Students adapt to challenges, produce a live and streamed spring musical


This spring, the Westminster Players presented High School Musical 2 in an outdoor live and streamed combination format. Parents and a few guests were invited to watch the show live in April to support the crew and two separate casts, “Celebrities” and “Superstar.” The live performance was recorded, and then the entire Westminster community will be able to sign up for a stream ticket to watch the show in May. While this musical resembled a typical production more than the fall musical revue, which did not include a live performance, there were still many adjustments and challenges the students and faculty had to overcome due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

The auditions for the musical were held virtually in the first week of January. Students were required to record a video of themselves singing, read a specific scene from a list given by the directors, and submit an audition form about their theater experience as well as their favorite characters. Others who were interested in working behind the scenes as a crew member or musician in the pit orchestra also had to apply for their roles. Senior student directors Lizzie Khan and Mackenzie Watson were responsible for blocking the scenes, managing set pieces and props, and communicating with administrators as student directors for this production. 

“This year specifically, we have had to advocate more than ever with administrators to even make this show happen,” said Khan. “It has been really difficult trying to explain to adults how important theater is to a bunch of teenagers.” 

Because of the safety concerns surrounding a live show, the feasibility of the musical was highly debated with administrators. However, Khan, Watson, and Kate Morgens, the director, worked hard to adjust to the challenges and showcase the best result. 

“We have never done a show outdoors before, so that was incredibly challenging!” said Morgens. “We had to carry props and sets back and forth and rehearsed under tents in the rain. We couldn’t sing indoors, so we were freezing while rehearsing in the winter.”

Other than rehearsing outside, the live show was performed in the Middle School amphitheater instead of Kellet theatre. Social distancing, rain, plastic masks, and sound acoustics served as major obstacles along the way. 

“We maintain social distance throughout almost every moment of the show – we use almost every inch of the performance space,” said Jennifer Finlayson, the choreographer for the show. “This cast is full of rain warriors. They performed their whole show in the rain on opening day. For the actors, masks are the toughest – they have to shine through their eyes. Their mouths are covered, but they are still portraying their characters with charisma and beauty.” 

Although the show presented challenges, the students adapted, and many were grateful to be able to perform.

“Obviously, being in the amphitheater is way less than ideal, as we now had to conform to the constantly changing weather and poor acoustics, but it’s honestly amazing we are even able to do something like this during COVID, so I don’t think anyone is unhappy about it at all,” said sophomore James Rosenblath, who played Zeke. 

Seniors Aldyn Goheen, who played Sharpay Evans, and Christina Boye, who played Kelsi, enjoyed being able to perform for an audience again.

“I missed being able to interact with other actors and playing off their reactions and line deliveries.” said Goheen. “I really loved having a live audience – it brings a new energy to my performance because I never know how the audience is going to react!” 

Despite the challenges presented by the logistical sides of the musical, the performance ran smoothly with students and faculty collaborating together to create a memorable experience. The tech crews and stage managers were an integral part of making sure everything flowed smoothly behind the scenes. Junior Campbelle Searcy worked as a costume assistant where she analyzed scenes to choose the most appropriate costumes and accessories for the characters. 

“I’m interested in fashion design, and I thought the musical would be a good way to interact on campus with something that I love to do,” said Searcy. “My favorite part was seeing how the costumes look on specific people in real life, and it was so much fun to see their face light up with their costumes on.

The pit orchestra also proved instrumental to the production’s success. It consisted of a small group of students and faculty who played keyboards, drums, percussion, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and guitar. 

“The overall experience is amazing,” said Faiz Merchant. “Seeing the progress from when you start practicing your own part alone to the way it sounds on show days is an unbeatable feeling.”

Finally, the face of the show: the actors and actresses. As many are seasoned theater performers, this production was a new and exciting challenge, and an excellent opportunity to reflect upon their adapability and theater careers. 

“This musical in particular is really special to me, because my first musical performance at Westminster was in sixth grade when we did the first High School Musical,” said Rosenblath. “I was performing with the current juniors and seniors back then, so it’s really cool to see everything come full circle and see all of us progress as actors and musicians.”

As for the graduating seniors, the experience was more bittersweet. 

“In eighth grade, I was also cast as Sharpay Evans, so it was particularly special and super fun to revisit these characters four years later,” said Goheen. “I never thought I would get the opportunity to go back and improve upon my portrayal of this character.”

To many, being a part of the theater community has been an extremely rewarding high school experience.  

“My favorite part is definitely being able to create art in collaboration with other people,” said senior Jack Schaaf. “I think everyone sort of has their community at Westminster, and mine has definitely been theater. It is what has gotten me through high school, and I am so thankful for the people I’ve met and the valuable lessons they have taught me.”