MPHS theater: ‘We must go on’ |

MPHS theater: ‘We must go on’

High school musical hits stage this weekend despite Miserable year

Masks will cover the singers’ mouths for Middle Park High School’s performance this Saturday.

That meant that more than once during Wednesday’s rehearsal technicians had to ask the actors to move their microphone away from the ruffling material.

Over months of disruption from the pandemic and the fire, the unique setup for the production of “Les Miserables School Edition” came together through a school year that didn’t guarantee a performance.

Theater Director Christal McDougall chose “Les Mis” because it worked well in a concert format and would help with COVID-19 protocols. While the performers would not need to learn complex dances or blocking, the sung-through show would still challenge them, the director explained.

“I have so many seniors right now,” McDougall said. “They’re so awesome and they’ve been with me since I started here at the high school … I wanted to do something that would challenge them.”

The senior duo Cesar Arreguin and AJ Knorr lead as Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. Seniors Madeline Ruttenberg plays Eponine, John Luna plays Enjolras, and Tobi Elerick and Emma Lane play the nefarious Thenardiers. Sophomores Olivia Kendziorski, Sarah Lantermans and Connor Murdoch perform as Fantine, Cosette and Marius, respectively. Young Cosette is played by eighth-grader Liv Svoboda and her classmate Tyler Maurais portrays the young rebel Gavroche.

Auditions for the show were done virtually, and the first month of rehearsals took place on Google Meet.

That meant a complicated setup for the director, who played the music through one computer while video chatting with performers on another. The singers had their mics muted, only able to hear the music and themselves, as the lag disrupted any chance to sing together.

“They couldn’t hear each other and I couldn’t hear them,” McDougall said. “I was relying on them to know if they had learned something well enough.”

In October, the group was able to rehearse outside with masks on. The students then had to work through the complex duets and chorus pieces “Les Mis” is known for. Then, the East Troublesome Fire meant another week out of school.

As COVID-19 cases increased across the county, more and more of the students had to quarantine with their cohorts until the entire high school moved online again.

State mandates released after Thanksgiving permitted rehearsals under strict guidelines, which happened to work perfectly with the chosen show. The performance is being professionally recorded and McDougall was able to obtain permission from Grand County Public Health to have a small group attend Friday’s dress rehearsal and Saturday’s final show.

Instead of complicated set pieces, each performer will sit on a chair spread out six feet apart as the students move to the front of the stage for certain scenes.

“I hope they feel good about it because I’m so, so proud of them,” McDougall said. “I’m just so grateful because they’ve kept themselves healthy. They’ve kept themselves smart in their pods and their households. They’re doing all the right things, so they deserve this.”

The old adage of “the show must go on” seemed especially apt for the high school musical, but McDougall felt that the resilience the theater group has exemplified this year meant so much more.

“In terms of ’going on,’ it’s not just the show — we must go on,” McDougall said. “We have to survive and we have to persevere and get through all of this scary, weird stuff that we’ve been through the last year and try to come out on the other side.”

Reservations are required for audience members and anyone interested in seeing the show should contact McDougall directly. The video version of the performance will be available on Middle Park’s Youtube page once it is complete.

There is no charge to watch the performance either in person or virtually, but donations to the program are accepted.

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