IMPORTANT UPDATE: “We have hit a bit of a hiccup and need to alter our show dates,” said Janelle Castro, one of the teachers involved in this production. The dates are being shifted to May 31 to June 6. This information came too late for the May 6 publication of the Langley Advance Times.
It feels, sometimes, as if they can’t sing loud enough to be heard through the face masks. There’s no bowing for nor appreciation felt from the audience. And there has been much less in-person rehearsal time to hone their skills.
Without question, COVID has changed many aspects of preparing for next week’s showing of The Little Mermaid by Walnut Grove Secondary school (WGSS) students.
But in talking with a handful of more than 50 youth participating in this year’s production, they’re all excited about seeing the show come together for family, friends, and complete strangers to enjoy.
This is the school’s second year working on Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Their live production last year was cancelled just prior to showtime due to the pandemic, explained Janelle Castro, one of three teachers involved in putting on this year’s rendition.
With some re-casting and a few set changes, they are preparing to present it in 2021. This time, however, it will be a virtual production – and the first such show for WGSS, Castro explained.
Due to COVID restrictions, the show still can’t be performed live. So, it is being pre-recorded and shown starting on Monday, Castro elaborated.
“We are pre-recording all the students singing so when we record, they are just recording the dancing and acting, and the voices will be a track that gets laid on top of the video footage in our post-editing stage,” she said, explaining the process.
Raiza Uera is one of the students returning after last year’s cancellation.
“The production was definitely heading somewhere last year, and the fact that COVID hit right when we were about to perform really hurts,” she said.
This time out, she’s playing Ariel, and said the entire process is so very different.
One of the biggest shifts, she finds, is that last year it was part of class time every other day. This year, rehearsals are held outside of the class time table, meaning they’re only rehearsing with everyone once a week after school.
That said, Uera added: “I’m so, so, so glad that we’re still getting the opportunity to put this show together, even if it’s not the traditional way.”
That sentiment was echoed by Sarah Hong, who was also involved last year and is playing Sebastian this time out.
“I think, especially through COVID, it really limited ways for everyone to connect and get to know each other outside of class, as well as the emotional stress everyone had been impacted by this pandemic, so the vibe and feelings of the class itself definitely felt more fast paced and stressful with the short amount of time we had to work with each other,” Hong said.
But she’s excited to bring her character to life on stage, and to explore acting, dancing, and singing with the other students. Like several other participants, she commented on the sense of family that came with preparing for the show.
“Bonding with everyone there and getting to be a part of the amazing family. I love performing and practicing with everyone. Just everything. I love it all,” said Katelyn Smyrski, a member of the ensemble.
“My favourite part… everyone is so supportive and you can’t help but feel excitement every class,” said Leah Jahn.
Quinn Gilmour agreed.
“I like how the whole class is like one big adopted family who all work hard on making the shows the best that they can make it.”
“I love seeing all the parts come together to create one amazing show,” said Clary Lee.
Edan Huery said there’s a silver lining to COVID and the challenges it has presented.
“The limitations on how much time we have makes everything a bit difficult. But filming and being able to do multiple takes seems like a huge benefit. Overall, it’s been very interesting and I think it has been going well,” he said.
In addition to those working on and behind stage, WGSS also has a pit orchestra with nine student musicians, lead by Shane Fawkes.
While they normally perform live in the WGSS musical theatre productions, this year has spelled a lot more work for them, too. They were forced to record all the tracks ahead.
The show is set to stream May 10 to 16 with various times. However, Castro said, it will run like a live show (meaning viewers must sign in at the given time or miss parts of the show). Tickets can be purchased at www.showtix4u.com/events/theatreinthegrove.
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