Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR) has a performing arts program that offers the chance for so many young people to explore what it feels like to be on stage. Putting on a show is always an exciting challenge, but during a pandemic it’s even more difficult. This year, CVR has been working on presenting the musical Aladdin, and it will be ready to share the show with audiences in early June.
It has been an interesting process, adapting to what this “new normal” is like for theatre. For example, students have had to learn how to act with masks on. Performing arts teacher Lynn Harper says, “The most difficult part of rehearsing with masks is that we cannot see the facial expressions… Yet, we have found a way to bring the characters to life through ‘physicalization’ and the power of the voice.” At this point, wearing masks has become so normal that it seems like any other year.
The shift to being back in person was extremely beneficial this year. Harper explains, “Last year’s hybrid model was a huge challenge, and the cast of The Little Mermaid faced many logistical obstacles… obstacles which they faced and rose above.” This year, students have been back in school full-time. And though there were challenges, like some students getting COVID, Harper says, “Having students in school full-time for the most part made a huge difference… in comparison to last year, it was almost normal! Students have had to be independent and autonomous throughout the year.”
Being back in person has also helped to lift the spirits of the students this year. Harper emphasizes that there is a camaraderie amongst the cast, like most years; the difference, however, is that this group witnessed what last year’s class went through with the online element. “They know what last year’s group had to live through, and I think they are thankful for all of the things that have made this school year feel a little more ‘normal.’”
Harper explains that the main themes they will be exploring in this show concern gender and women speaking up for what they believe in. The women in this show challenge the rules of their society: “While a woman in this time and place would not have had any power over her life, our Jasmine and her friends are strong, outspoken, and independent women who fly in the face of tradition.” Not only that, but women also have power in this show in different scenarios: “Even the sultan’s head guard is a woman, and the evil Jafar has three sorceresses who, along with Iago, serve as his confidants.”
The version of the show being put on by CVR will have elements of the Disney animated movie and the Broadway show, but Harper promises there will also be “a few CVR-specific additions and surprises!”
The plan this year is to perform in the CVR auditorium from June 2 to 4, with evening shows on the Thursday and Friday nights and a matinee on the Saturday. Unfortunately, there will be no Saturday evening show this year, since there would not be enough time to disinfect the spaces properly in between the two shows. Audience members will be required to wear masks for the duration of the show. Harper expects that tickets will go quickly, especially with one less show than usual, and she recommends that people buy theirs as soon as they can.
This not-to-be-missed show wouldn’t be possible without the help of many volunteers. Harper gives a special shoutout to “Michael Iskra for building our set; Beryl Myatt and Sandra Myatt for creating our costumes; Sandra Myatt, Rosemary Harris, and Tracy Chow for help behind the scenes. Thanks also to CVR’s administrative team who support our theatrical endeavours.”