Social media helps OKM Secondary bring performance to stage

Students of Okanagan Mission Secondary are realizing technology might be one of the best tools for recreating the 1930s.

(From left) Okanagan Mission Secondary students David Johnstone

Students of Okanagan Mission Secondary are realizing technology might be one of the best tools for recreating the 1930s.

About 70 students were at the school Wednesday evening around 5 p.m., well after the final class bell had rung.

Some were in the multi-purpose room painting pieces of the set; others were practicing dance numbers in the drama room; a few were playing instruments in the band room.

Many of those involved have spent their Wednesdays this way since last October.

Now, less than a week until showtime, they’re rehearsing up to six times per week.

It’s all in preparation of Okanagan Mission Secondary Fame Academy’s production of 42nd Street.

“It’s set in the 1930s, right through the depression era. It follows a cast as they’re trying to build a show through Broadway and make a living at it,” said Megan Dobbs, music director.

“It follows one of the main leads, Peggy Sawyer, a typical up-and-coming, always dreaming of being on Broadway, naive girl. It follows her story of finding her passion and her love and really becoming a star on Broadway.”

The effort to bring 42nd Street to the stage has been time-consuming, according to Alexa Cable, who plays Dorothy Brock, star of Pretty Lady, a musical within the musical.

“It’s a huge time commitment…but it’s definitely worthwhile,” said Cable.

“It’s going to be such a relief when it’s over, but it’s also going to be so sad.”

Although many long hours have been spent at the school preparing, students have been able to save a significant amount of time by doing rehearsal homework on their own, thanks to social media.

“Social media has been monumental to the programming and success of this production,” said Dobbs.

Music director Ed Schnellert has created a website where he posts daily lessons for the kids to learn and practice their vocals and acting cues.

“He has recorded individual harmony lines for every piece of music, sometimes running five-part harmonies, so that the kids could go home and learn their lines free from the melody,” said Dobbs.

“This allowed the students singing harmonies to really lock-in to their line.

“When we met as a class, it was just a matter of putting it together…they nailed it the first time we put it together.”

Dobbs said many of the students uploaded the audio lessons to their iPhones and iPods so they could practice whenever and wherever was convenient for them.

Students also utilized Dropbox to access mp3 set lists, Facebook to stay connected with others working on the production and all of the dance choreography was posted on Tumblr and Youtube so students could easily practice at home.

“It’s very leading edge and is a huge key to pulling all this together.”

Constant communication has been important for David Johnstone and Trent Jeffery. Johnstone and Jeffery will alternate playing Julian Marsh—director of Pretty Lady, the musical within the musical—next week when the school performs 42nd Street.

Jeffery said he and Johnstone play off of each other to portray the character to the best of their abilities.

“We discuss things until we agree on them…if we like something the other person is doing, we might pick that up,” said Jeffery.

He added some people might be surprised by the quality of next week’s performances by high school students.

“With all the great talent and effort our directors put in, and all the great talent and effort of our students, our shows get close to a professional level.”

Dobbs agreed: “It’s amazing what these kids can do. They’re balancing their academic life, their sport life, everything.

“That’s what makes our jobs so exciting is getting to watch how much effort they put into these things and where they take it.”

Performances run nightly at 7 p.m. from Tuesday, May 7 to Saturday, May 11 at the Mary Irwin Theatre, located in the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Tickets are $20 and available at selectyourtickets.com.

For more information on the show, visit fameacademy.weebly.com.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com