With music booming from within the dark and studio-lit Edward Milne community school gym, one would think a party was flaring up late last week — instead, it was just students practicing for the upcoming Where There’s Smoke musical.
While the student music group are keeping the best for the final stage, their practice performance before an interested fellow student crowd was a good taste of what the audience is to expect on June 3, given an exciting mix of stuff like fedoras, blue lights, neon t-shirts, and sunglasses.
It was also a good bonding experience, noted Lisa McLellan, Musical Theatre Director at EMCS and the glue behind the entire production; she said the experience not only helps the team work together as one unit, but also works as a sort of de-stresser.
“For grads in particular the final year can get stressful, so it’s good for them to cut loose, bond and have fun,” McLellan said, adding that this year the students’ take on musical theatre is a bit different than the usual stuff. “We like our dances to be multi-age, kind of like a wedding, not your typical high school dance.”
McLellan said the students decided their theme was to be based in the 1920s and 1930s, with bits and pieces of history like prohibition and the plight of women striving for independence — but also with a modern kick, much like the recent cinematic interpretation of The Great Gatsby; a solid source of inspiration for the group’s performance overall.
“We created our own big city, so we have gangsters, we have a family that runs the city, there’s a ton of different characters, we have orphans, we have flappers, we have a women’s organization, just a bit of everything.”
Involving both EMCS and Journey middle school students from grades 9 to 12, the production is pushing over 100 cast and crew; easily one of the biggest ECMS has seen. And best part is, it’s all done by the students — from the performers on stage to the appetizers that will be served at the opening gala.
“We got 60 in the cast, 66 with tech and crew and then the art department creates the sets, cooks training is doing our opening night gala, so there will be appetizers and you can walk through the art gallery,” she said, adding that between scene changes, the student film department will feature the projects they’ve been working on.
The team is also comprised of a student teacher, a past EMCS musical theatre grad, along with a professional sound specialist and several student techs who get to practice their MC skills.
McLellan said that while she usually drafts up a basic script, it’s the students who give the project a face.
“They come up with a story, improv it to script and then we pick songs that kind of fit with it, so they have a lot of ownership over the story,” she said, adding that this year the students have full control over how their roles and characters unfold before the stage.
She said the students usually start off with a song, and then they find a way to squeeze it into the story — apparently one of those songs this time is the Bohemian Rhapsody.
Tickets are available at the EMCS Office, Journey Middle School and Shopper’s Drug Mart. The Opening Night Gala on June 3 starts at 6:30 p.m. with complimentary appetizers from the Culinary Arts Department – the show will run until June 5.
And finally, a summary of the Where There’s Smoke musical from the students themselves:
“Big City is a town filled with interesting characters. The most interesting of all, are Mamma Vittone and her family. They run the shops and the local Speakeasy. Business is good. Maybe a little too good. Big City has caught the attention of big time boss, Jack Forrest. He wants control of the city for himself and he is ruthless. Will Big City’s citizens be able to hold on to their city?”