‘Once Upon a Bedtime’ built a family

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2016

By Margaret Smith

For the Salisbury Post

West Rowan High School’s second annual Broadway Revue, “Once Upon A Bedtime,” was performed at the end of April. Though technically the performance would be a play, that word seems too narrow for what this production really was.

Broadway (as we’ve taken to calling it) is a chance to try new things; a way to befriend people you never thought you’d talk to; and, most importantly, it leaves you with a family, bound through experiences rather than blood.

Last year, for the first annual “Broadway Revue,” Justin Snyder, the chorus teacher, chose the songs and Britney Peters, an English teacher, wrote the script. This year, Snyder still chose the songs but Peters could no longer write the script because she had been transferred to another school. So I volunteered, and the script became my handiwork.

The story for Broadway Revue 2016 was that a child was awoken by a nightmare (the song “Thriller”) and his babysitter had to tell him stories to soothe him back to sleep. There were songs from “The Hobbit,” “Into the Woods,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Princess and the Frog,” “Lion King” and “Tarzan,” all of which I made into different stories with scenes between every section.

I was a bundle of nerves the day of auditions for Broadway 2015. For my monologue, I chose an abbreviated version of Samwise Gamgee’s speech from “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” to memorize and recite. A week or so later, I found out I’d gotten the lead role.

Last year’s Broadway Revue was “You Can’t Stop The Beat.” The plot was time travel, and two high school students ended up being catapulted through time. On the journey, they heard the titular “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” among other pieces. Was it a ridiculous concept? Yes. Was it an absolutely amazing experience? Most definitely.

Keshun Bradley, a junior, had been working for months on choreography for the songs, both in 2015 and 2016. Both years, he paid special attention to the tone of the song and made the dances match that – for example, abrupt motions for songs like “Thriller” and grand and flowing movements for “Circle of Life.” The song from “Princess and the Frog,” “Dig A Little Deeper,” was made into a love story itself by the dancing – couples danced together while on a date, and at the end there was a proposal. Without Keshun and his ingenuity, this production probably wouldn’t have happened.

When auditions for my script rolled around, I originally wasn’t going to try out. But Snyder, along with a few of my peers, convinced me otherwise – so I whipped up a very, very abbreviated version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar acceptance speech, made myself a paper Academy Award, and auditioned with that. The parts of the babysitter and the child couldn’t dance and act at the same time, and as I had no interest in dancing, I ended up getting the role of the babysitter. Others who auditioned earned the roles of the child, Princess Tiana, Dorothy (from “The Wizard of Oz”), and Cinderella’s stepsisters.

Courtney Barron was in charge of the sets and props. She, along with a few other chorus students, painted the backdrop for “Into the Woods,” She made trees out of PVC pipe and fake moss on the real branches attached to the trunk. Her art made the production pop.

From there, it was rehearsal after rehearsal. I came to almost every one, memorizing my lines and watching the show come together before my eyes. The stage extension became the child’s bedroom, with a twin bed and a chair that I spent most of the play in as the grouchy, tired babysitter. From there, we could watch as the stories unfolded in the form of song and dance. The day before our first performance, we had a six-hour-long rehearsal and ran entirely through the show twice – with a break for pizza, of course.

Even with that ridiculous rehearsal, our first performance (April 22) was the first time everything was really pulled in together. That was the first time we performed with West and Southeast Middle, the first time we heard a few of the solos . . . and yet it went excellently. The lights and sound, both of which were run by students, were perfect; the middle school’s performances were amazing.

I was put in charge of the spotlight above the stage extension, which I could turn on and off with a clicker. It went without a hitch on Friday, but the clicker jammed on Saturday. We had to feign a power outage until our scene was over.

Altogether, the show was immensely successful. One of my best friends faced her fears and sang a solo not just one night, but all three. The audience was incredibly responsive, laughing and applauding. They especially seemed to like Mikayla Graham’s “Let It Go,” in which she had a friend come behind her and use dry shampoo for Elsa’s snowy powers.

Other amazing performances included “Agony,” by Keshun Bradley and Joshua Hill, in which they played two princes comparing their sorrows while riding on stick horses. “The Wizard and I,” from the musical “Wicked,” was performed by Stacy Thao, as she belted out her hopes and dreams of meeting the wizard all while insisting she sounded horrible. (She didn’t.) Each and every performance was superb and made the production into what it was.

Ultimately, the value of the experience is worth much more than the success of the show. The number of laughs exchanged during rehearsals is more important than the number of people who showed up. Luckily, in this instance, the cast of “Once Upon A Bedtime” got both a crowded auditorium and a phenomenal experience.