The cast of this year’s fall musical, The Music Man, gathers for a group shot on the night of their final performance. (Courtesy Photo)

By Katie Budinger

It can be hard to describe that feeling that sinks into you in the minutes before you step on stage. I run through every line, blocking direction, and note I’ve ever been given for that particular scene, but in the end, none of that matters. I can think through every scenario that could possibly happen, but you never know what will actually happen out there, and that’s part of the thrill for me. I don’t get mind-numbingly nervous because I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never be able to predict the ways of live theatre, so when I travel to the mindset of my character and stride on stage I do so without hesitation.

The characters in The Music Man are very much their own people, and it’s up to the actor to bring that personality to life. When I’m standing on stage with Spencer Daniel, who plays the leading role of Harold Hill, I see less and less of my friend and more of that “spellbinding cymbal salesman” that is Professor Hill. If I’m doing my job correctly, then hopefully behind the outrageous hats and flashy outfits he sees a haughty Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn and not a high school student under the harsh stage lights.

This production has been in the works since early September, and is supposed to finally see a live audience on November 15, but only in the week before do all of the elements truly start to come together. The stage and tech crew, led by seniors Eileen O’Farrell and Joey Grieve, unveils their massive sets and works out lighting cues during what is commonly referred to as ‘tech week’ by all those involved.

Tech crew member Erin Currie sums all of their efforts simply: “We’ve worked really hard on [this] show.”

We actors are finally given the opportunity to run the show in full costume, with makeup and props at our disposal to help us bring our characters to life under the direction of our fearless leader, Ms. Choquette.

Then everything gets flipped on its head. What is supposed to have been that thrilling night when the show finally gets its first audience is cancelled due to an impending threat of snow. Despite the fact that we all know that weather is beyond our control, it is impossible not to feel the anger and defeat at the fact that the thing we’ve been working towards for months and anticipating all day isn’t going to happen. We’re all just going to go home like nothing was ever supposed to happen that night and ignore the disappointment that we’re trying hard not to show.

Messages fly through the actor group chat, equal parts solutions and outrage. Everyone seems to agree, though, that “GOD [this] SUCKs” and that “[it] isn’t fair to us.” The town made the call, and now we’re the ones who have to cope with it. The snow was going to be the worst when the show was expected to end, and it seems that everyone has ruled it a safety hazard.

One of the many things that makes this show unique is that we have involved young children ages 4 to 12 in the show to make River City, Iowa, seem like a more realistic setting. If high school students are crushed, imagine how the kids must feel. They, too, have been working hard throughout tech week to make The Music Man fabulous, and now they don’t get to perform it yet for their friends and family.

To an outsider, all of this may not seem like quite such a big deal. After all, it is only one performance that has been cancelled, not the whole show, but to everyone who has been involved it might as well be the whole show. One less performance is one less opportunity to show off all of our hard work, and one less chance to feel the thrill of being on stage. We’ve worked too hard to be stopped by a little precipitation, but apparently even the Drama Guild can’t compete with Mother Nature. The show t-shirts that say ‘Nov. 15-18, 20’ are no longer accurate; nor are the posters, advertisements, or Facebook messages from alumni wishing everyone luck.

“Canceling the show was the right decision,” says Ms. Choquette. “The conditions [are going to be] very poor just around the time that our show would [be] ending… Better safe than sorry.”

After processing the whole situation, however, we manage to see some positives to the whole situation. Kelsey Dennehy, who plays Ethel Toffelmier, says, “I am really really sad, but not all of our shows were cancelled so that just gives the opportunity to make our other shows really good! I’m excited to perform on Friday and on Saturday night.” Despite the initial shock and anger of it all, most of us manage to come around and form a similar attitude. Yes, we’re “disappointed and sad,” as tech crew member Evie Lundbom puts it, but at least it means we can finally get a night of decent sleep for the first time in a week as opposed to the late nights of tech week that land everyone in bed sometime past eleven.

“[Ms. Choquette] made us all sleep,” says Colby Stack, who plays Marcellus Washburn. “She could have made us run stuff, but she didn’t. She could have run the show…and it would have been fine, but she saw an opportunity.”

To which Currie adds, “We were all tired and sad.”

Even though tech week may not have ended quite according to plan, no one seems to have any doubts that Friday’s show will be any less amazing. In fact, all of the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into this production will make that first performance even more gratifying. It also helped that the snow actually did decide to show up and make things a bit treacherous, or else our attitudes probably would have regressed back to the angry stage. With all of this messy cancellation business behind us, all of my fellow actors and tech crew can once again focus our attention on putting on a spectacular show.