Beating the Sophomore Slump

Beating the Sophomore Slump

Freedom High School expands drama program, takes on challenging production

Almost everyone on Freedom High School’s stage this weekend was wearing a skirt, but the stage was not set for an all-girl review. Instead, the members of Freedom’s drama department took their audience on a trip to Scotland, complete with Scottish brogues, kilts, for their production of "Brigadoon."

"For me theater is a way you can be transported to somewhere else and 'Brigadoon' is literally that," Amanda Backenstoss, the musical’s director and Freedom’s drama and choir teacher, said during one of the cast’s last rehearsals. "This isn’t your standard happy-go lucky musical. We’re giving [the audience] something new."

"Brigadoon" tells the story of a Scottish village that appears only one day every 100 years. According to the villagers agreement with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear forever. In the musical, two lost American tourists come upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated. One of the tourists falls in love with a girl in the village, which could cause him to lose his ability to return to his home in New York and his fiancée.

"It’s a really fun show with a really beautiful story behind it," Lee Duffy-Ledbetter, who played American tourist Jeff Douglas, said.

"It has good comic relief mixed with a nice love story," Bradley Roukis, who played love-struck tourist Tommy Albright, said.

FREEDOM PRESENTED its show last weekend after only five weeks of rehearsal, a significant shorter amount of time than the school took to put together its successful production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" last spring.

"Last year, since we were a new school, there wasn’t much going on," Joel Galway, the show’s pit orchestra director and Freedom’s band director, said. "This year we had a much narrower window. It is harder now that we are growing larger because there are so many more opportunities available to them."

WITH 37 STUDENTS in the cast, Freedom’s fine arts departments have also grown in the school’s second year, with both the music and drama departments doubling in size.

"It’s been crazy," Backenstoss said, "but the parents have been a huge help."

For this year’s musical parents built sets, provided dinner to students during long rehearsals and even worked the concession stand during the performances.

"We’ve really had a lot more parental help this year than last," Galway said.

Even with the help that poured in this year, during one of the cast’s final rehearsals students were still nervous about how it would all come together.

"It’s a hard show, but it’s a good one," Kacie Lester, who played Meg Brockie, a Scottish maid who sets her sights on tourist Jeff Douglas, said. "There’s a lot of talent in the cast that’s going to come through no matter what."

WHILE REHEARSING the opening song of the second act Tuesday, May 22, the casts enjoyment of "Brigadoon" was obvious. During "The Chase," a rousing song, full of running, fighting and jumping, the students laughed together, cheered each other on and gave subtle direction to each other.

"I love this cast," Lester said. "Even in just five weeks, we’ve become close."

The easy atmosphere in rehearsal, however, belies the complicated nature of the musical and the challenges it places on the cast and musicians.

"The music is much more challenging," Galway said. "This show is a lot more complex orchestrally than Joseph. It is a lot more demanding of the students."

IN ADDITION TO the music, the students must rely more on their spoken lines than last year, as "Brigadoon" is a mix of acting and singing.

"Joseph was almost completely sung," Galway said. "I thought doing Joseph would be harder, but this actually is."

For some students, like Lester, the challenge goes beyond just singing.

"For me it’s the singing, but also the dancing and the lifts I have to do," she said. "It is very physical and physically it kills me."

All the hard work, however, was worth it for the cast members, thanks to the success of the show and the familial atmosphere they created during rehearsals.

"I had a good time doing it," Roukis said. "I looked forward to coming to play practice every day."