Putting on a show

At Theatre West musicals, there’s a lot to see, both onstage and off. The WSS takes a look behind the scenes of their latest production, Mary Poppins.

Putting on a show

Eleanor Ho and Barbara Badovinac

 Mary Poppins Photos

Click on photo above for more photos. 

When the lights go down in the Arganbright Auditorium, theater-goers always know they’re in for a good show. But what they don’t know about is what the members of Theatre West do in preparation.

“There are a lot of working parts on a typical day,” said Katy Nahra, director of Theatre West shows. “In rehearsal we’re just taking the actors through the script, working on memorization, and blocking for the musical, and they have set days . . .  Mondays are choreography days, Tuesdays are vocal days, things like that.”

Though Nahra is the director of the play, there are many student leaders who help out that are on the drama board.

“It’s the crew chiefs plus we have a president that’s more in charge of relating things to the actors and kind of like the cheerleader, the information mogul, that’s Noah Tiegs,” Nahra said. “[Drama board meetings are] a time to get together and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

One member is Matthew Harper, a vocal captain.

“It’s hard to always make sure everyone’s on the same page, because everyone learns at a different pace,” Harper said. “[I help by] doing morning rehearsals. Whenever [chorus members] need help with songs, I play pitches for them, or if they need to hear parts together I do that too.”

Singing, however, isn’t the only thing that chorus members have to do. They also have to learn choreography for the many songs in the musical, with the help of their two choreographers and two dance captains.

“There are a ton of different dances in Mary Poppins, and I’m not in all the scenes but I still have to learn all the dances,” said Jacob Heid ’16, a dance captain. “The hardest thing we’ve had to deal with this year is time management . . . We want to make sure that all the people know the  dances, so it’s hard to say we can only spend a set amount of time on each dance.”

In particular, the song “Step In Time” has proved difficult for the chorus.

“Step In Time is definitely the hardest dance because of the tapping aspect, and it’s a very fast song . . . [and] a lot of syncopated dancing,” Heid said. “I don’t have prior experience tap dancing, but in that scene we do have some girls and a few boys that have been tapping for a really long time. For the tapping portions, I ask them for advice and I lean on them a lot. They do a great job explaining all the moves.”

But the effort definitely shows, to audience members and crew members alike.

“I can see all the hard work during the final production,” said Christine Kallsen ’16, one of Theater West’s four stage managers, the people who keep everything organized, a task that isn’t to be taken lightly.

“During tech week when everything’s coming together, it can be really stressful,” Kallsen said. “If the directors gets mad, they get mad at us.”

Tech week is the all important week where all aspects of the show come together at once. Students typically stay from after school until nine o’clock that night working on all aspects of the musical.

“Tech week is when things come together, for better or for not so better,” said Harper.

“When everyone’s getting ready together, and the energy is really high, it’s a great bonding experience,” Kallsen said. Thomas Barker ’16, a member of the sound crew, agrees.

“Both crew and cast are really fun, but they’re so different. They’re two different types of people,” Barker said. “Being able to hang out with [people] after school is fun, but also working together on something is very rewarding.”

Mary Poppins Show Dates:

April 14 7 p.m.
April 15 7 p.m.
April 16 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Ticket Price:

Students: $10
Adults: $15
ICCSD employees: $5

Mary Poppins Infographic


Flying attributed to: ZFX Flying Company.

Photos by Meg Moreland.

Graphics by Eleanor Ho.