Two bouncy, up-beat musicals featuring popular songs will be performed outdoors when Brainerd Community Theatre presents ‘Sh-Boom, Life Could be a Dream’ and ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes.’ The shows perform the week of July 20 (‘Sh-Boom’) and August 3 (Marvelous Wonderettes’), beginning at 6:30 p.m. on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College.
BCT Producer Patrick Spradlin and his team (George Marsolek, Lucy Peterson, and Curtis Jendro) saw the closing of indoor theatres due to COVID-19 as an opportunity. “We agreed that to not do anything at all was not an acceptable alternative,” said Spradlin. “So. we started imagining theatre in different formats.”
One format was a totally streamed performance of the play ‘A Long Trip’ the week of June 16. Moving theatre outdoors was another idea, which led to the production of these two musicals.
“We will be taking all sorts of safety precautions for the performance,” Spradlin noted. “The first row of seating is 15 feet from the stage; audience size is limited to the State’s guideline of 250, and seating areas with appropriate distancing will be marked. We encourage audience to wear masks. We’ll have hand sanitizing stations on hand. All our staff will be masked and gloved. Outdoor activity has been shown to be far less dangerous, especially with these precautions in place.”
The two shows are, according to Spradlin, perfect for this time. “They are both upbeat, bubbly shows with fun characters and songs that the vast majority of our audience will know. There may be sing-along happening, which would be terrific. Right now, our society needs some kind of return to normalcy, along with fun, uplifting entertainment. These shows fit the bill.”
‘Sh-Boom—Life Could Be a Dream’ follows the journey of Denny and Dreamers, a fledgling doo-wop group, as they vie to win a local radio contest. The trio has some talent but they need a certain something to really sell the group. Duke Henderson walks in from a potential sponsorship with Big Stuff Auto and quickly becomes the leading heartthrob of the group. But life needs a little drama. Enter Lois, the daughter of the owner of Big Stuff Auto. Each man has an immediate attraction to Lois but Duke seems to have caught her eye.
‘Sh-Boom’ is directed by Travis Chaput, known to local audiences primarily for his many roles in musicals and plays at virtually every local community theatre. Chaput also directed the highly successful production of ‘The Little Mermaid’ at Pequot Lakes Community Theatre. The cast of ‘Sh-Boom’ includes Jaydon Friedel as Denny, Oliver Knudson as Eugene, Noah Barnhart as Wally, Jacob Hanson as Duke, Lydia Halbach as Lois, and Sharon Hartley as Mrs. Varney.
‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ a cute, campy show about 4 glee club girls we first meet at their senior prom and then 10 years later at their high school reunion. The girls get the honor of performing for their student body as the prom entertainment after the boys’ glee club leader gets caught smoking. The show features some of the most well-known “girl group” songs of the 50’s-60’s and a storyline that is both funny & charming. Both shows are geared for family audiences.
‘Wonderettes’ is directed by Amy Borash, long-time veteran of local theatre and dance instructor at Music General Dance Studio. Borash directed BCT’s smash 2019 summer hit ‘Mamma Mia,’ and has also directed and choreographed numerous other productions in the area. The cast of ‘Wonderettes’ includes Rachael Kline as Cindy Lou, Nicole Rothleutner as Betty Jean, Macy Judd as Missy, Emily-Rose Severson as Suzy. Brianna Engels is the understudy/swing, with cameo appearances by Jesse Brutscher as Mr. Lee and Dave Borash as the voice of Principal Varney.
The production team for the shows includes: George Marsolek, set designer and technical director; Curtis Jendro, lighting and sound director; Sharon Hartley, costume designer; Lucy Peterson, box office manager. Both productions are choreographed by Borash, vocal direction by Jacob Hanson, and Alex Erickson is stage manager for both shows.
Spradlin sat down with the two directors to get their perspectives on the shows, the rehearsal process that involved extensive health protocols, and what they believe audiences can expect.
Spradlin: What drew you to directing this particular show?
Chaput: I had seen a production of this show at the Old Log Theater some years ago and it was fun from start to finish! I thought it would be the perfect introduction for the Brainerd Lakes Area as we move back to live performances amid this crazy time.
Borash: I loved the idea of directing an all-female cast, so that was a plus, but the most important aspect was the small cast size. When looking at our current pandemic situation, I was really trying to find shows that could operate with 10 people or less including cast and crew. This show fit that bill and I really loved the music and nostalgic feel of the show. Let’s be honest, these times are a little worrisome and (sometimes) depressing. I wanted to choose a show that would make people happy…make them smile and remember the good things in life. This show embodies all of that. The cast is having a ball with the music and developing these characters, and I know audiences are going to leave feeling good.
Spradlin: Rehearsals had to take place with extensive health protocols in place. How did that work out?
Borash: It’s certainly been…interesting! We have gotten used to the protocol, but it hasn’t been the most convenient or comfortable situation. We take temperatures and fill out a heath survey before every rehearsal, we are wearing masks and/or face shields during rehearsal (which can be a bit stifling and hot) and we have been sanitizing after each rehearsal. Initially, it took some getting used to, but now we are all accustomed to it and it feels more like second nature. The masks are still our least favorite part, as singing and dancing with them on is hot and it muffles voices a bit, but we are working through it. Honestly, we are all just grateful for the opportunity to create and do what we love.
Chaput: Rehearsals have been interesting, but we are blessed with casts of very responsible young adults who have given up their lives to provide these shows to the area. We are taking every precaution imaginable to ensure the safety of our cast and crew.
Spradlin: Besides the health protocols, what has been most challenging about directing this show?
Chaput: This is the first time that I have been a part of two shows running at the same time rehearsal wise. It has been so fun to watch the two different casts rehearse these shows simultaneously. It has also been a big challenge with choreography and vocal direction hinging on two people for both shows. We have all risen to the challenge and I think the area is going to love these productions.
Borash: The biggest challenges have been in terms of staging and choreography. Because we don’t really know what the “rules” will be in 3 weeks, or a month (or tomorrow!), I have to have a back-up plan for all the movement in the show. We have all been very careful and rigorous about keeping our outside circle of contact very small, so that we are mostly only exposed to each other whenever possible. Additionally, many of the cast members are either roommates or are in an actual relationship with one another, so they have been in constant contact with each other since the start of this pandemic. Nevertheless, even though our “bubble” of exposure is small, we have to prepare for the possibility that we won’t be allowed to touch each other or be closer than 6 ft., which means we all have to be prepared to change things at the last second. It’s a little stressful and scary, especially given that most of the cast members are theatre newcomers, but I have faith that they will adapt if necessary!
Spradlin: What would you tell potential audience members about the experience they’ll have?
Borash: I would tell them to be prepared for a slightly “altered” theatre experience. As mentioned previously, we really don’t know what to expect in terms of pandemic rules for our state, so they should be prepared to see performers in masks or face shields, so that may affect the overall experience. Facial expressions may be harder to see, and sound may be slightly altered. I think overall though, I hope that most audiences won’t notice the changes we have had to make when it comes to staging. Lighting will be substantially different, as we are performing outside. Blackouts between scenes won’t happen, so that will be a bit different, but I think the general audience will take that in stride.
Chaput: I would add dress for the weather. With outside performances you don’t know what you are going to get, but don’t let that stop you. Come and enjoy LIVE theater again. These shows will be fun from start to finish and be in a new unique format.
Spradlin: Anything else you’d like to add?
Borash: We hope that audiences will wear a face mask and join us! We know they are hot and sweaty (believe me, we know!), but we know that they won’t regret attending! I hope that they forget they have them on and can just be transported back in time for a bit. Ultimately, we want everyone in attendance to be safe and go home safely. On behalf of both casts…BE SAFE! Wear your mask and enjoy the show!
Chaput: Oh, and bring a lawn chair, a blankie and a snack!
BCT has posted the following information on their web site (www.clcperformingarts.com) regarding the shows:
Things to Know Before You Go to the Show:
How much are tickets? $10 for adults, $5 for those under 18.
How do I buy tickets? Tickets will be sold ONLY on day of performance, and ONLY on site. No phone or online sales. General admission, first-come, first served. Cash or check only, no credit cards. Box office opens one hour prior to the show (5:30 p.m., with a 6:30 curtain time).
Where do I go? Park in the south lot of Central Lakes College. Exit off College Drive onto Mississippi Parkway (look for signs at each of the roundabouts on College Drive).
Are there seats? We ask that you bring your own lawn chair. There will be limited space for on-the-ground seating. Oh, and bring your own bug spray.
What safety precautions are being taken? Seating areas will be marked that maintain proper social distancing. We encourage you to wear a face covering. Performers are distanced 15 feet from the first row of seating. Our ushers and box office staff will be masked and gloved. Hand sanitizer is available to all.
What if it rains on the day of the show? We will be monitoring the weather, and will make a final determination as to whether the show goes on 1 hour prior to the starting time of 6:30 p.m.
What else should I know?
Water and face masks will be available at a nominal cost.
Portable toilet facilities will be available on site.
Please: no coolers, large bags, glass containers.
Alcohol and tobacco are not allowed on college grounds.