Posted by: Hannah | 03/16/2015

we’ll make a musical!

On Friday night, we all bundled up against the cold (because yes, it’s still cold here, I’ve started watching out for direwolves) and headed to the school for the one and only performance of Romeo & Juliet: The Musical.

Yes.

You read that right.

The school got provincial funding to bring in theatre professionals for one week to produce what’s called a “micro-musical” – a half-hour show worked up from scratch over five intense days. Only the grade fours & fives participated. As the week progressed, Harry’s emotions swung wildly. It was like living with Liza Minnelli.

Monday: Harry crawled home from school, white as a sheet, with huge dark circles under his eyes. It was the first day of DST, which accounted for some of it, but not all. Oh Mom, it was ALL DAY. We had to learn five songs! And choreography! I’m so tired! And my throat hurts.

TuesdayI’m not sure how this is all going to work. No, they haven’t cast any parts yet. Yes, everyone is still going to die. Is it pronounced “tib-alt” or “thigh-balt”?

Wednesday: All of the parts with names are going to grade fives. It’s not fair. I wanted to be Mercutio but Current Nemesis’ Brother is Mercutio. We still haven’t done a run-through. I don’t know how we are going to do this by Friday. My throat still hurts.

(At this point I showed him how to brew up a cup of hot water, ginger, lemon, and honey. He lived on it all week. I also overheard him singing in the shower: “she will need to be married / but she’s only fourteen”.)

ThursdayI am playing the glockenspiel in one of the songs! Me and Friend! We have to play the note “A”. Also I need black pants and a red shirt with no logo by tomorrow because I’m a Capulet and the Capulets wear red. And Romeo and Juliet are played by lots of kids. Like, in a group. Oh, and we have swords for the fight sequence.

FridayThe dress rehearsal was kind of awful. We had to cut the choreography for the ball because none of us could remember it. My part with the glockenspiel was fine. I need more special ginger tea.

The actual performance could best be described as “surreal”. The gym was packed, which shocked me. I assumed it would only be parents of the kids participating, because who else would go out in the cold to see a half-hour musical version of Romeo & Juliet? Apparently winter is getting to everyone, because the place was standing room only. Toddlers and preschoolers called to their older siblings, who waved back frantically. There were some speeches (note to show director, when you say “without further ado”, you then need to STOP TALKING. Don’t keep talking. Especially don’t keep talking to the point where you need to say “without further ado” two more times. As Michael said, that seems actually like a damn lot of “ado”).

It was very… high-concept. Romeo and Juliet were represented by a revolving cast of characters – Romeo wore a gold vest and Juliet wore flowers in her hair. Sometimes it was just the two of them. Sometimes both parts were played by groups of ten kids each. There were no microphones so in a crowded gym with nervous kids there was no hope of hearing any of the spoken bits. No one had explained to the choreographer that “wherefore” means “why”, not “where”, so during the balcony scene the two kids played a twirly game of hide-and-seek on the stage. When Romeo died, the chorus sang “and then I dieeeeeeee” while ten kids wearing gold vests pretended to drink something and collapsed exactly like a gang of eleven-year-old boys having a death scene. Everyone laughed. It couldn’t be helped. It was funny. Ditto when a dozen earnest Juliets hit the deck. As George said when retelling it later: “and then they all FELL DOWN. It made a loud smack.”

Indeed.

All I could think the whole time was the episode of The Simpsons where Marge and Ned Flanders have the lead roles in a musical production of “A Streetcar Named Desire“. Some things should just not be set to music, ever.

The kids did great. I honestly was impressed with how hard they clearly worked. They were having fun, that was plain from the smiles on their faces. It was probably a welcome break from the usual grind of classwork. I would have liked to see more classroom tie-in – some time spent discussing the difficult themes in the play would have been great, but as far as I know none of that is happening – but overall I think it was a positive experience.

Doesn’t mean I couldn’t laugh, though. Quietly. Where Harry couldn’t see me.

 

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Responses

  1. I like this post and the way that musical taught the students. This almost sounds like a homeschooling escapade. 😉

    • It does, a little! Do you guys read any Shakespeare? If yes, when do you introduce it?

      • We refer to his writings throughout but don’t seriously study him until high school literature.

  2. Have you seen Waiting For Guffman?

    • You aren’t the first person to ask me this since this all started. I haven’t, but I’m definitely going to seek it out!

  3. Oh my god this sounds like something from a Vinyl Cafe story.

    • I just re-read it in Stuart MacLean’s voice and now I kind of want to submit it to him.

  4. This is wonderful! I can see everything that happened. I love the way you spin a yarn. 🙂

    When we lived in Ottawa Thing 1 participated in a few musical theatre workshops and often a single role was played by several kids at once. Hilarious!

    How could you not laugh? Impossible.

    • Thanks. 🙂

      I vowed before I left the house that I wouldn’t laugh but I couldn’t hold it in once the death scene happened. Up until then I was able to get control of myself but the “smack” did me in.

      • Impossible to not laugh.

        Impossible! 😀

  5. When you told me this, I confess I thought…that can’t be right. An elementary school wouldn’t be doing a teen marriage/ suicide things. Would they? This seems like a parody. IS THE WINTER MAKING THE ADMINISTRATION INSANE? Not that I don’t think it sounds entertaining, mind you, and educational for the kids – Shakespeare, music, choreography, etc. But it’s just such an odd choice.

    Not that I’m one to talk because in Grade Eleven we did Buried Child by Sam Shepard. Look it up to see how appropriate THAT was for high school. Incest! Infanticide! Son stealing father’s prosthetic leg! I played Shelly.

    • Our high school did a musical every two years. First Grease, then Jesus Christ Superstar (in rural Nova Scotia! in 1993! OMG THE COMPLAINT FILE WAS HUUUUUGE), then Fame.

      Questionable themes with all of them! But at least in high school it makes sense.

  6. Oh man this sounds FABULOUS! Put me down on the list of random people who would go to see a musical version of Romeo and Juliet performed by other people’s kids.

    • Rumour has it that the performance video will be uploaded to YouTube. If it is, I’ll post a link and you can watch. 🙂

  7. I had never heard of having several kids play a role at once. I could just hear the “smack” of the Juliets hitting the floor. When I was about ten, I put on a version that involved cross-dressing (I was older and therefore big enough to pick up my brother, and I felt Juliet should be dainty). I had never read the play but I did know the “wherefore art thou, Romeo” line, and of course misunderstood it as kids always do.

    • Kids *always* get the “wherefore” line mixed up, which is totally fair. The self-proclaimed “theatre professional” who directed the play should have known better.

      I love that you put on your own version at age ten. That’s AWESOME.

  8. This entire post had me dying. From the living with Liza Minelli comparison to the multiple Romeo and Juliet death scene it’s just perfect. Am working really hard to suppress the urge to try to work in some kind of Much Ado About Nothing joke w/r/t the show director’s without further ado issue.

    • Thanks! And yes, I’m sure there is a Much Ado About Nothing joke in there. Like, “oh, it seems like a ton of ado about SOMETHING, lady”.


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