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My experiences with working on ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ so far and why you should all come see it

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Disclaimer: This is the first of what will be two or three posts about my recent foray back into theater. It is a first-person account of what it’s been like and how the whole experience has affected me. 

I have not posted here in a while, and one of the reasons for that is that much of my free time lately has gone to rehearsing for the upcoming production of “Jekyll and Hyde” at the University of Great Falls. The show opens on Nov. 11 and runs through Nov. 19. You can find more details about it here.

In the show I play an ensemble singer and a few minor bit parts. It’s been hectic, fun, crazy, annoying at times, and a learning experience.

The last big musical I did was “Chicago” at UGF back in 2012. I’ve done a few small things here and there since then, but that was the most recent full stage production I appeared in.

Even though I’ve done it before, I’m still learning things along the way about what it means to be in a play. For one, it takes a lot of trust. You have to trust that the directors know what they’re doing. You have to trust that your fellow actors/singers can help you if you stumble and that you’ll be able to help them. You must trust that when it seems as if certain parts are just never going to get better, that it will.

You’re also working with a lot of different personalities, different ages of people who all have different wants, needs and reasons for being in the play.

Photo by Jasmine Harrington. Here's a sneak peek at "Bring on the Men" shot at a recent rehearsal.
Photo by Jasmine Harrington. Here’s a sneak peek at “Bring on the Men” shot at a recent rehearsal.

This time out, I will say that working with Meghan Wakeley, the director, Lindsey Nussbaum, the musical director, Barb Lassiter, the tech director, and Jasmine Harrington, the assistant director, has been a blast. They all have a good feel for what needs to be done, how to make things work better, and how to motivate the right people at the right times to best get us to give our best efforts.

That being said, I wouldn’t say that it has been a perfect experience. No plays are, though, are they?

There’s been a few times where I’ve felt like I wanted to quit, there’s  been times where I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore and there’s been times where I’ve been standing on stage about to fall asleep from exhaustion but trying to plow through to the best of my ability.

Despite all of that, I’m excited to open this show soon and am proud of everything we have accomplished so far.

The music, for one, is some of my most favorite I’ve ever had the chance to learn and perform. Frank Wildhorn was someone I’ve never heard of before, but now I respect the hell out of him and if I ever had the chance I’d love to thank him for penning such haunting, beautiful and catchy songs. You all are going to love it, seriously.

Jekyll and hyde posterThe costumes, lighting, and the set pieces all look stellar so far, too, and seeing these things work their way into the final product I believe are what add the magic to any theater show, but this one in particular. Speaking of costumes, I do think that when you’re wearing them, and they’re outstanding pieces of garments, it helps put us all in the shoes of the characters in a way that no other method could.

One thing I hope is that the whole cast by the end of the show can gel together in a way that makes us all appreciate our own differences and similarities in better ways.

It’s not that I think that we haven’t gelled or there have been backstage conflicts. There hasn’t been, which has been a blessing because I have heard horror stories from some of my theater friends about certain shows where there’s been giant blowups that nobody ever hears about but made working on certain shows painful.

That has not been the case here. I think part of it for me is just the fact that when I put back on my theater shoes, it also means that I can’t help but put on my nostalgia glasses. I remember working with certain people in past shows that have left or have gone on to bigger or better things, or simply aren’t involved in this production.

There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose and I have had the chance to work with some incredible new people for this one. I just do feel that nagging…”it’s not like it used to be” voice in my head that probably will never be silenced no matter how wonderful this experience could be.

To wrap this post up, I encourage everyone to come see us. Both lead actors, Eric Buhler and Matt Bartolotta, bring stellar singing, acting and intriguing energies to Jekyll and Hyde. They approach the character just a little bit different which should make it fun for the audience because you get to see tiny varied wrinkles to the show when you see the different casts.

The same can be said for the actresses cast as Lucy — Kellsi Heller and Kendra Bell  and Emma — Lydia Pierce and Stephanie Avila. They can all sing marvelously and bring unique, strong and dynamic personalities to their individual characters.

I’ll end with this – Arthur Miller once said, “The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental. It’s so much like life.” I can’t think of a better quote to sum up the whole experience thus far.

If it’s getting to do things we’d never think of doing in real life, going places we’d never go, or fulfilling any other fantasies, by doing these things I have already stumbled upon certain parts of myself that I never knew existed.

Those happy accidents can make for beautiful discoveries.

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