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Hartford High theater students find right note in pandemic

  • Georgia Winn, 16, takes center stage as Janet Van De Graaff in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” during a rehearsal of the musical at Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. The production will be livestreamed on April 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Danny Mello, 16, adjusts to wearing a windowed mask after he and his fellow cast members of “The Drowsy Chaperone” received them before a rehearsal at Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. The masks were custom-made by costumer Rosemary Whitman so audience members can see facial expressions during streamed performances. Mello plays Feldzieg in the production. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford High sophomore Will Burns, 16, sets up a monitor speaker before a March 30, 2021, rehearsal in White River Junction, so the cast of the Hartford High School musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” can hear their pre-recorded music and lip-sync. The cast recorded all the music for the production outside in the February cold because singing would not be possible inside the school auditorium due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Musical producer Andrea Nardone runs a rehearsal with the cast of the Hartford High School musical “The Drowsy Chaperone" in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Cheyanne Pero, 17, who plays Mrs. Tottendale, right, laughs with Nicholas Tsouknakis, 16, a member of the ensemble, left, as they wait in the wings between scenes of the musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” at Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. After auditions were held outside the school in September, the cast rehearsed music into October, sometimes by the light of headlamps. They used Zoom meetings to work on lines and learned choreography in person at the school through the winter. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Staff Report
Published: 4/4/2021 6:12:02 PM
Modified: 4/4/2021 6:12:01 PM

A musical has a script, but Hartford High School’s upcoming production of The Drowsy Chaperone has been an improvisation from the start.

Usually, the school stages its musical in November, but this year moved it to this month, Andrea Nardone, the school’s choral director and musical producer, said in an email.

Everything about this musical was different. Auditions took place at the end of September, under the high school’s portico, “as we were not allowed to sing inside.”

Rehearsals took place outside under a tent, with power for an electric keyboard and an amp provided by a 100-foot extension cord plugged into an outlet outside the superintendent’s office.

“Every day we had to set up the chairs outside six feet apart and the students would rehearse for two to three hours, with their masks on, as I taught the music until the middle of October,” Nardone said.

As the autumn sky darkened, “our rehearsals typically ended with the last 30 to 40 minutes being lit by headlamps and cellphone flashlights.” They rehearsed next to field hockey games and in pouring rain. Skunks occasionally trundled past.

As much as they did in-person, online meetings were crucial to developing the characters. And in January, still unable to sing inside, Nardone and her collaborators decided to have the students record their singing parts and lip sync to themselves during performances.

They did all the recording on Feb. 11 and 12, again under the portico. Soundtown Music, in Stockbridge, Vt., polished the vocal tracks to good effect, Nardone said. “You can’t even tell that we couldn’t feel our faces from the wind!”

During February break, her husband built the sets out of materials left over from previous productions. Without much revenue, the production had no budget for new materials, Nardone said.

Each actor will wear a custom mask with a clear window, so the audience can see their facial expressions and their mouths as they lip sync. An improvisation, to the last.

Hartford High School’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone will be live-streamed at 7 p.m. on April 9 and 10, with help from CATV. Tickets ($10 for a single viewer, $25 for a family viewing) are available at showtix4u.com/events/hartfordhighschool.

— Alex Hanson




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