Singing and dancing actors of Nechako Valley Secondary are filling the Vanderhoof stage with action for the next two weekends.
Starting on March 16 from Thursday to Saturday, NVSS is presenting “Singing in the Rain” for the first time in its Integris Community Theatre.
“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of action,” said producer Paul Woolnough. “It’s a play with a movie in the play, about the first talking movies in 1920s; a story of the man who made the movie and was a star of the silent movie era. The lead female couldn’t sing, had a nasely voice, and crews had to dub over it. That’s when the man met a star who can sing and dance and have a good acting voice.”
Also produced by teacher Andy Sundahl and directed by teacher Erin Baker, the play involved 34 actors, eight crew members for lights, sound, and backstage support, and the help of many parents.
While the cast includes students of all grades, the majority are junior students who are up-and-comers for future years and have much theatre potential, Woolnough said.
Grade 12 students Felicia Brooks and Matthew Ebert play the lead charactors Kathy Selden and Don Lockwood.
“Kathy is trying to make her way in the world as an actress,” Brooks said. “At this time, women weren’t as accepted for working, so she’s trying to make her way as an actress and show people that she’s serious about being an actor and succeeding.”
The most challenging part for Brooks in portraying the role is getting into Kathy’s mindset.
“She’s firm but soft. She wants her way in the world but she’s humble, got grace, and she’s poised, taking opportunity in her world,” Brooks said. “I put myself in her shoes, looking into what her motivations are and how she would react in the time and era she’s in.
“I put away my own life, and just submit myself into her role.”
Brooks first got involved with theatre through improvisation in Grade 10, followed up with theatre performing arts in Grade 11. Last year, she played faerie queen Titania in “Super Groovy Mid-summer Night’s Dream” and was part of the backstage crew of NVSS’s “Anne of Green Gables” production.
“Ever since I was little I wanted to pursue acting, but because my family lived so far out of town, I couldn’t,” she said. “I did skit in Grade 4 and realized I was pretty dramatic; now I finally got to.”
Ebert portrays popular silent movie actor Don Lockwood.
“At his time, he’s changing to talking movies and was trying to make a career. While doing this, he falls in love with the actor on stage, Kathy, and this is their story, becoming successful in their career as his movie was a success.”
Ebert finds the intimate scenes with Kathy as the toughest acting parts — “lots of gooy eye contact, singing how I feel towards her” — but he likes his character as he relates to Don.
“It’s easier to connnect with this guy, easier than old man Matthew (Ebert played Matthew Cuthbert, Anne Shirley’s kindred spirit in NVSS’s “Anne of Green Gables” last year),” Ebert said. “He’s very popular in this movie, and it’s fun to be the center of attention on stage. He finds it hard to express his feelings as he’s acting during most of his life, and I connect with it.”
Ebert did not reveal what feelings he’s hiding when asked. “I’m not telling you that!”
In his second year of theatre, he’s applying his knowledge of terms and tricks that he’s learned from director Baker. “Like how I present stuff on stage, saying to the audience, and stage movements appropriate to what scene you are doing,” Ebert said.
Dancing and singing were Brooks’ and Ebert’s favourite part of the production.
“Once you get the choreography and everyone’s working together, it feels very good,” he said.
This year’s on-stage dancing was choreographed by two teachers and international Grade 12 student Jane Li, who’s doing the work as part of credit-earning, independent directed studies in theatre performance. She looks to pursue post-secondary studies in acting.
“The challenge is teachinng it and it’s fun to choreograph it, but hard to describe in English how to move,” Li said. “It’s also hard to do the song “Make Them Laugh” because it’s not like a dance, more like doing a scene through the song. It’s making them move throughout the stage, with some staying for the entire time and others coming in and out.
“Coordinating that is the toughest part.”