Upper Arlington High School’s annual musical production headed to big screen

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Grant Overmyer, in the role of Nick Bottoms, performs during a dress rehearsal for the making of Upper Arlington Vocal Music's film rendition of "Something Rotten!" on Feb. 24. The group is recording the play in place of a traditional  theater performance and will be available in screenings at the high school and South Drive-In Theater and by video-on-demand streaming.

The Upper Arlington High School Vocal Music Department will make its film debut next month when it presents an adaptation of the musical “Something Rotten!” 

The ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on large public gatherings has this year prevented UA Vocal Music from presenting an annual musical on the big stage of the UAHS Auditorium. 

Rather than call a wrap on 2020-21, however, the department is going to the big screen. 

More than 50 students are taking part in a production of John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick’s “Something Rotten!,” which will be presented as a full-length film that can be viewed during screenings at the high school, at a Columbus drive-in theater and via an on-demand video. 

“We have never produced a film version,” said Lydia Smith-Lockwood, UAHS choral music director and producer of “Something Rotten!” 

“This was our best and safest option, which still enabled us to present a show,” she said. 

The musical movie production will be presented to limited-capacity audiences at UAHS Auditorium, 1650 Ridgeview Road, March 24-26. All showings are 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person and capacity is limited to 224 guests for each screening. 

A student screening is 3:30 p.m. March 26 in the auditorium. Tickets are $5. 

Show and ticket information is available at uavocalmusic.org

“Guests will be expected to wear a mask throughout the performance and will be seated in socially distanced pods throughout the auditorium,” Smith-Lockwood said. “Tickets will be sold as general seating and will be assigned to you at a later date via email. 

“Tickets purchased early will be seated near the front and tickets purchased later will be seated in the back of the floor or in the balcony,” she said. “We will try to seat all individuals on one order together; however, this may not always be possible. Because of this, if you are purchasing tickets for individuals outside of your family, please purchase those tickets on a different order.” 

In addition to the UAHS screenings, another will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 26 at South Drive-In Theater, 3050 S. High St., Columbus. The cost is $15 per vehicle. 

The video-on-demand streaming option will allow for viewing at home or on mobile devices. The links to the streaming option cost $10 for an individuals or $30 for a household. 

“The video-on-demand streaming links will enable viewing for one device at a time but can be viewed as many times as you would like in a 48-hour period,” Smith-Lockwood said.

The links become available 7 p.m. March 24 and remain open until April 30.

Smith-Lockwood said the film wouldn’t be possible without the help of alumni and other community members, including George Varner, the director, and Jackie Comisar, the choreographer.   

There also was collaboration with UAHS broadcasting teacher Amanda Fountain and her students. 

“All filming is being done in the high school auditorium and the show is being filmed by students from our videography department under the direction of Ms. Amanda Fountain,” Smith-Lockwood said. “We will have three camera angles going at once to hopefully capture the best footage possible.” 

Smith-Lockwood said UAHS alumnus Nate Corson completed audio recordings, Tobey Kegley helped in final editing and Anthony Stype provided help in staging and filming. 

“To make more room on the stage, Anthony and I choose to go for projected backgrounds,” she said. “Anthony has helped the vocal music program, along with many other groups, incorporate projections to enhance their shows without needing such a large set. 

“For this year’s show, digital backgrounds were rented from Broadway Media Distribution and then Anthony worked on those digital products to enhance them specifically for our show.” 

Smith-Lockwood said producing a musical always is challenging, but making a film brought new trials and new opportunities. 

Because of safety requirements, students couldn’t rehearse on stage in large groups. 

“We often had simultaneous choreography, musical and acting rehearsals and some of these rehearsals were via Zoom,” Smith-Lockwood said. “The choreographer videotaped herself and the kids practiced with the video when they could not be in the school. 

“Consequently, the students have had to be much more independent this year and the production team has had to be more creative and flexible. We had to lay the vocal tracks down first, which meant that the music director had just a few weeks to teach the music. The kids were unable to hear each other’s parts because of the way we had to rehearse so this made it more difficult, but the upside is the fact that they did not have to memorize their music.” 

She said the show is being filmed in front of a live audience, but students will have been on the stage together only a few times. 

Smith-Lockwood said she chose “Something Rotten!” for this year’s musical because it is well-written and funny, but also because it showcases the strengths of this year’s UA Vocal Music students.   

“We currently have some incredible male singers, and this is a male-heavy show,” she said. “The music is catchy and fun for students to sing. 

“I figured that everyone, from the parents who tirelessly assist us to the students learning this show, could use much levity during this unusual time.”

Principal characters for the show include Grant Overmyer (role of Nick Bottom), Patrick Bertke (Nigel Bottom), Toby Hattemer (Shakespeare), Delaney Evans (Bea), Kate Mason (Portia) and Bryce Brunton (Nostradamus). 

Supporting characters include Paul Renner (Minstrel), Chase Emmons (Brother Jeremiah), Tommaso (Negroni Shylock), Luca Nogueira (Lord Clapham), and Lydia Silver (Lady of Justice). 

UAHS senior Abigail Ali, a member of the supporting cast who plays Helena and a student production coordinator for the film, said the project marks the first time she’s been involved in filmmaking. 

“The two biggest differences are the singing aspect and how we perform,” Ali said. “All of our singing was recorded separately so we aren't singing during the recordings. 

“This has allowed us to focus on our dancing and acting more. Another thing is that we are only running the whole show in one go to record once. Every other time will be parts of the show, which is very different for all of us.” 

Overall, Ali said it was nice to not worry about memorizing songs and hitting each note while dancing, but it took “some of the experience out of it.” 

Still, she believes students have learned valuable lessons and skills this year and she thinks audiences will enjoy the show. 

“I know that on the technical side, recording is a lot more work because we have to get the set built earlier, make sure lighting and projections show up well on camera and put the vocals together,” Ali said. “I love this show because it puts a spin on the history, literature and musicals that we all know. 

“It shares the message of being true to yourself while also making you laugh.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

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