With callbacks through and auditions performed, this year’s musical Meet Me in St. Louis is underway. The musical tells the story of the Smith family and their love interests as the family prepares to move to New York right after the World’s Fair comes to St. Louis, Missouri. Director Stanley Swartz predicts the cast to be a large one, which the musical allows for, and is a necessary feat considering about 100 students auditioned.
“I think the cast will be fairly large,” Swartz said. “The family members are the main characters and it’s a big family, so there’s quite a few of them… it gets potentially pretty big if I don’t double [roles to one person]… I usually do not [double] because I’m looking for ways to get people involved, not to eliminate them.”
Swartz and the other directors have things they look for when deciding the cast.
“Are they staying on pitch? Are they keeping the time signature, the rhythm that the song has? Are they showing some character along with it? I don’t want just a dead face with no emotion, no character, no involvement, I want to see life,” Swartz said. “Monologues, same basic idea. I want to see that they are doing more than just memorizing the lines… I’m trying to see generally how they come across as a person so that I can match that overall characteristic to a character in the show.” Choir teacher Bethany Houff looks for similar things as well as a few different ones.
“When I watch [and] hear an audition, I’m looking for facial expression/stage presence, confident, in-tune singing, willingness to try something new or take a risk, and ability to take direction,” Houff said. “[Also], how many people we can physically fit on the stage, cost of costuming the cast, a student’s singing,dancing and acting abilities, a student’s willingness to follow instructions and work hard and a student’s ability to keep his/her grades up while spending hours a week at rehearsal.”
Freshman Declan Leach is one who is excited to participate in Meet Me in St. Louis, receiving both an acting and dancing callback. This will be his first time ever performing in a musical because of the absence of a musical at his prior attendance at Redeemer Classical Christian School in Keezletown. Leach had auditioned for Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir as a kid and for drumline this past summer, but this audition was quite different for him.
“I was bodily shaking probably the first hour before my audition, enduring it…. I’ve done a couple of little plays, but nothing this big… Just the whole prospect of having to sing and act, even just for two or three people, on this huge stage, I guess that was just kind of intimidating for me,” Leach said.
Another student who received a callback was senior Maria Garcia-Martinez, for whom this is an important musical.
“It’s my senior year so I couldn’t not do it. I’ve done it all four years and it’s just a part of my life now,” Garcia-Martinez said. “[I was] a little bit [nervous], just because I don’t want to screw up my last year.” The fact that this is the final high school musical for Garcia-Martinez is one she has dwelt on.
“It’s definitely bittersweet, like when I got there I was like ‘Wow, this is the last time I’ll be doing this’, because a lot of people think I’m like going to major in theatre and stuff but I’m not, I want to be a nurse so I’m not [going to be] be doing stuff I love anymore,” Garcia-Martinez said.
Though students have survived auditions, callbacks never guarantee a part in the musical.
“We’re still very much in the formulation stage, and that is what callbacks are for, to help us as we try different people out in different arrangements and see how they do,” Swartz said.
Everyone who received an acting callback also received a dancing callback, an occurrence this year that the directors decided for the first time ever.
“[In the dance callbacks] they will be taught a dance sequence from the show in the style of the show to see who moves… If they can handle that or not, they’re either [moved on or] eliminated at that point. Not eliminated from the show necessarily, but eliminated from doing anything further,” Swartz said. “So we’ll do something relatively simple, put those people to one side and then continue working with the next level up… so we process through to find out who the best dancers are.”
Both Houff and Swartz are feeling good about this year’s production already.
“I think we’ll have a wonderful show this year. I love the themes of family and togetherness. I love that this show will feature some great voices singing solos and duets, and this show will have fun dance sequences to highlight the abilities of our dancers. I think it will be a hit,” Houff said.
Swartz believes this musical will be just what we all need.
“I think the kids are going to have a blast; I think the audience is going to have a blast,” Swartz said. “We’re planning on emphasizing the fun of it all, that’s a lot of what [it] is about this year, and I think with everything that’s going on in the world, and as crazy as things are, I think people are ready for that right now, just some good, clean fun.”