I’ve always loved performing for a crowd: from elementary school talent shows to dance shows and everything in between, but I’d never been in a musical. A lot of my friends have a passion for acting and singing, so I always go to their shows to support them!
Theater had never been a priority or interest for me due to the crazy time commitments and singing (I’m not much of one), but when I heard Whitney High was putting on the stage rendition of one of my FAVORITE movies of all time, I had to be a part of it.
It was a good thing my friends were experienced auditionees, because I had no idea what to expect. The process was, truthfully, really scary! Here’s how it went:
- Me and five others in my audition window walked into the theater and waited to be called up.
- First, we all had to perform the audition dance routine. The previous week, everyone interested in being in the musical attended a two day dance clinic where the show’s choreographer taught a section of “We’re All in This Together” we had to master by our audition.
- Since I am primarily a dancer, I wanted a part with a lot of dancing, so at the end of the given choreography, I had the opportunity to improv and showcase my skills!
- After the dance section, each person had to perform a song. The only rule was it had to be from a Broadway musical, meaning I needed to get creative. I ended up choosing the song “Some People” from Gypsy. When I walked onto stage to sing, I was SUPER nervous, shaking, and was honestly terrified. Before this, the only singing I’d done was a 5th or 6th grade talent show and shower concerts.
- After that, I thought I was done… NOPE! We were then called up in pairs to read lines from the script. The director assigned us a page number and characters and we had to try our best and act it out. I had NEVER done any acting before and I was not prepared for this, but I went for it anyway.
Waiting for the cast list to come out took, what felt like, forever! I was anxious to see if I’d get a part and which of my friends would make it, too. Luckily, I got a part: featured dancer / Wildcat Cheerleader!! I was PUMPED and couldn’t wait to get started.
Remember when I said I never did theater because of the time commitment, well I was right… it’s CRAZY the amount of time dedicated to creating a successful show. Rehearsals started in January when we returned from winter break and ran everyday from 3:00 to 5 or 6, meaning we had 2 months to get this show created. However, in the beginning I wasn’t required to be at every rehearsal because I wasn’t a lead (phew).
First, we started out by learning the songs by working with our vocal director, Landon, who taught me a lot about the world of singing. I learned the various types of voices and which I was, an alto. I also learned about the symbols on sheet music, harmonies, healthy singing, and taking care of your vocal cords. I also found out, the cheerleaders had their own song (AAH), but none of us were singers, but we tried our best and it ended up sounding okay.
Second, we blocked the scenes and figured out the stage movement. The scene we practiced the most was definitely “Status Quo,” otherwise known as the cafeteria scene. For this single number we had to work with five tables, a chair for every person, and a prop cake with real whipped cream for a face splat. Figuring out how to quickly move all of this onto stage around the fixated set in the blackout with our huge cast, took some serious effort.
With the blocking, we also started working with the permanent set containing walls, entrance curtains, and a three story platform with staircases! The only time I had to interact with the set was during the opening number when the cheerleaders danced on it, the SCARIEST feeling ever! Not only were the platforms thin with no railing in front of my spot, but we also were kicking, jumping, and dancing full out.
Speaking of, third, we finally learned and added in the choreography: my main job! The featured dancers got their own cheer and song twice, special highlight moments, and got to be in the front for every dance number, right behind the leads. I actually still remember the choreography for our “Wildcat Cheer” number.
When I saw the memes about the infamous “tech week” of theater productions, I didn’t quite believe it. The only tech weeks I had previously were for dance shows where we showed up from 3-6 and then had plenty of time to go home and get homework done. Boy was I wrong!!
Our tech week was actually two weeks long from 3-8 or 9 pm right after school and we ran scenes, songs, dances, started working with a live band, and worked out the final kinks. Luckily my friends clued me in about a “tech week bag” that includes tea, water, chapstick, snacks, money, extra bobby pins, and more essentials. We actually ended up ordering pizza and chicken via delivery from Domino’s a few times when we didn’t pack dinner!
Performing with the live band was unlike anything I had ever done, and was also challenging to phase into. With dance, I always know exactly what it sounds like, the timing, and the beats, but with a real band, we had limited instruments and human mistakes. At one point, we ran “We’re All in This Together” at almost double speed! We were all out of breath after that.
Tech week was long and tiring, and on top of it all, I had to balance an English presentation, a science exam, and my other homework. But in the end, the late nights were worth it and made for some amazing memories.
After two and a half months of hard work and dedication, the show weekends were here! We finally got to combine our 2000s style costumes, makeup, and live audiences. The exhilarating feeling you get standing on stage in the dark, the moment right before the curtains open, is one of the best things about live entertainment.
Our very first performance was for our school’s showcase night where we welcome the incoming freshman class and they can tour classes, meet teachers, and discover their interests on campus. Before all of this, there’s an introduction in the gym for dance, band, and theater to perform, so the cast showcased a major musical number from the show!
Next, we had the opportunity to participate in a day show where the cast was excused from their classes for the day to perform for an elementary school. We had to get up extra early to prepare, but it was totally worth it because the kids loved it, especially the cast Q&A afterwards!
Although performing the iconic musical numbers and dancing to my favorite songs was a blast and an incredible experience, the memories made with fellow cast members, new friends, and the crazy behind-the-scenes made it even better. The other featured dancers and I became really close and are now great friends, which probably would never have happened without the musical. Before the first Saturday morning production, we all went out to Waffle House for breakfast together, then got boba on the way to the school! The backstage bonding, support, and kindness backstage during our performances, was indescribable and one of the best experiences of my high school career.
Our show dates span for two weekends, this year the second two weekends in March. Sadly, the second weekend was canceled due to school shutdowns and the stay at home order. Here’s the short version of what happened:
We had two groups of performers, the Wild Cast and the Cats Cast, where one got the first weekend, and the other the second. Our shows were cancelled the day-of the Cats’ cast performance, meaning those leads would never get to perform (but don’t cry yet, there’s a plot twist). We all came together at lunch to cry and have a funeral where we went on stage and sang all the songs together. We felt sad and disappointed, but were grateful for the previous weekend’s shows and the time we had together during rehearsals.
BUT WAIT! The show must go on! Last minute, the next day, we got an email from our director saying we had one last show with an extremely limited audience and a live stream set up. We were over the moon excited and thrilled to perform together one last time.
Little did I know, deciding to audition for High School Musical; On Stage would be one of my favorite high school memories!
Ultimately, I gained so much from this experience that I will never forget: A new love of musicals, elements of theatrical productions, value of hard work as a team, and of course my new friendships made along the way.