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Spring play lights up stage with energy, satire

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Photo by Clara Rabe

This year’s spring musical is packed with energetic singing and dancing. On March 27, the St. Martin’s Episcopal School Performing Arts Department will present “Li’l Abner” in the Solomon Theater.

Based on a newspaper comic strip set in the rural mountain town of Dogpatch, U.S.A., the play is centered around the character Li’l Abner, played by Senior Kyle Winkler, and his city’s fight to avoid destruction after being deemed worthless by the government and targeted as a possible nuclear testing site, according to Director of Performing Arts Meredith Long-Dieth. This plot line was seen as extremely controversial during the Cold War, when nuclear tensions were at an all-time high, but it can still be portrayed as a serious topic today. This musical stays true to the original script while still being bright and fun for both the performers and the audience, according to Long-Dieth.

The show involves a plethora of choreography to seamlessly combine the singing and dancing aspects of the play.

“Our dance scenes are going to be awesome,” Winkler said. “We have three major dances that involve the entire cast, so it looks really awesome. It should be a pretty entertaining show.”

The musical is an all-school production, which means anyone from lower school to upper school had the opportunity to audition. This gave upper school students, such as Junior Patience Zar, the chance to interact with different people in the community during the production process.

“Play practices are really fun,” Zar said. “You just get to dance and sing, and you just get to know more people that you normally don’t talk to.”

Long-Dieth chose this play as a way not only to engage the high school performers, but also the middle school cast.

“Every other year we usually do an all-school musical, and we needed something fun for the little ones to do,” Long-Dieth said. “I really loved ‘Li’l Abner.’ I’ve done it a few times during Summer Stock Theater, and I directed it over at Jefferson Performing Arts. (…) It’s just a fun show to do, and I thought we’d have the cast to do it.”

While working with the younger children can be a challenge at times, the entire cast pulls together to create each scene.

However, the scenes wouldn’t be complete without the expertise of Technical Theater Director Emily Ross and her tech theater students.

According to Sophomore Bentley Boudreaux, who is Moonbeam McSwine in the musical and a tech theater student, the set perfectly captures the setting surrounding the musical’s plot.

While some actors have only recently become members of theatre productions, many of the performers caught the “theater bug” from a young age.

“I’ve been doing shows since I was in kindergarten,” said Junior Nic Lobrano, who is playing General Bullmoose. “When I went to (a) Catholic school, they didn’t have a theater program, so I had to figure out another way to do something creative. When I came back to St. Martin’s in eighth grade, I joined the theater group again and have been doing shows ever since.”

The force that motivates each actor to pursue musical theater is different, but their enthusiasm seems to be a factor that unites them all.

“Theater is a way to escape from your own reality into the reality of someone else or other made-up people or therefore characters,” said Senior Gabby Killett, who was cast as Appassionata. “It’s not only an escape, though. It’s also a method of self-expression.”

Whether be it a means to escape reality, or the atmosphere the musical vibe gives, everyone seems to find a reason that drives them to put in long hours of hard work prior to performing.

“My first lead was (in) a musical,” said Sophomore Nic Arensman, playing Marryin-Sam. “I like musicals because they’re usually just fun, especially all-cast shows. It’s a bit easier since (there’s) singing, so it’s not like drama where everything is serious.”

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