MSS musical theatre returns after a pandemic hiatus, albeit online

MSS students from Grade 9 to 12 showcased their acting and singing talents with a 10-minute production called ‘Book Lovers’.

M’CHIGEENG—Manitoulin Secondary School has built a well-deserved reputation for theatre over time, but like many things over the past two years, the pandemic has thrown a very large wrench into the works. Thankfully, things have lightened up enough that the student cast and crew have been able to bring together a performance piece, although the audience must access the show online.

“This is the first attempt at doing something,” said teacher advisor Yana Bauer, who admits that it has, at times, been a frustrating process. “At one point we couldn’t even sing together,” she said. “We couldn’t get together on stage, there were lockdowns, things dragged on, this and that, on and on. It was really frustrating for the kids.” In the end, however, the show did go on, and Ms. Bauer said that she could not be prouder of how the students rose to the occasion.

“We have a lot of new students involved,” said Ms. Bauer. In fact, only one student was from Grade 12, a couple from Grade 11 and the rest from Grades 9 and 10. “They hadn’t signed on for all of the delays,” said Ms. Bauer, who noted the relief amongst the students when they could finally see each other and stand face-to-face, albeit masked.

The masking presented challenges, said Natalia Bell, who played the lead role of Charlotte. “The microphones had to go inside our masks,” she said. “So, at times you could hear our breathing and the mics would bump against the mask.” Some of the dialogue was also muffled during the performance, but as a silver lining, the masks also made it possible to re-record their voices and dub in the music relatively easily. “We had a number of dress rehearsals and then a few takes,” said Natalia. “So we were able to do it a couple of times.”

Natalia said that it was great to be working with the new student actors and there was a collegial feel to the production, but she really missed the live theatre audience. Natalia is a veteran thespian, having performed onstage since the age of five. She has been very involved in the Burns Wharf Theatre Players.

“It was a lot different in that it is only 10 minutes long,” added Natalia, “so it was not a typical musical, but it was still a lot of fun.” There is a relationship that actors have with their audience that is very hard to replicate in a recorded performance, she said.

“We had the coaches and some teachers and the crew there to watch and applaud,” said Ms. Bauer. “We tried to give them as much of that feedback loop as we could.”

The production, “a high-calibre musical” called ‘Book Lovers,’ runs for 12 minutes, with two of those minutes taken up by slides and intro, followed by a 10-minute production. ‘Book Lovers’ is presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International, book and lyrics by Talaura Harms and music by Jonathan Bauerfeld.

The story revolves around Charlotte, a timid library patron, who is secretly in love with the librarian. Charlotte “rejects the idea of romance until three of literature’s greatest lovers  (along with other guest appearances) escape from their books to convince her to take a chance on love.”

The production features Xavier Mara as Dewey, Jordan Goddard as Cyrano De Bergerac, Jocelyn Kuntsi as Helen of Troy, Alexis McVey as Juliet Capulet, Lydia Pennings as Hester Prynne and Zack Hill as Sir Lancelot.

The musical numbers in the show include ‘Romance is’ performed by Natalia; ‘Woo Him My Way’ by Jordan, Jocelyn and Alexis; and ‘Rewrite the Story’ by the entire company.

Stage production was by Heather Theijsmeijer, sound and lights by Lauren Talbot and Mark Otosquaiob; stage crew were Willow Fogal, Ezra Diebolt and Daphne Carr and hair and makeup were by Jill Ferguson.

Ms. Bauer was the producer, with Michael Zegil artistic director, Chris Theijsmeijer musical director, Ms. Ferguson as head of costumes and Heather

Theisjsmeijer as stage manager.

The full production of the 10-minute musical can be viewed and shared freely online on YouTube.com by searching ‘The Book Lovers – Manitoulin SS.’