Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Mame,’ opens Thursday
January 21, 2015
The music swells and silhouettes of students wearing flapper dresses and slick suits are projected to the audience. The curtain opens, the lights come up, and the stage explodes with life – just in time for the conductor to cut the music and demand to run the overture again.
Three months of rehearsals now come to an end for the cast, crew, and pit of the spring musical Mame, which opens on Jan. 22, 2015.
“It’s set in the late twenties right before the Great Depression,” theatre director Thomas Stratton said. “Mame is a very progressive, forward-thinking woman for her time. She is a lover of life and a go-getter and not afraid of new ideas and trying new things, and I love her. She has a gusto for life and just goes for it.”
The show revolves around the life of the affluent Manhattan woman, Mame Dennis, as she takes on the challenge of raising her orphaned nephew, Patrick. Living a lavish lifestyle of parties and alcohol, Mame is in no position to raise a child, and the show revolves around the ups and downs of their relationship.
“She’s a partier, and she has no idea how to take care of children, but that doesn’t stop her from taking Patrick in and raising him well,” senior Will Cates, who portrays Mame’s nephew Dennis, said. “The love between Patrick and Mame is palpable in the show.”
Mame, played by junior Abbey Dacus, is an independent woman in changing times, and as the show goes on, it seems nothing remains the same except the love Mame and Patrick have for one another.
“He’s the only real family she has at all, just like she’s the only real family Patrick has,” Cates said. “She’s seen him grow up, and his whole life he’s had Auntie Mame, so they both are kind of a staple in each other’s life. The one thing that’s gonna be constant.”
Dacus earned the role of Mame at auditons–a role she has always dreamed of playing.
“She showed herself to be the person for the role,” Stratton said. “She can sing, act and dance, and that’s the person that you need. She fits the character.”
The competitive nature of the auditions allow for a top notch cast list.
“All our auditions are open auditions, which means anyone in the school can audition for the show,” Stratton said. “You never know who’s gonna walk in the door, and it keeps the kids on their toes that way. When you come to auditions you have to bring it; you have to show your stuff. That’s the way the game is played.”
With larger than life characters, the show demands full commitment from its actors.
“There’s a ton of characters in this show and they each have their quirky, unique little attributes about them,” Cates said.
Junior Carissa Walker, who plays Vera Charles – Mame’s over the top best friend – agrees that the spunk of each character is just one of many attributes that give this show so much energy.
“The cast is humongous,” Walker said. “There’s so many people, so many different characters from all different walks of life; the set is huge; the dance numbers blow my mind. They’re so big and extravagant and crazy and all over the place and difficult, and the songs are equally as difficult and intense. It’s a lot to take in, and I love it.”
Walker added the costumes are her favorite part of the show by far.
“The costumes are so extravagant and crazy and there’s so many of them,” Walker said. “They’re fantastic and so beautiful and very timely. They blow my mind.”
The costumes seen in Mame are assembled by a group of volunteer techies, headed by junior Eric Molina.
“I would just like to say, without costumes every cast member would be naked on stage,” Molina said. “I have to find costumes and the crew and I have to practice and practice quick changes. There’s just so much that goes into a musical. It’s crazy.”
Costumes are only part of the preparations needed before opening night.
“There’s thousands of man hours that take place before the curtain opens,” Stratton said. “It’s crazy how much time goes into this, but it’s a lot of fun.”
With a show the size of Mame, it was sure that the cast and crew would face some setbacks; however, with nearly a decade of experience directing musicals, Stratton won’t back down from a challenge.
“One of our big snags this year has been trying to fit all our set pieces backstage,” Stratton said. “Our wings are too small, and so we’re having to be really creative and think outside the box on how we’re going to do that. Being really creative with the set design, being flexible and being open-minded, that’s the key.”
As the cast and crew work out the kinks, Molina says his excitement for the show is uncontainable.
“This is one of the reasons I love teching a musical,” Molina said. “Watching the show transform and blossom into a beautiful butterfly that flaps its big wings and soars into the sky is breathtaking.”
The show isn’t the only thing that has grown throughout the rehearsal process, as the bonds between actors grow stronger day by day.
“We’re always together now,” Cates said of the choir, band, orchestra and theatre kids that make up the cast, crew and pit of the show. “We’re here from early in the morning to 10 at night. It’s more like being in a family because we’re always together. They’re all my brothers and sisters.”
Dacus describes how the friendships she’s made through the show are perhaps what she will remember most about the experience.
“I’ve gotten to know some people I wouldn’t have known before,” Dacus said. “I’ve made a lot of new friends. I got to know some theatre kids and they’re amazing and they’re right down the hall and I didn’t even know they were there. It’s just been a great experience. I’ll probably remember how fun it was and how full of life everyone is in this show.”
The show will run 22-24 and 29-31, with 7 p.m. shows daily and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday. A special invitation for the Jan. 29 show has been extended to retirement centers and nursing homes.
“We have quite an outreach this year with this show,” Stratton said. “This is an older show, the music is older, and it’s set in the time period of the late twenties to early thirties and forties, so there’s a lot of seniors that are from that era. We’re offering a special $3 to groups of seniors 60 years and older. If they’ll come, I think they’ll really enjoy it.”
The show is also competing in Dallas Summer Musical’s High School Musical Theatre Awards Competition, adding extra pressure to the performances, however, Stratton is confident in the show.
“It has your chorus numbers, your dance numbers, good character development between the main characters. It has all the good elements needed for a good musical,” Stratton said. “I’m hoping this year to come home with Best Musical.”
The show itself isn’t the only thing Stratton has to be confident in.
“The kids are working very hard, and I’m really proud of them,” Stratton said. “We’re asking a lot of them, but this is something they can be proud of. This is something they can look back on and say, ‘I was a part of that, and it was really good.’”
When the show opens on Thursday night, all the cast can hope is that the time, energy and heart they put into the show will be felt by all who come to see it.
“Once the show opens and the curtain comes up and the lights come on, the whole stage just explodes with happiness,” Walker said. “It’s gonna be an amazing show, and I just hope that the audience feels the love we have on stage in the house.”
Photo by: (Courtesy of the Denton High School Theatre Dept.)
‘Mame’ nominated for two DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards
DALLAS, TX – On March 29, 2015 the Dallas Summer Musicals announced the nominees for the 2015 High School Musical Theatre Awards, published by the Dallas Morning News and WFAA Midday.
Denton High School Fine Arts Departments’ musical, Mame, was nominated for two out of 16 categories. The Cast, Crew, and Orchestra of Mame was nominated for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.
The winners of the Dallas Summer Musical’s High School Musical Theatre Awards will be announced on Wed., April 29, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the Fair Park Musical Hall.
Photo by: (Courtesy of Denton ISD)
Mame leaves DSM empty-handed, Guyer’s Cave wins Best Actress
DALLAS, TX – The Cast and Crew of Mame attended the Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theatre Awards at the Musical Hall at Fair Park on Wed., April 29, 2015 at 7 p.m. The Cast and Crew did not leave the event with any awards however, cross-town rival, Guyer High School, the Cast and Crew of Pippin’ did. The Leading Player of Pippin’, Katelyn Cave won Best Actress.