Even when you go to yearbooks from fifty or a hundred years ago, a few prominent pages are devoted to the school musical. Depending how far back you go, it is likely that the musical in question will be a Gilbert and Sullivan creation. I remember in the hazy past at school I played the role of the Major General in The Pirates of Penzance. I still remember most of the songs. The Major General in that operetta is a bookish, somewhat distracted figure – some around SMUS would say the shoe fits.
Our Senior musical this year is Legally Blonde, on stage next week at the McPherson Theatre. Our Middle School will be mounting The Wizard of Oz the following week. Last week our Junior School presented a collection of songs under the title of That’s Entertainment. While high brow patrons of the arts tend to look down on musicals, the best ones do have enduring qualities: many a serious composer of musical theatre has envied, I am sure, the durability of Gilbert and Sullivan. And who knew, when Legally Blonde appeared as a movie, that it could be made into a musical? A good one, apparently, and I’m looking forward to it.
In a school, the great thing about musicals is that they are overflowing with opportunities. One of the hallmarks of our students is their confidence about performing – an experience that begins very early at SMUS, as early as Kindergarten, actually. Everyone agrees that one of the highlights of our full-school Christmas Assembly is the performance of our Kindergarten choristers intently performing their charming numbers. The audience goes wild. On the other side of the coin, also embedded in our School culture is an appreciation in our population as an audience for those venturing out into the vulnerable terrain of the stage, behind the footlights. At SMUS, students understand what it means to go out before an audience; they clap readily, and are eager to see performers succeed. Someone once remarked that someone could read the weather at SMUS and everyone would clap energetically.
Musicals have something for everyone: for those who prefer to duck the limelight, there is stage management, props, make-up, costumes and dozens of other functions. For those with practiced skill and talent, there is centre stage. For those dipping their toes in the waters of performing, there are numerous lesser roles where they can learn. A musical is a school community effort. It even includes parents.
Both of these shows will be very special entertainments. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, I encourage you not to dally.