One of the greatest aspects of art is the escapism it offers.
Taking in an art show or going to the theater can offer folks a chance to breathe and enjoy a brief moment to be
entertained and distracted.
Whisking people away into newly imagined places is something at which the students in Winter Park High’s drama program excel, and it’s exactly the reason why they have chosen to perform a production of “Crazy for You: The New Gershwin Musical.”
“It’s super fun — the show itself is a lot of tap dancing and a lot of fun,” second-year drama teacher Jennifer Bailey said. “I wanted to do a fun show, because there is a lot of stress right now — political issues around the world and whatnot. I was like, ‘Let’s just breathe and have some fun and believe in love again.”
The show — which will run Oct. 18 to 20 at the school’s auditorium — tells the story of a young New York banker named Bobby Child, who is sent to Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose a rundown theater. There, he meets Polly, the theater owner’s daughter, and zaniness ensues as the two fall in love and try to save the theater.
A romantic comedy set in the 1930s, the musical features a score comprising classic tunes such as “I Got Rhythm” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” from composer George Gershwin and his brother (and lyricist) Ira Gershwin.
The music- and dance-driven performance is the first musical of the year for the program — and the first for Bailey. And this time, it’s being done a bit differently. Instead of having adults lend a hand in certain aspects of the production, students have taken up the mantle of handling everything — from acting to designing.
“What we really want to focus on now is the kids,” Bailey said. “Productions here have been adults doing a lot of the work for production and design, but Ms. (Alison) Dimino is really working hard to make it kid-based.
“Our large productions ... were usually done by a production crew, but now the kids are doing (the work),” she said. “(That) is the basics of focus of educational theater. I feel like we have upped the game by (letting) the kids get deeply invested into the product that they’re producing.”
And the production itself is quite large, especially when you take into account that Bailey currently has 61 students — 36 performers and 25 behind the scenes — working to bring this musical to life.
“When you get there, it’s just euphoric. Seeing the lightbulbs going off in the kids’ heads and on their faces where they get it — that they accomplished something huge. … That’s my biggest thing that I love to see.”
— Jennifer Bailey
Getting so many aspects of a show up and running is made even more impressive considering the students have had only seven weeks to prepare.
Starting in late September, Bailey got together with a choreographer, music director and her technical director (Dimino) to get to work. From there, the process was put into high gear.
Students began by learning the basics — choreography and music — while Dimino worked on sets alongside her students. Then, five to six weeks in, the school’s associate director of bands, Michel Clemente, prepared the orchestra to play music during the production.
Then came the costumes and the rehearsing — lots of rehearsing — which Bailey said really pushed students further than usual.
“What I love about this and pushing the envelope and making the rehearsals intense, is showing the kids that the hard work pays off,” Bailey said.
And the hope is that by learning to work hard now, her students not only will exceed at the high-school level but also use that work ethic in other ways — whether it be for theater or life in general.
“You have to work hard, and you have to make the sacrifices, and the reward is so much greater than the pain of the work,” she said. “When you get there, it’s just euphoric. Seeing the lightbulbs going off in the kids’ heads and on their faces where they get it — that they accomplished something huge. … That’s my biggest thing that I love to see.”