Awesome talent in Swift Current

The Mother Abbess (at left), played by Elise Hildebrandt, and the musical's main character Maria, performed by Eliza Switzer, sing the song My Favourite Things during rehearsals, Nov. 25.

The Swift Current Comprehensive High School Fine Arts Department is producing a family classic for their upcoming fall production, which will be presented to the community during five shows over four days starting Dec. 5.

The school is producing the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music for the first time and according to dramatic arts teacher and drama director Stefan Rumpel it is most likely the biggest project ever undertaken by the Fine Arts Department.

“Between acting, crew and pit band we have about 130 kids on this production, which is more than a tenth of our school population,” he said.

“So it's pretty cool that we have that many kids involved, and then with the teachers added into the mix this production pushes 150. So it's probably the largest production we've ever done and we're really excited for it.”

The school is pulling out all the stops to bring this musical to life and in the process they are achieving a number of milestones. It will most likely be the longest production ever staged by the school with a running time of about two and a half hours, depending on transitions between scenes.

“It's kind of true to the old film,” he said. “There are more musical pieces in this than the classic film that people might be used to. There's a few pieces that were cut from the film, from the Broadway original version, that we are doing. So you'll see a couple of numbers from Max and Elsa that people might not be as familiar with, but they're a lot of fun.”

Students from four other schools (All Saints, École Centennial, Fairview, and Wymark) are part of the production.

“This was the first time where we opened up those auditions to young kids from other schools within our community,” he said. “I think our youngest student is five. So that's pretty exciting. We double cast at the lowest levels for those kid positions. We thought six shows in a row might be a little much for them.”

Students from other schools have participated in previous drama productions at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School, but not on this scale and not from such a wide age range.

In the past one or two students from Maverick School were part of the cast and crew for productions.

“We always want to be open to any high school kid in town, because this is really the only program from an acting standpoint that they can get involved with,” he said.

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“So we want to make sure we're inclusive in that manner. Some students sometimes join our program that are homeschooled, which is great to give them an opportunity to interact with the drama kids from our building and it really rounds us out and helps us to be a more welcoming group, but this is the first time we've gone with young actors from other schools. We have kids ranging from five to 13 that are from the feeder schools for this building.”

The live music for the production will be provided by a full orchestra under the direction of the school's band director Janine Waines.

“We're so lucky to have her running that and we have many community players joining her student players to make that happen,” Rumpel said. “So we're really lucky that we have such a talented group to pull from in this community and within our school.”

The live band for Wizard of Oz was smaller and this is most likely the largest band assembled for a school production. The musical team also includes choral director Brianna Dennehy.

“She's been working on the singing directly with the kids and has done an amazing job there as well,” he said.

Other key members of the team overseeing this production are Stacey Kohlman, Tara Christiansen and Jessie Hanna, who are responsible for the hair, costume and make-up areas.

Rumpel noted that communication is a key challenge during this large production to ensure that everything runs smoothly and thereafter it is also important to fit all aspects of the production together during rehearsals.

The musical is the story of a young women, Maria, who becomes a governess with the Von Trapp family shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

“The Sound of Music is one of those few productions that's still a cultural icon,” he said. “One that you can nearly guarantee anybody, no matter their age, has seen. It still jumps on cable TV at Christmas time. ... So it's something that people still know the name, they want to come see it and realistically to me the theme of it, this idea of overcoming hate and fear with love and family, that's more relevant than it's ever been.”

Tickets for this production are available at Pharmasave in Swift Current at $20 each. All performances will take place in the school cafeteria. There will be evening performances on Dec. 5, 6, 7 and 8. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts 7 p.m. There is a matinee show on Dec. 8, when the doors open at 1:30 p.m. and the performance starts 2 p.m.

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