that we may be alternating who was in the building and who wasn’t, we knew starting with the musical and having safe productive rehearsals would be impossible.”

Phillips and choir director Jordan Newhouse implemented a large change to the show in order to accommodate the current situation of the pandemic: they casted multiple lead roles as doubles, having two different casts to perform half the shows. This not only allowed the show to have extra actors on hand in the case of a positive COVID-19 test, but also gave students more opportunities to act on stage.

“You have to form this relationship with your other cast member,” senior Madeleine Maw, who played Lurch for two shows, said. “You have to trust each other to remember blocking and to be in the right places at the right times. [Sophomore Cody Weitzel] and I had to work pretty closely and trust each other to know the part. I had never done anything like it before, and it brought the cast closer together.”

Now, almost a full year after casting ended and the pandemic still carrying on, students in cast and crew have finished up this much awaited production.

Bringing in his co-actor sophomore Erica Knaperella, junior lead Nathan Bigler begins singing the final of his solo songs throughout the show, about his decaying marriage to his wife and fleeting feeling of belonging in his family. This tender moment in the musical resulted from months of hard work refining dancing, acting and singing. “For both [senior ] Bella [Reilly] and Erica, it was an interesting moment because I was never really close with either of them prior to the show,” Bigler said. “Getting it right took a while, but once we figured it out it felt really nice and natural.” (Photo by Mandy Lapke)
“Getting to perform again has truly been the highlight of my senior year,” senior Bella Reilly, who played Wednesday Addams in two shows, said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed musical theatre until this show, and it really lit a fire in me that makes me want to keep being involved in theatre after I graduate. The feeling of performing is like nothing else.”

However, this anticipated weekend was the result of months of practicing dance routines, singing and acting throughout the third and fourth semesters.

“When we started learning music in January it was kind of a wake-up call,” junior Nathan Bigler, who played lead role Gomez Addams, said. “It had been seven or eight months since we had done anything. January, February and March were all more slow, but then April came and we went into full-swing. It was so intense. It was a good experience, but it wasn’t the normal process of musicals, because this whole year has been not normal.”

The end of this musical marked a bittersweet end to a turbulent year. Before the actors took to the stage on opening night, Phillips read the cast and crew a heartfelt letter she placed on the back of the playbills, ending in both happy and sad tears.   

“Putting this show together reminded me what an important family we have in our musical theatre department,” Phillips said. “I’m happy to be reunited with the students in our cast and crew, with the staff members and arts professionals who help direct and encourage them and the parents and alumni who support all of us. I’m glad we all had a chance to come together to create memorable moments and to give this year’s seniors a chance to perform one last time on this stage.”

As the end of the school year is just around the corner, theatre will wrap up its performing season on May 17, when students will lead an improvisation show. However, this grim, comedic and special performance will stay in the hearts of the cast and crew long after the curtains closed on that Sunday afternoon.