By Kimberly Bogers
The performing arts department at Pensacola State College has been busy the past couple of months rehearsing for their 25th annual Summer High School Onstage Workshop (SHOW). Local high school students will be showcasing their talents in their rendition of the Tony-winning musical, Mame.
The musical takes place in New York and tells the story of wealthy aristocrat Mame Dennis, who suddenly finds herself to be a mother when her late brother’s 10-year-old son Patrick is sent to live with her. Rather than accept the roll of responsible, stay-at-home mom Mame introduces the young boy to her high-rolling lifestyle, and the pair humorlessly work their way through tough situations during the Great Depression.
Producer Rodney Whatley was very excited to start working on this musical.
“It is one of the great, Golden Age of Musical Theatre plays. Beautiful music, brilliant and hilarious script, and the central idea of the play is, “Life is fun, live it to the fullest with a completely open mind”.”
Mame will be the second musical that Whatley has produced for PSC this year, the first one being Zombie Prom. Whatley shared that he does not treat musicals any differently than plays when he works on them, and he enjoys producing both types of stage productions.
“I see musicals and non-musicals all the same-they are plays. When I auditioned for this job, I was asked how I would approach musicals as opposed to straight plays. Straight plays is an industry term for non-musicals…I told the committee that I would approach them the same way, because they are all stage plays. Treating musicals differently ends up with inferior productions. So actually it depends on the individual play under rehearsal. It is true I enjoy some [productions] more than others, but I love my job. I get to pick the shows we do every year as part of my duties as Director of Theatre.”
Todd Faust will be playing the rolls of Gregor and Bishop, and he has performed in several PSC productions before.
“I’ve been in a few [PSC] productions, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Suicide Club, and The Great Gatsby.”
Faust is one of the 32 high school students taking part in the SHOW production. SHOW is a theatre program for high school students that has been offered by PSC since 1991, and it is tuition-free. High school students have been creating wonderful productions through SHOW for the past fourteen summers.
Whatley is thrilled with how the rehearsals have been going so far for this year’s production.
“[Rehearsals have been] super fantastic, this is one of the best casts ever. We are ahead of schedule and the quality of their work is just mind-blowing.”
However, Whatley had to overcome some issues with this production right from the start.
“At first we only had 6 male actors show up for the auditions, but through recruiting we now have eleven, which is much better. People think of Mame as not having many male roles, but there are actually several very important male roles, a minimum of seven. We conquered that, though!”
Faust was one of the actors recruited by Whatley.
“I originally didn’t audition for the show, but Dr. Whatley needed more males and asked me to fill in. Of course I said yet, because I just love being on stage!”
Whatley is extremely proud of the show’s young performers.
“The acting is awesome. The singing is beyond awesome. The dancing is supercalafragalistically superior.”
Faust shared that the dancing has been one of the most difficult things for him during rehearsals.
“The most difficult thing for me would be dancing. I didn’t start dancing until I was in The Entertainer’s Jazz Choir here at PSC.”
Despite any difficulties he has faced while practicing, Faust loves the musical’s energy.
“I love how energetic and upbeat the show is. It definitely shows the more party side of life.”
Whatley is very eager for the musical’s opening night, and hopes that the audience walks away from the show with a new philosophy about life.
“Well, I hope the audience doesn’t take pieces of the stage, props or costumes, [but] I hope they take away a new philosophy about life, positivity, and consciousness. Mindfulness is a great way to live and brings happiness beyond measure.”
Mame will be playing for two weekends, July 24-26 and July 31-August 2. The show will start at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets cost $16. For more information call (850) 484-1800.