“Singin’ in the Rain” rehearsal process begins

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Rani Ogden, Staff Writer

Last week marked the first full week of rehearsal for the Middle Division (MD) musical, “Singin’ in the Rain.” 

The audition process began on Monday September 20, a week before rehearsals. The performances will occur on December 9, 10, and 11. Dance Teacher and Choreographer Patrick O’Neill will direct the show with Lower Division Music and Theatre Arts teacher Carmen Keels. 

For the singing audition, all students learned 10 bars of the song “Good Morning,” from the musical together and then auditioned individually afterward, O’Neill said.

During the singing audition, Loewy Miller (8), who will play the lead role of Cosmo Brown, felt intimidated after listening to some sixth graders practice while he waited in the pavilion for his audition. “I heard Cayden and all the other sixth graders singing ‘Good Morning’ perfectly and very angelically,” he said. Miller felt anxious over the fact that his voice is much lower in comparison, he said.  

As a part of the audition process students also had to perform one of three scenes selected by O’Neill. O’Neill looked for students who were able to portray intense emotions, he said. Students who could not attend the D period acting audition had to record a video. 

The final part of the auditioning for the play was the dance audition for which O’Neill taught students four counts of a dance. He then watched the students dance in groups of three to four and observed how quickly they caught on to the material, he said. 

Ella Hecht (8) enjoyed the dance audition because she dances competitively, she said. “It was simple moves, but we did it pretty fast, so we got to work on technique,” Hecht said.

Cayden Tan’s (6) primary strength is singing, so he found the dance portion to be the most difficult, he said. “I completely freaked out because I can’t dance and messed the whole thing up, but I just went on and hoped they didn’t notice,” he said. 

Madison Nina’s (7) favorite part of the audition process was the dancing. “I’ve been dancing since I was three, so it was fun to relive that experience,” said Nina. 

O’Neill’s favorite part of the audition process was going through videos from students who could not make it to the acting auditions together with Keels, he said. O’Neill and Keels spent over five hours on a Saturday going through the student’s performances.

In some of the videos, students either had family members read opposite of them or did scenes completely on their own as if it were a monologue, O’Neill said. In Hecht’s audition video, she had her sister read the lines opposite her character in the scene. 

In contrast to Hecht, Claire Lee (6) performed the scenes on her own and paused in between her character’s lines, she said. “It was very hard, and I would’ve liked to do it in person, but it also has some advantages because you can reshoot.” 

Hecht was excited to make friends with students across grades during the audition process. “When we got the cast list I wasn’t only looking for my name, I was looking for all my friend’s names,” she said. 

O’Neill chose students who exhibited leadership and confidence in addition to skill during their auditions, he said.  “We wanted to find people who were confident and had a solid base that could lead the rest of the cast.”

The students with lead roles are Cayden Tan (6) as Don Locwood, Lee as Cathy Seldon, Madison Nina (7) as Lina Lamont, and Miller as Cosmo Brown.

Miller was surprised when he saw the cast results. “It was my first musical, so I wasn’t really expecting to get a lead part,” he said 

The cast conducted a table read on the first day of rehearsal. During the table read, the cast read through the dialogue of the script before staging it, O’Neill said. The rehearsal made O’Neill excited for this coming year. “When you do a read through it’s very dry and you don’t know the scenes yet, the emotions aren’t there, and you don’t know what your motivation is because there are so many unknowns,” he said. 

However, O’Neill was impressed with the cast, who did a fantastic job, he said. O’Neill was particularly impressed with Nina’s confidence and the accent she created for her character, Lina Lamont. “She knew she wanted that role, and went ‘this is what I’m doing’ which I love to see,” O’Neill said. 

Miller said that the cast was very impressed with Nina’s accent the first time they heard it, he said. “She is so good at that voice that we all doubled over laughing.”

Nina prepared for the role by watching other people doing her character’s accent on YouTube and emulating the voice herself, she said. She observed their bodily movements and gestures in order to convey Lina’s ditzy and narcissistic personality in her audition, Miller said. “I put all the movements and the right tones to fit the attitude of the character and changed myself so I could become the character.”

Although the rehearsal went well, there have been several difficulties with scheduling and students taking their commitment to the musical seriously, O’Neill said. “It’s a big commitment doing the musical as a director, as a choreographer, as a technical director, and as a cast member,” O’Neill said. 

There have been some small incidents of students missing rehearsal, Alex Felberbaum (8) said. “One of the first things they said to us is, ‘You need to tell us if you are going to be late, and if you are absent too much you cannot be part of the production.’” 

Hecht needed to figure out days she could miss rehearsal for dance, she said. 

Despite these challenges, the cast is enthusiastic about the musical and supporting each other, O’Neill said. “Overall everyone has a really fantastic attitude,” he said. “Everyone really wants to be there,” he said. “It’s a really great community that we are building.” 

Nina finds community within the excitement and energy of the cast, she said. “Since we share that level of excitement, me and my fellow cast members have really grown our relationship,” Miller said. “I’m happy to find a community where I feel like I belong.”  

Felberbaum has settled into a leadership role in the theater community, he said. Felberbaum gave sixth and seventh graders acting tips, and showed them a couple of “secrets” inside Gross Theater. “When I was younger, I was looking up to the eighth graders,” he said. “Now they are looking up to us, that’s really heartwarming to know.” 

Lee is enthusiastic about using props for dramatic effect, she said. Specifically, when she gets to throw a cake at somebody’s face, jump out of a cake, and drive a car on stage. 

Tan is looking forward to his song “Fit as a Fiddle,” where he harmonizes with Miller. Both Miller and Tan practiced the song on opposite sides of the stage because the harmonies were so difficult to learn, Miller said. 

Nina is the most excited to recreate the scene after Don Lockwood tells Lina Lamont that he is in love with Cathy Seldon, she said. “Lina Lamont expresses herself as narcissistic, however, the scene really broadcasts her insecurities, and it just goes to show not to judge a book by its cover,” Nina said. 

While he initially had three options for the musical, O’Neill decided to go with “Singing in the Rain” because of Theater Design Teacher and Technical Director Caitie Miller, he said. “I said I only wanted “Singing In the Rain” if we could have real rain,” he said. Miller and O’Neill are installing rain shafts that create the effect of rain on stage. 

In addition to the rain scene, O’Neill is most excited about bringing the large and technicolor closing number of the show, “Broadway Melody,” to the stage, he said. 

Hecht is excited to be on stage again, she said. “I love performing on stage because we get to see people’s reactions in person.”