WILLARD — Willard High School freshman Katie Holthouse took advantage of watching fellow cast members rehearse their scenes in “South Pacific.” She smiled pleasantly as she sat in the front row, waiting for her scene.
“It’s a lot of fun to sit and watch because you know how hard they worked. It’s fun to see it all come together,” Katie said.
Making the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical come to life this past weekend started in January with three rehearsals each week.
“You could always do more, but the kids are busy,” said director Cindy Light, who has been directing two musicals each of the last 10 school years.
For the last two weeks of practices, the cast members began rehearsing without their scripts. Pianist Dennis Stonehm came to every rehearsal so the actors were able to practice with musical cues from the beginning.
Another pianist and a drummer joined Stonehm for the performances Friday and Saturday.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had a big say in Willard’s rehearsal schedule. There were six school closings.
“We missed out on two rehearsals, actually,” Light said, because school was closed on several days when practices weren’t scheduled.
Despite falling behind with the rehearsal schedule, the cast kept plugging away. “I know they’re going to buckle down and come through,” Light said at the time.
Light faces two big challenges when coordinating and overseeing rehearsals. The first is working around the students’ schedules.
“We have yet to have our entire cast,” Light said — exactly one day before the dress rehearsal in front of a small audience.
The English teacher said the next biggest challenge is keeping the students focused, “getting their head in the game, in the play,” as she put it.
“With a big cast like that, it’s difficult,” Light added.
Another challenge the director had before beginning rehearsals was getting enough male students to stage the musical.
“They assured me that they could talk the guys into it,” Light said, referring to female drama students.
Sophomore Brock Sokevitz was one of the male students in the cast of 35. Before he auditioned for the part of sailor Luther Billar, his mother bought “South Pacific” on DVD for him.
“I love this play,” said Brock, who believes the musical is well written. “I’ve watched the movie plenty of times.”
During one rehearsal, Light encouraged student Lindsay Bogner to “make it look easy” as she picked up a set of weights after a scene in which Justin McDowell, playing a weightlifter, was having difficulty lifting them. As scripted, Justin, whom Light told to make his effort look challenging, eventually gave up and left the stage.
Lindsay, as Justin’s spotter, stumbled slightly when she left the stage with the sports equipment in one hand.
“It’s 40 pounds. It’s not that hard,” commented one boy watching from the side of the stage.
“It’s 55, thank you,” said a girl, obviously offended.
Prat falls, many of which are intentional, come with the territory of rehearsals.
Nicole Selvaggio, dressed in a turkey costume with oversized feet, ran from hunter Alex Steinmetz. After both actors ran through and behind other ongoing scenes without dialogue, Nicole emerged as the victor — pursuing Alex with the rifle he once carried.
During one take, Nicole accidentally fell as she ran around several actors attempting to form a human pyramid.
“Are you OK, Nicole?,” Light asked.
“I slipped on the turkey foot,” the student said sheepishly.
“We need bloopers,” said one student, watching from the audience.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Staff writer Aaron Krause contributed to this article.
EDISON HIGH SCHOOL: “Fiddler on the Roof,” performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday plus March 16 and 17; 2 p.m. March 18. Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. Call the school at (419) 499-4652.
ST. PAUL HIGH SCHOOL: “Oklahoma,” performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday plus at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are sold out.
NORWALK HIGH SCHOOL: “Fiddler on the Roof,” performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. VIP seating has sold out, and all remaining tickets are priced at $7.00. Call (419) 668-8391