DELMAR — This hometown theatre is breaking legs once again.
The Cue Theatre is no exception to COVID-19 struggles. When the pandemic swept through last March, the company was forced to abandon ship after in-person gatherings were banned. Despite their best efforts to go virtual, cast and crew could not capture the dynamic needed to perform the show.
Now, the theatre is alive again. Program director Stacy Sansky said this production, while a little different than shows past, is a testament to the strength of her cast and crew. The group, ranging in ages of 8 to 16, filmed “High School Musical Jr.” and it streamed this past Friday and Saturday.
“I was really nervous that many in our community weren’t going to be receptive to coming back after we had to go dark,” Sansky said. “Fortunately, everyone was so grateful to come back. It’s been so refreshing to get back to it after such a terrible year collectively.”
The story of “High School Musical” is one many 2000s kids know by heart; basketball player Troy is forced to sing karaoke at a youth mixer and is paired with shy, cerebral Gabriella. As Troy and Gabriella become closer, Troy’s father and basketball coach is bearing down on his future as an athlete and Gabriella’s studies are demanding attention. The story follows the teens through the throes of a year at East High School and documents the duo’s interactions with their friends, Taylor and Chad, and snarky thespians Sharpay and Ryan. The moral of the story? Be yourself and follow your heart.
Cue’s latest show would not have been possible without the help of an expert in CDC COVID guidelines, Sansky said. One of her fellow producers worked closely with the existing protocols and was able to help the cast and crew stay on top of safety. The biggest deviation from the social distancing practiced by the public is the 8-foot distance between each actor, as singing and dancing expels more droplets than speaking or walking. Sansky said her cohort has a tape measure and has been diligent about keeping the students apart. Students are also wearing masks, including during the filming, using their own clothes as costumes and being mindful of the theatre’s cleanliness standards.
“We picked ‘High School Musical Jr.’ because we knew it would require limited resources and allow us to put on a decent show without having too much cross-contamination,” Sansky said. “Once we nailed down what each actor was wearing, they brought their costumes in and kept them here for the duration of filming. Props were minimal and we were able to utilize a lot of extra space.”
Performers have also been rehearsing in small blocks, a stark difference to those who are used to rehearsing with an entire cast present. The smaller groups were hard to adapt at first, Sansky said, but students warmed up once they learned their parts. The last two rehearsals before filming, the cast was united and the energy in the room was “incredible.”
“We’ve had to film in segments, so it’s been fun to work with the idea of continuity and show our cast and crew what goes into it,” Sansky said.
The effort is paying off; during filming, Sansky received a handwritten note from one of her actors. The young student expressed gratitude at the prospect of performing and thanked the crew and theatre company for their efforts.
“I cried when I read the letter,” Sansky concluded. “It’s been such a privilege to see the kids so excited to be here.”
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