I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille

 

 When one young performer remarked on stage, “What do we really know about the history of 20th century film?”, in the spirit of Mickey and Judy, 27 students in the 2012 senior drama school at Upper Canada Playhouse, exclaimed, “Hey, let’s put on a show!”

To the obvious delight of the audience gathered at the Playhouse on Saturday, July 14, the students, under the guidance of teacher Mary Ellen Viau, presented a wonderful show. With the overall theme of “silent, silly and sensational moments in film” the actors traced the history of movie-making from the silents to the blockbuster musicals of the later 20th century. 

“Nobody ever said becoming a movie star was easy,” teacher Viau said, opening the show. “Lots of talents and skills have to come together. With these students they did.”

Introduced by three strong narrators,  Sammy Peets, Michaela Cormier and Brett Weegar (who also demonstrated impressive technical skills by creating the musical CD for the entire show), the young actors mimed, danced, sang, played instruments and generally wowed their audience. 

In the first week of the popular Playhouse school, the students explored movement, mime, vocal work and stage presence and researched the history of film. 

“The kids also worked as directors for segments of the play,” Viau explained. 

The second week involved creating, writing and rehearsing the original show, incorporating the instrumental, vocal and dance skills of all of the students into the movie docudrama. 

On Friday, the class came to the Playhouse for a full rehearsal on stage. Jackie  McCormick,  stage manager at the Playhouse, lent her skills to working with the young students. She also stepped in to run the sound and lighting for the show.

“They all did a fantastic job,” McCormick said later.

In homage to Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, the show included silent renditions of The Date, and The Proposal. (In the class’s humourous ‘silent film’,  a marriage-minded young man who insists on four children, learns it is always better to pay close attention to the young woman who  firmly says two. Otherwise, a man can find himself sitting alone reading a title card that says ‘What about no kids?’)

Lollipop wielding ‘Shirley Temples’ danced charmingly to the classic “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” ending with a ‘slurp’ that truly impressed.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game, featured baton twirlers, batters and a very dedicated peanut salesman.

I’m sure Gene Kelly would have been proud to see the wonderful spin the young singers (umbrellas up) and dancers (rain ponchos on) gave to his classic Singing in the Rain. The smiles of the performers lit up the stage.

Two exceptional moments in the show featured solos by Salena Harriman (“Over the Rainbow”) and Mackenzie Whyte (“Hopelessly Devoted’). The audience was very impressed with these young talents,  and with good cause.

Equally memorable (for different and hilarious reasons) was Joshua Casselman’s energetic  disco fever moment in a production number from Fame.

Coming full circle from silent movies to the blockbuster hit, Chicago,  which was set in the 1920’s, the sensational movie show ended with the high-stepping, high kicking showcase number, ‘All That Jazz,’ choreographed by Marcy, Ally, Tayler and Katherine themselves. Grant Wells stepped in to the role of the slick Chicago attorney played by Richard Gere like he was born to it.

The audience loved the entire production.

Later Playhouse artistic director Donnie Bowes handed out certificates of accomplishment to the performers. “These kids brought individual skills to the drama school, then found ways to combine those skills to make a wonderful show,” Bowes said.

“It matters to me that the students are proud of their work,” said Mary Ellen Viau. “The time and effort each one puts into this show, the process, is what really matters, more, in some ways, than the product. They did a great job.”

 The narrators had the last word on the senior drama show: “Now, that’s entertainment! That’s an A+!”

So it was.

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