Sometimes a show just gels. And it often does so without anyone noticing. Oh, sure, we know how hard we’ve all worked, but about half way through, having said the lines countless times, one forgets what’s funny, what’s not, and even what the scene is about. We just drive forward, reminding one another to relate to each other, keep it simple, and tell the truth on stage. Often when you follow those three basic principles, good things happen. On the evening of Thursday, April 12, at 7:00 p.m. not only did good things happen, but the show took off, and we were surprised and delighted by a surprise guest–Lisa Lambert, one of the writers of the show!
After producing a successful and crowd-pleasing comedy (Check, Please by Jonathan Rand) in the fall, our creative team searched and debated which musical to do. We wanted something short enough to fit into our rehearsal schedule, with a big enough cast to include as many students as we could, and we wanted to produced something funny. Well, at York, all roads leads to Mr. Ronald Stewart’s office, and that’s where we all sat, pondering, discussing, and debating the merits of various musicals.
It was Mr. Stewart who suggested The Drowsy Chaperone, which he had seen on Broadway in 2006. “It was hysterical,” he told us, “and only a little over 90 minutes.” So we got a copy, read it, and laughed out loud—and then we ordered the rights.
Okay, that was the easy part. Then we had to cast it, choreograph it, create the sets, design the sound and lights, and hope for the best. We had to work in a tap dance number, though the two actors in that scene had never tap danced before. In fact, for one of the performers, this marked the first time he was on stage!
We had to fly a plane on stage (try figuring that one out)! And we had to somehow bring more than 20 students from different grades—some, experienced; some, not—together as a whole, respecting one another, caring for one another, and supporting one another on stage. Such was the tremendous makeup, character, and talent of this cast that we did. Our choreographer was from within the cast, our senior players helped our younger players, and every day of rehearsal and performance was a blessing and a joy and a blast of fun!
Now, back to opening night … Okay, we’re all nervous. We’re all excited. Dress rehearsal went, well, just okay, but something happened from the moment our Man in the Chair (who narrates and guides us through this story) said his first line: the audience roared. And they never stopped roaring! Our actors took their time, waited for laughs, and rose to the occasion. The show that we couldn’t see our way out of just weeks before took off like a rocket ship and brought along with it every member of the audience.
After the show, a delighted woman approached our director and said, “This is one of the best productions of Drowsy I’ve ever seen!” Our director thanked her; the woman then said these words, which took the conversation to another level: “My name is Lisa Lambert, and I’m one of the writers of the show. I just happened to be looking at the MTI website [the organization that licenses The Drowsy Chaperone as well as most other Broadway shows] and noticed that you were performing Drowsy tonight. Since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I’d stop by.” Ms. Lambert went on to say how our show “should be a template for every group wishing to produce the show,” how our pacing and timing were impeccable, and how we discovered laughs that even she was not aware of.
Ms. Lambert attended every performance (all four!) and at the last one she brought with her not only the original choreographer of Drowsy—who also happens to be the choreographer of the Broadway hit The Book of Mormon—but she brought along with her the original musical arranger of Drowsy. Our universe just kept expanding!
It is rare that something so special should happen in any production, but for it to happen at a school is even more magical. It is a testament to the spirit that imbues York Prep, from the spirit and passion of its founders Ronnie and Jayme Stewart to the passion and dedication of the faculty and staff; to the talent, charisma, and drive that all our students embody, whether they are performers, scholars, athletes, or all of the above!
Bravo, York Prep!
Fiona Hutchison, John Viscardi, and Thomas Hodges
The York Prep Performing Arts Team
York Prep’s Spring Musical: The Drowsy Chaperone
Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison | Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Featuring performances by York Prep students in Grades 6-12
Directed by Jon Viscardi and Fiona Hutchison | Musical Director: Thomas Hodges
Thursday, April 10 – 7:00 p.m. | Friday, April 11 – 7:00p.m. | Saturday, April 12 – 3:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.