By Dedra Cordle
During the week of March 22, the drama club at Central Crossing High School and their counterparts at Grove City were set to bring their spring productions of “The Sound of Music” and “Mamma Mia!” to the community, respectively. These shows were postponed when South-Western City School officials, working under the direction of Gov. Mike DeWine, ordered the district shut until April 12 at the earliest to stop the spread of a global pandemic. The situation is still on-going and there are no set dates for rescheduling their productions.
Before the schools shut down for three weeks, the Southwest Messenger was working on a double-feature of their productions to give the community a look at their shows. We decided to go ahead with the article despite the postponement for two reasons. The first reason was to give the community an opportunity to preview the musicals in case they are rescheduled this school year and the second reason was for the cast and crew of the drama clubs. Their advisors said they had worked “immensely hard” on putting together their musicals and we wanted to acknowledge that work and the pride they took in it. So, without further ado, here is the first-look at the productions of “The Sound of Music” and “Mamma Mia!”
Central Crossing High School
As the son of an ardent fan of classic musicals, one might expect Domenic Cole to be proficient in the history of the genre. That, however, is not the case.
“That is all my mom’s thing,” said Cole, a senior at Central Crossing High School.
He said he recalls her constantly watching, and sometimes singing along with, “The Music Man,” “Oklahoma,” and “The Sound of Music.”
“I didn’t really watch them with her but I knew bits and pieces from them being on the television so much.”
In his freshman year, he decided to become involved with the school’s theater department but had no plans to be a leading man.
“I did small parts here and there, as well as some crew work, but mostly I worked in the music pits,” he said.
Then came his senior year and the announcement that club adviser Nathan Weaver had his heart set on “The Sound of Music” for their spring production.
When he told his mother the news, she encouraged him to try out for a role. Not just any role, but that of the leading man – the gruff Capt. Georg von Trapp.
Weaver said when Cole auditioned for the part, he thought his baritone would be a nice fit for the role but had second thoughts about his personality.
“Domenic is just too nice,” said Weaver. “It came across in his audition when he’s supposed to be portraying someone who is strict with his children and weary of help from the governess Maria (Rainer).”
However, Weaver said he went with his gut and cast Cole as the Captain and sophomore Sadie Storts as the female lead.
“Both Sadie and Domenic have such beautiful voices and they truly work well together,” he said. “They’re still giggling and making funny faces as the relationship between their two characters become romantic but I really think they will sell the love and respect between Maria and the Captain.”
As Storts and Cole, as well as fellow cast members Allison Hayes (Liesel), Elijah Chaffin (Friedrich), Libby Wallace (Mother Abbess), Julio Trejo (Rolf), Austin Lee (Kurt) and Hannah Jennings (Brigitta), hunkered down to learn the dialogue, the lyrics to the iconic musical and the dance choreography, the crew did the same but with the set.
“This production has been a real challenge for them,” said Weaver. “As it takes place in Austria just before World War II, they have to replicate the Swiss Alps and the Abbey and then take us to the von Trapp home and the finale at the Salzburg Festival.
“So far, I have been impressed by what they have created and I have no doubt they will transform our theater into a genuine replica of “The Sound of Music.”
Cole said that he hoped the community would enjoy their spring musical and come away with the sense that it was a true family that put it on.
“We are all so invested in this production and in our roles,” he said. “I honestly feel that I have a little family of my own now and I think that will come across to the audience when they see our performance.”
Grove City High School
Stefanie McConnell presented a package to Dominic Mitchell and Joe Cashetta with a huge grin on her face.
“Here you go!” said the Grove City High School drama club adviser and English teacher. “This is what you have been waiting for.”
As the two students glanced down at the clear cellophane wrapped bag with the words “Dyno-Mite Dude” and “Modern 70’s Throwback” splashed across the front, a look of revulsion crossed their faces.
“It’s horrible,” said Cashetta, “and yet the more I look at it the more I start to like it. But I’m not sure I can wear this in public.”
Mitchell, who had pulled the shimmering swirl patterned shirt out of the bag, asked if it was see-through.
“I’m not sure we can wear this is public without being arrested,” said the senior.
But after some conference with McConnell, as well as the prompting from their fellow students, the two donned the garish garment with a smile.
“We did sign up for this,” said Mitchell. “We might as well embrace the spirit of it.”
Still, he said he was glad he only had to wear it for a moment during their spring production of “Mamma Mia!”
For McConnell, the torment of her fashion-forward male students was not the goal of purchasing the rights for this pop-infused production, but admits it was fun to see their reactions to the clothing and music of the era.
“They looked horrified but they are all having a great time with this musical,” she said.
And that, she swore, was the true intent.
“We wanted to do something fun and energetic and “Mamma Mia!” is both of those things,” she said.
“Mamma Mia!” which is a jukebox musical filled with songs from the Swedish pop sensation ABBA, has a cast of more than 40. It had to be whittled down from 65 at the start of auditions.
“We had so many students audition for this musical,” said McConnell. “We had kids who had never auditioned before getting up there and doing it. That was great to see.”
She said it was difficult to fill the roles as there were so many talented singers and dancers who tried out, but feels the cast as is really encompasses the personalities of their wide-ranging characters. In their production, Shelby Brown is to play the free-spirited Donna Sheridan, while Grace James and Savannah Hurt will play her Dynamo friends; Mitchell, Cashetta and Ian Loomis will play her former flames Sam Carmichael, Harry Bright and Bill Austin, respectively. As for Donna’s child Sophie, aka the instigator in this blended family comedy, it will be played by senior Sienna Glaze who had dreamed of this role since childhood.
“I saw this musical with my grandmother when I was 7 and knew I had to play this role someday,” she said. “I just loved Sophie because she is very personable and relatable and someone who just wants everything to be perfect.
“It was great seeing her let go of that need for control over the course of the play and just embrace her life as it is.”
Like the rest of the cast and crew –all of whom spent hours sweating and crying while learning the choreography from Philip Prete – Glaze said she was extremely proud of what they have accomplished and hoped that the community would be as well.
“I think everyone is going to have a great time,” she said. “It has great music, fashion and acting and I think they would really enjoy what we have done here.”