Despite budget cuts, preparations begin for ‘Little Mermaid’

The excited shouts of approximately 95 Southmoreland High School students echo in the auditorium as the following text fades into view: “March 28-31, 2019…We invite you to be part of our world.” At that moment, many students at Southmoreland finally learned what they have yearned to hear for months upon months: Southmoreland High School’s second musical in over 40 years is Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

And the possible chance that the fateful moment on Oct. 25 almost never came for Southmoreland’s students this year only made the moment that much more magical.

After the recent budget cuts in Southmoreland High School, current junior Joselyn Busato was highly anxious with whether or not there would be an upcoming musical.

“I was especially concerned since Dr. (Jack) Molnar retired and he was such an integral part in getting the program up and running,” she said.

Abby Whitlatch, also a junior, was concerned about the matter as well. However, she was hopeful that there would be another upcoming musical, and didn’t doubt the chance of a musical not happening for long.

“I have to say I was concerned, but I had a lot of hope that there would be enough funds to keep it going, since last year was such a success,” she said.

Many other students shared the same viewpoints as Abby and Joselyn; they were worried that the lights would dim on Southmoreland’s fledgeling musical theatre program forever. Many questions were circulating around the school; many were wondering if the department still had a budget after the cuts, and most importantly, if a musical would still be happening in the 2018-2019 school year.

Mrs. Michele Zamperini, Southmoreland High School’s choral director and director for last year’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” was very glad to announce that there would be another musical this year, and the time of announcing said musical has finally come.

“We originally planned to announce this year’s musical on Nov. 2,” Mrs. Zamperini said, “Three to four options still remained at that time, and we were in the process of obtaining the rights to the remaining choices.”

Mrs. Zamperini was also very pleased to announce that the cast members will be seeing many familiar faces for this year’s musical staff. Miss Mandy Onder will be returning to assist with acting and character development, and Mr. Charles Lowery will be returning to choreograph the show. Mr. Forrest Moore will likely be returning to play in the orchestra, conducted by Mrs. Jamie Gore, while Mrs. Zamperini herself, upon request, will be assisting more with the vocals of the show this year.

“I feel that I wore a lot of different hats last year,” said Mrs. Zamperini. “Mrs. Gore and I handled scheduling and what needed to be blocked when. However, I would like to be more hands on with the singing this year.”

Mrs. Zamperini mentioned that many people, both outside and inside the student body, asked her about the status of the musical theatre program’s budget after the cuts, and whether or not another musical will hit the stage this year. She disclosed that while the budget was cut, sales from last year went above and beyond her expectations due to it being a first-year production, and they not only will allow another musical to take place, but increase the quality of the upcoming musical by adding more creative effects than there were last year.

“The school budget for the musical was cut by a several thousand dollars, but they did not take any of the money or profits we made from last year,” Mrs. Zamperini said. “We had very impressive sales for our first performance, and it allows us to maybe do something creative with lighting and costumes that we did not have the money to do last year.”

One aspect of last year’s musical that set the show away from the rest was the executive choice to double cast most of the lead roles, from the wicked stepsisters to Cinderella herself. Another frequently asked question after last year was whether or not this will occur again this year. Mrs. Zamperini said that it depends on the parts and the people that audition, but it is likely that fewer roles will be double cast than last year.

Mrs. Zamperini stressed the fact that roles will be double casted, not contain understudies. She prefers double casting to understudies, due to the unnecessary work and stress for the understudy to learn all of the lines, songs, and dances, only to never have the opportunity to perform them onstage, unless an emergency occurs. She is knowledgeable of the fact that many parts can be vocally and physically demanding, while the musical as a whole will be one of the many things a student will be doing at the time. Many will be juggling school, work, the musical, and many other things at once, and it would be very likely for one to get sick during this window of time. Double casting gives the opportunity to perform to another person, without causing someone that was potentially talented enough to be the role to wear the title of understudy.

Double casting could cause a problem with scheduling, for every cast needs to have the amount of time to perform. However, Mrs. Zamperini feels that the scheduling for last year was very effective, and had a good balance of acting, singing, and dancing. She is greatly looking forward to this year’s musical, and is ecstatic at the fact that it has been released. She has a good feeling about the cast this year, based on last year’s performance.

“I learned that if you challenge the cast, they will often rise to that occasion,” Mrs. Zamperini said. “No one would have believed we could have pulled off what we did last year. It did not look like a first year musical. ”

Mrs. Zamperini has high hopes for the future of Southmoreland’s musical theatre program. She wishes to see it continue to flourish. However, she also has another wish for the program’s future. She wishes to, one day, have a play occur in the fall and a musical in the spring. She notices that it is not possible at this time, but is still hopeful.

“I would love to see that happen, especially with our growing musical arts class, which is honing on their acting skills,” she said. “I would see that as a good way to show that talent off. However, that is not possible at this time, for our stage has become the band room for the time being, but it is a possibility that we may see a fall play and a spring musical in the upcoming years.”

The choreography workshop will occur on Nov. 13, in which Mr. Charles Lowery will be teaching the audition dance, and the audition packets, containing the monologue and the multiple audition songs, will be released on the same day. The male auditions will occur on Dec. 5, and the female auditions will take place the following day. On Dec. 7, those who have received callbacks will be released, and the “Round 2” packets will be distributed.

Callbacks will take place on Dec. 11. For those who wish to work behind the scenes as a pit member or a member of the student directors, interviews will take place for those individuals on Dec. 12. The final cast and pit lists will be released on Dec. 14, and the first cast meeting will occur on Dec. 17. Mrs. Zamperini is anxiously awaiting the auditions, and to see what talent will surface this year.

“My only advice (to those auditioning) would be to bring it. Bring all that you have,” she said. “We always want to take as many people as our stage can accommodate and those who want to be a part of something pretty doggone magical. However, I would also like those who wish to be leads for the musical to study privately with a vocal coach, even for a short amount of time. We want to see people who wish to expand on the knowledge of their craft.”

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