The play's the thing at Greenhills
By Kathy Hulik
A small school, limited facilities and a Broadway musical comedy production mean everyone has to pitch in.
At Greenhills School, everyone means students, teachers and the bookkeeper with on-stage parts; parents, other area schools, Ma Bell and the Ann Arbor Civil Theatre helping out; and even a piano that doubles as a bar in one scene.
When "Bye, Bye Birdie" comes to life on the stage Thursday night, it will be the result of much improvisation and cooperation and an almost family-like atmosphere at the school.
THE STAGE itself is a creation of the Greenhils crew. Because the school lacks an auditorium, the annual spring musical must be presented in the gymnasium. The students build the stage on the gym floor, and the physical education students dodge the stage the next week of the musical.
Jim Posante, director-choreographer, designed the stage to fit the play. Using preconstructed platforms that rest on cinder blocks, Posante came up with a 60-foot curving stage that has a main section, two satellite sections and an upstairs bedroom.
THE LIGHTS were rented, and when the cast and crew and several teachers got together last Saturday to build the set, they used scaffolding donated by a Greenhills parent who owns a plumbing store.
Seating for the audience also is temporary. "We unload every chair in the school for the production," said Rosalie Edwards, the vocal director. Consequently, this Thursday and Friday Greenhills students in the dining room, the lecture court and the study hall will sit on the floor.
Of course, the heart of the production is the cast and crew. The musical is open to ninth through twelfth graders, which at Greenhills comprise less than 150 students. The cast has about 30 students and the crew another dozen, so that about one-third of the eligible students participate.
STRENGTHENING the family feeling, the production contains four sets of brothers and sisters, Mrs. Edwards' son and the school headmaster's son. "There's non of the usual brother and sister rivalry," said Posante. "The work together well, are supportive and help each other remember their lines."
POSANTE contributed, painting some of the sets. Because of the space constraints, he painted "in the garbage room behind the kitchen with the smell of orange peels, baloney sandwiches and sour milk."
Six of the school's faculty or staff have parts in the production. "There is a point in the show," said Mrs. Edwards, "when the kids have to play kids and can't play adults." So an administrative assistant, teachers of French, history and mathematics, a bookkeeper and the head receptionist have singing parts in the show.
The students had some part in choosing the musical, but Posante said the possibilities are limited by the talent. This year, there were strong male voices so Posante gave the students a choice of five musicals with strong male parts.
GREENHILLS has a limited performing arts program but Posante, who does much work with the Civic Theatre and the a'Masin' Blues, said talent is not a problem. "A lot of these students just know how to do it," he said.
THE BELL Telephone Company loaned 30 telephones for the telephone number and the costumes were gathered from the Civic Theatre, the Salvation Army, parents and "here and there," said Posante.
The musical, the first to spoof the fifties, is the story of an Elvis Presley-type singer, Conrad Birdie, as he prepares to go into the army and the young girl and her family who will receive his last farewell kiss.
Posante called it a spirited, fast, energetic show and one of the funniest he had ever dealt with. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 8, 9 and 10 in the school gymnasium. Tickets will be available at the door.
BYE, BYE — The young ladies swoon their farewells to Conrad Birdie, played by Doug Burgoyne, in the Greenhills School production of "Bye Bye Birdie." The fans are portrayed by (left to right) Beth Middleton, Teresa Casey, Bradley Nixon and Pam Brougher. (News photo by Robert Chase).
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