They’re dusting off their blazers and strapping on their tap shoes.
Next week, the Grade 11 and 12 students of the Music Arts and Drama (MAD) program at Wood Street School will be going all-out to entertain with their year-end production of the 1980 Broadway musical hit, 42nd Street.
Essentially a play-within-a-play, 42nd Street tells the story of Peggy Sawyer, an aspiring dancer from Allentown, Pennsylvania (played by Simone Kitchen), who heads to the Big Apple with stars in her eyes.
Her sights are set on what will be the hottest show of 1933, Pretty Lady, starring Dorothy Brock. But when she arrives, she learns that the auditions have already closed.
Luckily, she befriends the other chorus girls who convince the director, Julian Marsh, to reconsider.
Marsh (Kieran Poile) agrees to fit her into the chorus, but when Brock (Rachel Miller) breaks her ankle, it is up to Peggy to fill the spotlight.
“It’s basically the story of one girl starting out and rising to the top,” student Cayla Bekk explains.
“It’s a musical about a musical; [in it] you have rehearsal, the show, and the backstage.”
Bekk plays Pretty Lady playwright Maggie Jones.
With such Broadway classics as Lullaby of Broadway, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me and several other Harry Warren-Al Dubin songs to master, the MAD students have been kept busy.
They’ve been assisted by several guest instructors, including dance teacher Dale Cooper and tap-dance instructor James McCullough, in addition to MAD faculty members Mary Sloan and Jeff Nordlund.
According to Sloan, the students have done a lot of background research on things such as Depression-era hair and clothing styles, as well as taking fairly extensive tap classes.
“The truly amazing thing about this production is the tap dancing,” Sloan says. “We only had a few tap dancers at the beginning of the year and now the whole class is tapping. It’s really quite amazing.”
“We started dance class with Dale at the beginning of the year,” Bekk adds. “And we’ve been working a lot on singing, at first with Barbara Chamberlin.”
“Then we worked with Brad L’Écuyer from Victoria,” Poile chimes in, “He came up to work on the Guild play Into The Woods, and so we did a few workshops with him.”
Both Poile and Bekk speak enthusiastically about their guest teachers and speakers.
“We’ve had tons of people come in from all over,” Bekk says. “It’s been good to have so many people come in to give us their input and share their experiences.”
There have also been volunteers involved with other aspects of the show, Poile adds. “We’ve actually got a live, six-piece band of volunteers, which is awesome.”
So what can Whitehorse audiences expect to see from this latest batch of young talent?
“The whole cast is on stage for most of the show,” says Bekk, while Poile nods in agreement.
“And costumes are a really big thing this year. Everything’s big and Broadway. This class is crazy, lots of energetic and big personalities, which is perfect for this kind of show.”
“There are huge numbers,” Poile adds, “and there’s not one tune you’ll forget. I think the older folk will recognize a lot of these songs, some of which have actually won Academy Awards. But it’s definitely entertaining for all ages.”
“It’s fast-paced,” Sloan agrees, “with lots of songs and dances, and lots of energy on the part of the kids. This is just a great summer musical.”
The MAD production of 42nd Street will run June 13-16 and 18-19 at the Wood Street School. Curtain time is 8 pm.