RANDOLPH,NJ- The cast and crew of Randolph High School's drama program have been hard at work in preparation for this week's production of the classic play "Damn Yankees." (Yes, it's about baseball.)
Starring 50 of RHS's finest performers, audiences can expect to see "a breadth of talent on the stage," says director Ms. Michelle Danna. "Singers, dancers, tappers, gymnasts, bat twirlers, even our lead student set designer is in the cast."
After the success of last fall's play, The Love of Three Oranges, many of Randolph's prominent figures were eager to be involved with the drama program as well. "We've also got some administrators, including superintendent Dr. Browne, participating as part of the cast" says Danna, excited that the shows are getting due attention.
A show of this scale doesn't simply happen, though. RHS strives for excellence, especially in theater, and at the end of the day, it truly shows. Almost immediately after the fall drama puts on its final show, auditions for the musical begin.
From then on, the cast has spent hours practicing and perfecting song and dance numbers as well as honing their acting skills. "This is a large production and requires a lot of moving parts all working at the same time," Danna explained. "It takes a great amount of teamwork between the director, music director, set director, and choreographer to make a show of this size great."
To add to the already steep pressure of putting on a great show, there was also the weather to contend with. The snowstorms that Randolph and the surrounding towns were hit hard with this season created minor setbacks, but the cast of Damn Yankees was prepared. “Luckily, the snow didn't disrupt the rehearsal process too much, Danna said. "Before rehearsals even began, the directing team organized the calendar so that we had some wiggle room, and it's a good thing we did. It allowed us to mostly stay on track.”
The crew, however, faced the same challenge of making up for lost time-and although things seemed bleak, they were able to pull through in the end. “The snow disrupted the stage crew more than anyone else. It seemed to snow every time they were supposed to get supplies delivered from the hardware store. But, they too met the challenge. On that note Dana expressed, "Wait until you see this set. It's awesome. It's huge, it's intricate, and the crew works with it like a well oiled machine.”
Compared to past RHS musicals, this show is distinct. Danna stated, "The feel of this show is very different from the others shows I've been a part of at RHS. A Midsummer Night's Dream was whimsical, Little Shop of Horrors was dark, and The Love of Three Oranges was over the top silly and physical, but this show is a classic American musical."
Performed on-and-off Broadway consistently since 1955, made into a film, and awarded the Tony for Best Musical, the show has had its share of acclaim over the years. The subject matter is even patriotic ; a musical theatre piece about baseball. It seems like a strange combination, but Danna is confident that this year's cast can pull it off. "It takes a different kind of humor and energy to bring this to the modern audience. Now that the kids have tapped into this style, they are really bringing the show to life."
As anyone involved in a production of this scale will know, being a part of a cast or crew is an extreme commitment- but in the end, it's a labor of love, especially when it all comes together in the end. "I continue to be amazed by the amount of talent we have at RHS and the willingness that these kids have to fully immerse themselves is something difficult. I'm no longer concerned about if they can meet the challenge. Now I think, what can I challenge them with next?"
Danna remarks about her experience as a director, "It makes it fun, because now they challenge me to bring them new and interesting material. And they never settle. A lot of the students are always asking me what else they should work on or what they can change. That's really impressive at this level. I have no doubt this will be a really solid production - at RHS we've got heart… and one heck of a theater company.”
“Damn Yankees” will have four official performances this week. Audiences can experience this classic American musical in the brand-new Randolph High School auditorium on Thursday, March 20 at 7 p.m. (Senior Citizen show); Friday, March 21st at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, March 22nd at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at rhstheater.org