It’s impossible to say what school experience will grab a student’s attention and leave a lasting impact. For some of the Grade 5 actors in the Junior School’s upcoming musical, Super Happy Awesome News, it’s clear that sometimes that impact is years in the making.
“I’ve been looking forward to this since Kindergarten,” says Dishanna about waiting for her turn to be in the Grade 5 production, having seen schoolmates (and a sibling) perform.
Things look different this year for the Grade 5 students involved in the production. In any other year, students would spend several months rehearsing together to perform a full musical or opera at the McPherson Playhouse in June. However, the program had to pivot away from in-person performances and rehearsals, and look instead to presenting a virtual show.
Enter musical director and Grade 5 teacher Brandon Hawes, and his troupe of talented performers. Super Happy Awesome News was specifically created as a COVID-safe production, with every part of the show filmed separately and remotely, when necessary.
The virtual musical is about two siblings, Joey and Parker, who launch rival news shows featuring correspondents who only cover super happy awesome (or super happier awesomer) news – but start to wonder if their shows also have room for raw and honest news.
To involve more students, and to allow every performer to take on a more significant role, the show was double cast (Cast Super and Cast Awesome) with two versions of the musical filmed. Lead actors Madeline and Dishanna share the role of Joey, while Levi and Stephanie both play Parker.
“It was really fun to pretend to be somebody you weren’t. It feels like you’re in a movie,” says Levi.
While their classmates filmed at school, the four leads say they all enjoyed getting to film their parts at home. Some enjoyed getting the extra time to perfect their different scenes, while others say they loved laughing with their parents (who filmed the at-home scenes) over technical difficulties, such as finding the best ringtone sound effect and it inevitably going off at the wrong time!
And while it was a much different process this year, the actors say they enjoyed every part of it. Levi says he liked reading the monologues in drama, while Stephanie and Madeline both liked creating their costumes. Madeline says she even added “easter eggs” to her costume to appeal to Harry Potter fans who watch the show.
While they all wish that they could perform at McPherson Playhouse, the students said they enjoyed and appreciated this experience, and are excited for their families and friends to watch the musicals online.
The Grade 5 students will get to enjoy a special COVID-safe screening of Super Happy Awesome News next Thursday, May 27. The shows will also be available to watch on our website, beginning with a 7:30 pm premiere that evening.
Looking ahead to their future artistic pursuits at the Middle and Senior Schools, all four students say they are keen to continue performing as they move through SMUS. They say they are hopeful that this musical will leave an impression on those who watch it.
“I hope [the audience] feels inspired,” says Madeline.
Adds Stephanie: “Watching it, I hope people see that you don’t need to always be happy. You have to be honest.”
“Yeah, it’s OK to have mixed emotions,” says Dishanna.
And without offering spoilers, Levi adds, “It sometimes makes it even better if you collaborate with your siblings and do not fight.”