It’s hard to believe that the first “Blast from the Past” debuted at Winston Churchill High School 25 years ago — long before the current cast of performers was born. The 1989 show — the first of its kind in the Potomac area — is a tradition that has continued, offering thousands of students the opportunity to showcase their talents.
The show also provides Potomac families with the yearly ritual of attending “Blast” with children and grandchildren. Even though their kids have long since graduated, many families attend year after year, enjoying the music, the energy and the talent. This year is exceptionally special because WCHS is celebrating the silver anniversary of this production.
This year’s show, entitled “Blast 25: Mixtape” will revive many of the tunes from previous “Blasts” as well as introduce current Top 40 Hits, Classic Rock and Nostalgia. The audience will have the opportunity to sing along with golden oldies such as “Hit the Road Jack,” Sweet Caroline,” “Love Shack” and “Thriller” and to also enjoy contemporary Top 40’s songs, including “Moves Like Jagger,” and “Call Me Maybe.”
Director Matthew Albright explains why he titled the show “Mixtape:” “The impetus for the name ‘Mixtape’ stems from my childhood in the ‘80s and ‘90s. In my generation, people would create a mixtape for a loved one or to commemorate a treasured time in our lives — just like today’s students listen to Pandora or put together playlists on iTunes. I hope the title — and the show itself — will hit home with an older generation while also translating well to our younger performers and audience members.”
The new production will be the debut of WCHS choral teacher Albright and Tech Director Ben Schnapp, both new to WCHS this year. Albright was formerly a choral teacher in both Loudoun County, Va., and Frederick County, Md. He is also involved in area community theater.
“It is a great honor for me to take the reins of this incredible production and carry on the tradition that is so widely regarded in this community,” he said.
Albright is the director of Blast, but during the show, he will conduct the orchestra. “I may also ‘tinkle the ivories’ a bit during the show too.”
Schnapp started as a member of a tech crew at Blake High School and graduated from Temple University. “I’m very excited to be tech director of Blast,” he said. “It’s going to be an outstanding production.”
This year’s “Blast 25: Mixtape” will include 130 students as members of the cast, orchestra and tech crew. Senior Amy Dalrymple (soloist for “Moves Like Jagger” and “Heat is On”) is thrilled with the production. “It’s been really refreshing to have a new director who has different ideas and methods. I am so fortunate to have had the experience of working with two wonderful choral teachers. Both Mr. Barillo and Mr. Albright have taught me so much.” Dalrymple has taken dance since she was two years old and is one of the student choreographers for the show.
Senior Adam Settlage (soloist for “Haven’t Met You Yet”) agrees with Dalrymple. “There’s been a lot of opportunity for self-expression and the freedom to be artistic.” Settlage has also been serving as a student choreographer. “I’ve never had the chance to choreograph before, and I am really enjoying the learning experience.” Settlage said.
Ninth grade student, Alex Scott (back-up and cast member) decided to try out — and, to his own surprise, was selected. “Once I auditioned and was chosen I said, “Oh no — now I really have to do this!” He is enjoying making new friends with the other cast members.
Sophomore Natalie Hwang (soloist “Any Way You Want It”) agrees. “I couldn’t believe it when I auditioned and was chosen — then became a soloist. I wouldn’t even look at the cast list but then friends came up to me and asked me if I was excited. I am thrilled. Everyone is so supportive and friendly — and no one cares what grade you are in.”
Student producer, cast member and soloist Maddie Krueger said, “The cast is like a family. We take care of one another and have each other’s back. This is my last year in Blast; I will really miss it next year when I’m in college.”
“Blast 25: Mixtape” will be performed Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21, 22, 28 and March 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 ($15 for balcony seats and Sunday matinee seats.) Advance tickets can be purchased online at www.wchsarts.com or in the lobby box office outside the Bish Auditorium, 11300 Gainsborough Road. The box office will open one hour before each performance. For group sales, email Albright at Matthew_D_Albright@mcpsmd.org.