Steamboat middle school’s “Glee”-like film shows Thursday
Students star in musical production
May 25, 2011
Steamboat Springs — McKendrey McGown went over the scene one more time.
"So, what, do we just yell at each other?" the eighth-grader asked Steamboat Springs Middle School musical director Stuart Handloff. "And then he tells me he doesn't like nerds and claps his hands?"
It was April in the Steamboat Springs Middle School library, and McKendrey and costar Harry Jenkins were filming a scene with a climactic argument between the two.
"If it gets really out of hand, we'll say cut and start all over again," Handloff reassured her.
In 15- to 30-second takes over a period of two weeks, the cast of 30 students and three directors pieced together an hour-long musical to serve as the annual Steamboat Springs Middle School production.
The students giggled and ad-libbed their way through a series of scenes that, spliced together, complete a comedic teen drama musical akin to "Glee" or "High School Musical."
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And no one is more familiar with the genre than middle school students.
"It's realistic," McKendrey said about the plot. "But it's like exaggerated realistic."
The only showing is at 7 p.m. Thursday night in the middle school's cafetorium. The cost at the door is a "pay what you want" donation to the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, which has sponsored the production in the two years since the school system cut the program.
An advantage of filming the production beforehand is that the stars will be sitting in the audience watching themselves at the premiere — and they even get a limo ride to the show.
"I remember going to see it last year and we laughed a lot," said Harry, who also acted and sang in 2010's "Beauty and the Beast" film. That production was the school's first foray into the movie musical format.
Handloff said the experience of filming the production instead of performing it live on stage offered a new spin on arts education.
"It gives them an experience they wouldn't be doing in any other environment," Handloff said. "They get to see themselves performing in a finished product — it's so exciting to watch their reactions in the theater."
Handloff worked with Paula Salky and Kelly Anzalone to coordinate and film the musical, with Anzalone providing the studio space for the students to record their own versions of popular songs like "Lean on Me" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," which are peppered into the storyline.
He also spent hours editing the final cut of the show.
Salky, who acted as the musical director, said the directorial team left a lot up to the creativity of the students.
"They came up with the characters and wrote this script," she said. "It's all been led by the students. I think the kids will feel a sense of pride they had so much to do with this production."
The plot is centered on McKendrey and Harry — using their real names — who are a nerd and a jock, respectively, and cast in the school play. Through a series of betrayals and attempts at sabotage, the play and the leading couple's relationship is on the brink of disaster. But the often spontaneous music pulls the cast together toward a genuinely happy ending.
The students enjoyed working in the ad-lib format, in which they used basic scene guidelines to encourage their own take on middle school characters.
"I think it's going to be really good," McKendrey said. "You just can go crazy and do whatever you want."
Her costar also liked the freedom of making up the script as they went along, and the chance to put more than a just bit of themselves into their roles.
"You're acting, but you're staying yourself at the same time," Harry said.
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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