New class lets students get off on the right note

Those who don't sing or dance help out with lighting, casting or even show financing.
BELOIT -- Twenty-five students at West Branch High School are meeting daily this year to learn the art of musical theater.
The new course, called musical theater applications, gives them hands-on experience in all aspects of musical theater.
Over the years, the school has put on quality plays and musicals, so theater work is nothing new to the students. But participating in either a fall or a winter play, or the annual spring musical were the only avenues they had to experience stage work.
And because there's a large variety of extracurricular activities -- sports, band, choir, academic clubs, student council -- students often are pressed for time to do a play.
So the new class carves out some time during the school day to allow students to learn theater skills.
The class has been designed to work hand-in-hand with the production of the spring musical. The students who wish to study and learn about productions that are not musicals can choose to take the fall semester theater class titled "theater applications." That class, also new to the school curriculum, focuses on comedies, dramas and children's plays.
Own responsibility
Not all of the class members are actors and singers, but each has his own responsibility to make the spring musical, or theater production, a success.
This term, class members are helping the director, John Zamarelli, to plan the spring musical by completing tasks such as choosing the show, organizing the auditioning process, selecting cast members, scheduling rehearsals, blocking scenes and helping to create characterization for the actors, choreographing the chorus and other musical selections, and advertising and promoting the show.
The students are also responsible for behind the scenes work and technical design that allow the show to run more smoothly, such lighting and sound effects. Each is trained at the light board, learning how to create all kinds of lighting illusions, and studies sound production and how to use the school's mixer and 12 cordless microphones.
Other study areas include scenery and costume creation, make-up and hair design, and business and financial aspects of putting on a production.
Zamarelli said, "The students get a real taste of all the aspects of producing a show because they are not just reading or talking about it in class... they are doing it."
The class members also are required to attend and critique at least four outside musical productions during the semester.
Class project
With the approval of the class, Zamarelli has chosen Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" -- now the sixth-longest running show on Broadway -- for the spring musical and the class project. Last year, Music Theater International, the company that holds the rights to many popular musicals, acquired the rights and has made the show available to amateur theaters and high schools around the country. West Branch is the first local high school to tackle the production in its entirety, show organizers said.
The play will be performed at the high school Memorial Day weekend.
Patrons are encouraged to come to the school and choose their seats as soon as possible. Because the show is popular with young children, the school expects it to be sold out soon.

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