Spring musical planned to be online film version of ‘The Addams Family’

February 6, 2021 — by Christina Chang

Senior Francesca Fernandes remembers the excitement of typical musical auditions. She was nervous because auditions dictate who got the juiciest roles, but she was also excited because she was with other students who were just as eager.
The COVID-19 version of auditions for the spring musical, “The Addams Family,” wasn’t the same. 

She set up her tripod outside her house to record a video for dance auditions and propped her phone up in her room for singing auditions. 

Fernandes has participated in every musical during high school, starting with “Mary Poppins” in her freshman year and going on to “The Sound of Music” as a sophomore and “Freaky Friday” as a junior.

“I love how the musical creates community over vulnerability,” she said. “Acting and singing are such vulnerable aspects of performing and to work together to create these amazing performances really builds a community of trust and support.” 

She added: “Many of my closest friends are from musicals and we’ve bonded over acting but also just knowing how fully we can trust each other to be non-judgmental and supportive.”

This year, Fernandes was cast for the role of Morticia Addams, the wife of Gomez Addams.

New drama director Bryan Ringsted oversaw auditions for the spring musical on the week of Jan. 18, which consisted of two parts. First, students went through the usual “cold reads,” in which they read portions of the script in character live over a Zoom meeting, and second, students submitted a video of themselves singing and dancing. This gave students the opportunity to redo their singing and dancing recordings as many times as they wanted, contrasting with the single-attempt auditions of the past. 

Ringsted announced roles on Jan. 22, and students have now begun learning the singing and initial dancing directions online, and will continue to do so until the county is out of the Purple Tier. The group plans to hold on-campus meetings, where students will learn the dance formations. 

If safe to do so, filming of scenes will occur around late March and April, with an online  premier  planned for April 30 and other show nights May 1, 7, and 8.

“I have all the parts in place and I’m excited to start, even though it’s a weird year and a weird time,” Ringsted said. “I sit in my house and there’s nothing else to do so I’m really excited to do something again — to put together something awesome and big and collaborative, and I’m hoping students will be excited about that too.”

Another difference to this year’s musical is a smaller cast and crew. As of Feb. 5, there are only 24 students in the cast and nine in the tech and film crew, in contrast to last year’s 45-student cast and eight-student crew.

Starring in the lead roles besides Fernandes are senior Ashwin Sarathy playing the role of Gomez Addams, senior Sarah Wang playing Wednesday Addams, junior Peilin Zhang playing Alice Beineke and senior Chris Linney as Lucas Beineke.

Ringsted wants to encourage student participation, and said any student who is interested in being a part of the tech or film crew should email him before filming starts in April. 

He is also getting staff participation and currently has four staff members in acting and dancing roles. He said any staff member who would like to dance in the opening number can email him before March 20th, and will be learning one dance and showing up to one day of on campus outdoor filming. 

The filming process will take place in the McAfee Center with everyone wearing face shields as they act out their scenes. 

The singing portion of the musical will all be done at home, and students will use their cell phones to record themselves and send their recordings to Ringsted for editing and synching with the videos. Once in-person rehearsals begin, the soloists will use the high quality Media Arts Program equipment in the audio recording studio to record themselves one at a time.
When it comes time to film, Ringsted will play music and students will lip-sync throughout the scenes; then, Ringsted will edit the pre-recorded audio into the video. This process will theoretically allow for better audio than a live performance, Ringsted said.

The scenes will be recorded one at a time over the course of around 23 days, and the film crew will try to get interesting shots of the musical, which Ringsted is looking forward to because of the unique opportunities that filming provides.

“Because we’re filming the musical, there’s a lot of magical things we can do that we couldn’t do otherwise,” Ringsted said. “We could make characters appear and disappear, fly across the stage — things that would be hugely expensive in the theater are free in film because you can use an editing program and make magic happen.”

According to Fernandes, the acting will be significantly impacted by the changes to this year’s musical. But the drama department is confident they will create a strong final product. 

“I feel that, while not ideal, it's the best that can be done given the situation of COVID,” Fernandes said. “The only thing I'm pretty bummed about is the fact that our show isn't going to be ‘traditional’ in the McAfee [with a live audience], which is what Drama seniors every year look forward to, since it's our last musical.”

Ringsted wants to make the best of the situation by producing this musical to be like any other musical with only a few minor changes. Although there will be technical challenges with costumes, props and filming down the road, he said the biggest challenge will be building a culture of safety, making sure everyone stays safe and obeys COVID-19 regulations.

Ringsted believes this year’s production of “The Addams Family” is a fitting choice in such a difficult year.

“Musicals are fun, they're magical, they take people out of the horrors of daily life we tackle all the time, and they bring you into a place where everything works out,” Ringsted said. “That’s kind of how all musicals work, and I think that’s necessary right now. There’s a lot of dark and a lot of bad in the world, and ‘Addams’ Family’ looks at that darkness and kind of laughs at it, which is really fun.”


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