The West Albany High School cafeteria is usually the site of lunchtime gossip, but on Tuesday night, it saw teens in 1930s clothing sitting on cafeteria tables going over lighting and staging. And on Friday, it will transform into 20th century London through March 14.
The school's annual musical, "Mary Poppins" is set to hit the stage this week, marking the last show to be staged in the cafetorium. Through the district's bond dollars, West Albany is scheduled to receive a new theater space that includes spaces for the choir and band.
"It's our last show here, hopefully," said choir and drama director Cate Caffarella.
Putting on a show in the space has been a challenge, she said. The orchestra sits in another room — the band room — and follows their conductor through a video monitor two rooms away. Sight lines aren't great either and there's no room to fly. And in Mary Poppins, some things need to fly, like kites and the chipper nanny herself.
Senior Lexie Lundgreen's Poppins enters the stage utilizing a bit of optical illusion. Wit a projector behind her — a new feature this year — showing the skies of London, she rolls down a hidden ramp holding her umbrella.
"A significant thing," said co-director Diane Allen, "is the mentorship from the seniors to the younger students really showing them what West's theater program is."
Seniors dominate the main cast with Lundgreen in the title role and the Banks children played by Caden Buck and Sylvia Harrington.
The characters they play may sound familiar, Caffarella said, but those who have seen the classic movie may be in for a surprise.
"There's more material in the musical," she said. "There are different songs. The shows are similar but if you've seen the movie, you haven't seen the musical."
It's one of the factors, Caffarella said, that went into choosing the show. A team gets together to assess the talent pool of students, the current budget and specific goals for the program that year, she said. At the end, they have a show and begin auditions, staging and rehearsals.
On Tuesday night, actors ran through the show in full costume working out entrances and song counts. Every actor took to the stage to ensure they knew where to be on opening night — including Willie, the live dog who will join the student cast on stage.
"His mom plays piano in the pit," Caffarella said.
The show, which started rehearsals the first week of December, will run through March 14. Tickets are $10-$15 and can be purchased online at the school's website or at West Albany High School in the office. (See info box for details.)
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