(WIVB) – COVID-19 has put most theater performances on pause- but some schools in Western New York have come up with creative ways to safely put on a show.
Amherst Middle School will debut an all-Zoom musical next week.
The 30-minute version of “Dear Edwina” will be available to stream on ShowTix4U.com starting Wednesday night. When you purchase the stream, you’ll be able to watch it for 48 hours.
All aspects of the musical were virtual- students auditioned, rehearsed and recorded their parts via Zoom.
“We didn’t do anything in person,” musical director Erin Ayer said. “We use Zoom in school during remote days, so they were really comfortable with it- they taught us a lot about it and showed us a few tricks of the trade.”
The middle school’s stage crew was also involved with the process. While they usually are responsible for the technical aspects of the show, this year they put together a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the musical.
“I think the students really liked interviewing teachers and students,” said Patrick O’Donnell, stage crew director for Amherst Middle School, said. “I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see us continue that even if we have normal productions.”
The documentary, along with the musical program, will be available along with the musical on the streaming platform.
Students involved with the production are happy that they were able to put on a show this year.
“I’m really grateful for the experience- I was sad when I thought it wasn’t going to happen,” said Isabel Schiller, an eighth-grader who plays “Susie” in the musical.
“I think parents were really excited to have this activity,” Ayer added. “It was a great opportunity that came at the time of the year that we were starting to transition into fully remote learning for a few weeks- it’s a great opportunity to keep kids connected and engaged, despite the fact that we weren’t in person.”
Starpoint High School is putting on a full version of “The Little Mermaid” this year in a unique fashion.
The entire show will be filmed (thanks to Disney allowing for some of its musicals to be captured and streamed) and will be available for streaming at ShowTix4U this spring.
To ensure safety for everyone involved, the music is being recorded separately.
“We’re recording the pit band by spreading them out all throughout the aud,” musical director Jason Gielow said.
Students who play wind instruments are spaced out 12 feet apart, and students who can be masked while playing are spread six feet apart.
Vocals are also being recorded separately- both ensemble and solos, as well as speaking parts.
“On stage, the ensemble kids will be masked and the leads can be out there on stage miming their words,” Gielow said.
Miming their words to a track will help prevent the actors from expelling saliva particles into the air.
The show will include choreography, costumes, and special effects- including Ariel “swimming” across the stage.
The high school is able to put on this production this year because “The Little Mermaid” was the musical last year- which was cut short after opening night March 13 due to the pandemic.
Gielow calls it “divine intervention”.
“Our seniors got a show, but when those curtains closed, it was really hard- every kid’s costume was standing on that stage for six months in case they got a curtain,” Gielow said.
The Starpoint community rallied around the musical- $5,000 of ticket sales from the three canceled performances was donated back.
Disney’s extension of the rights to the show, and the fact that they already had sets and costumes ready, allowed the high school to put it on this year.
“The fact that we weren’t able to finish that show is the only reason we’re able to pay for the show this year,” Gielow said. “The kids are going to see a final product- it’s so rewarding to know that those goals we set in November are going to happen.”
The musical being streamed will mean that students will be able to watch themselves perform- and it will give family and community members a safe way to watch it.
Gielow says they also hope to set up a socially-distanced viewing of the musical with a drive-in theater when it comes out.
There’s no set release date yet, but you can check out Starpoint High School’s website for the latest information.
Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.