“If the lovely lady presses a half-opened fan to her lips, that means, young man, that she wants to kiss you.”
Despite the implications, sophomore Kyra Link is not really giving advice to a young man. She is performing a monologues that students were required to select and memorize for this year’s musical auditions.
In addition to the dance combination, a one-minute monologue as well as a song from the musical, were new requirements for aspiring musical participants this year.
“They really upped the ante this year, which added a new level of pressure to the auditions,” sophomore Matthew Brown said.
Inadequate audition preparation in past years prompted directors to alter the casting process.
“We feel that students who spend necessary preparation time for the new requirements will be more willing to honor the musical time commitments,” dance teacher Victoria Arizpe (’86) said.
The dance combination, which has remained mandatory, still proved challenging for students this year. Many sacrificed lunches and free periods to attend teaching sessions offered by Arizpe.
“The crowds were always large at the sessions,” Brown said. “Occasionally, I would pass by people practicing the combination around campus.”
In addition to more stringent audition requirements, this year’s musical, “The Robber Bridegroom,” also sets itself apart from past musicals because it will feature a single cast for the first time since 2011.
“Johnnycake and the theater department collectively decided that we didn’t want to continue double casting,” Johnnycake Vice President McKenna Gessner said. “It was a nightmare for the logistics and technical crew last year due to the extended production week.”
The possibility of cuts is daunting for many students.
“I probably wouldn’t have been in the musical last year if it weren’t for the double cast. I’ve been really nervous because the musical was such a big part of my life last year,” sophomore Amanda Andrade said. “It opened me up to so many new friends and a whole side of the school I hadn’t seen before.”
While appreciative of previous inclusivity, students also recognize the benefits of the new changes.
“Knowing there’s a chance that you won’t get in is terrifying,” freshman Frances Hellums said. “But because there’s more stress and preparation involved, everyone’s dedication will make the musical better and more professional.”
Directors hope that having a single cast will make rehearsals more productive and efficient.
“There will be more time for learning and refining the show and less time sitting and waiting for your turn,” Arizpe said.
For the past two years, the musical was split into two casts for only female parts. Male performers were part of both casts and spent twice the time in rehearsals.
“I enjoyed the experience, but doing four shows and production week got tiring because there weren’t enough boys,” Brown said.
Male cast members will now have an equal amount of rehearsal as females. Senior Justin Bernard, who played the lead in last year’s musical, “Kiss Me Kate,” expects these modifications to streamline the rehearsal process.
“Last year, something that would work with one cast wouldn’t always be as effective with the other cast,” he said. “I just tried to stay true to my character in both situations.”
The choice for this year’s musical brings another unexpected twist. Based on a folk legend, “The Robber Bridegroom” is set in 18th-century Mississippi.
“It seemed time to do a less traditional topic for a musical,” Head of Fine Arts Department Bill McDonald said. “This one has a very American, bluegrass style with no piano at all.”
The musical’s southern flair presented challenges for students learning the audition pieces.
“The fast-paced footwork of the dance combination was very hard to learn, especially because the country theme is a style that most of us are unfamiliar with,” Andrade said.
Despite the more extensive audition process, directors look forward to continued interest in the musical and hope to keep the newly implemented changes in future years.
“I think this is the next logical step in a growing program,” Arizpe said. “Students like a challenge, and when something more is expected of them, they deliver.”