In some respects, it got here too fast. In others, it's time. This is the day the cast, crew, pit band, parents, and audiences will say goodbye to "Shrek, The Musical" forever. For those of us who are "criers," that's hard. For those of us with piles of laundry who have been eating entirely too much fast food these last few weeks and have not gotten enough family time nor enough sleep, it will be welcome.
Actually, who are we kidding? — it will be hard for everyone.
But that's show business. People give it their all and then it's done and you move on to the next show or the rest of your life. Along the way, you learn things, you experience things, you grow, you create memories, like you never could in any other way. Here's how it happened:
• Following auditions Nov. 30 — which happened immediately after PHS produced the amazing musical "Band Geeks" — 40 cast members were chosen by Director Greg Shaw and Musical Director Susan Laushman for their ability to act, sing, and dance. In this show, they all had to be "triple threats" — able to do all three.
• The immediately began blocking and vocal rehearsals nearly every weekday after school from at least 3:30 to 6 p.m., and dance rehearsals every weekend (with only a few exceptions) from 1 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. (See our previous blog entry about sisters Maggie and Mollie Stephens returning to Pittsburg from KC each weekend to teach and rehearse these numbers). All told, we count 165 hours each cast member put in to achieve the level of performance audiences have seen on stage this week. They learned 19 musical numbers.
• They learned how to apply complicated makeup and change costume after costume backstage — many while running to get to their next entrance as a different character — in sometimes less than 30 seconds because there are 117 characters in the play and 40 kids to perform them. They had to keep track of 70 wigs and 80 pairs of shoes (and if you are the parent of a teen, that's impressive, as in "real life" it's sometimes hard to keep track of one pair).
• The pit band members, meanwhile, rehearsed those 19 songs individually, together, and eventually with cast under the direction of PHS band teacher Cooper Neil. They play for more than 2 hours in this show — and many of them often went straight from rehearsal to basketball games to perform in pep band.
• Memorial Auditorium Director Jason Huffman and his crew, including Kirsten Burke, Caitie Almond, and Olivia Ellison, worked with PHS Tech Director Chuck Boyles and his student crew to design and install the lighting and sound, and to install the massive set pieces. Other Memorial staff took phone call after phone call for ticket sales, and kept the auditorium house, bathrooms, and other spaces clean and in tip-top shape for performers and audience members.
• Friends of PHS Performing Arts — a.k.a. "drama mamas" — handled coordinating the publicity (radio and TV spots, news releases, social media, Rotary and Chamber appearances, billboards, etc.) and lending support behind the scenes through contributions of food and bottled water for the cast, t-shirt sales, and concession stand sales.
• And then there were the parents. They drove the underage cast members to and from rehearsals, helped run lines at home, likely endured listening to their kids sing "Story of My Life" about 1,000 times, and all of the myriad of unseen things that get done in support of the show. The families of those involved, including those of the directors and Memorial staff, also put up with not getting to see them much at all for much of January and February, likely shouldering extra duties at home as a result.
But what has happened on stage as the culmination of all of that has been pure magic. Audience member Courtney Payne said it best in her message to us on Facebook after seeing the show:
"I wanted to send my gratitude to you all for giving my family and I a night we will cherish forever! We rarely get a family night since our schedules are so busy, but we made time to go and see "Shrek the Musical" and I'm glad we did. It was a family night that will last us years!!!!! Thank you!!!!!"
Happy Last Show Day everyone, and thanks for the memories.
— Andra Stefanoni, PHS Drama Mama (PHS Class of 1988 and Pittsburg Community Theatre Board Member)