Garner High drama does A Funny Thing for its spring production

kjahner@newsobserver.comMarch 18, 2014 

— A funny thing happened as Garner Magnet High Schools’ fine arts department put together its spring production – mainly a batch of rehearsal-canceling snow days.

But the school’s rendition of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has made up the time – including an all-day Saturday rehearsal last week – and will open with the first of three public shows Thursday at 7 p.m.

“We’re ready to roll,” director Cheryle Prater said. “We just added time, made it up. We did what we had to do.”

The musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1962, is set in ancient Rome and based on farces of the Roman playwright Plautus.

“It was interesting because it’s a kind of play I don’t think we’ve ever done before,” said Camden McCall, who plays Hero. “It’s funnier than usual. It took a while for us to get to the stage where we could say a line and wouldn’t laugh.”

In the tale, a slave named Pseudolus attempts to win his freedom by helping Hero, his master, capture the heart of Philia. Complicating Pseudolus‘ efforts, Philia had already been sold to warrior Miles Gloriousus. So he engages in a series of sometimes-devious schemes that end up digging him in deeper and deeper in a comedic series of events interwoven with irony and satire.

“It’s real cute. It’s a love story, boy meets girl,” Prater said. “There’s a lot of surprises.”

In contrast to last year’s production of Grease, Prater said the ensemble (supporting cast) plays a lesser role, putting more pressure on the nine primary actors. McCall notes that though the witty dialogue carries the action along quickly, the play is “really long. It’s exhausting.”

“The kids that have worked incredibly hard are the leads,” Prater said.

Alex Yamamoto, in his fourth year in the drama program, plays Pseudolus, and Prater notes he’s on stage a vast majority of the time.

“I don’t think this is a play like a lot of people are used to. It’s not going to be the big Broadway dance numbers they might expect,” Yamamoto said. “There’s more emphasis on the dialogue, actors on stage, the movement. It’s more of an acting play than a musical.”

McCall’s character, Hero, is the young love-struck slave-master. Hero’s love interest Philia is played by Catie Griffin.

Rory Meer plays Hysterium, the house’s chief slave, and student body president Shie-Chi Redd plays Miles Gloriousus, the cocky Roman army captain to whom Philia was promised.

Though the play relies more on banter-loaded dialogue than song, it is still a musical, which presents its own challenges, especially for those not used to singing.

“Camden and Alex both have experience. This was my first time singing in public,” Meer said. “It was breaking out of my comfort zone.”

In addition to the cast, Prater noted the other elements behind the scenes. Faculty-wise, band teacher Daniel Stellini heads the orchestra providing music, Amy Bennett handled costumes, Julie-Kate Cooper runs the technical aspects and Leah Godfrey provides choral direction. Student Anna Bennett directed choreography.

Tickets are $10 to attend the production at the school, which will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There will also be a showing Wed. for those who have donated to the program; Prater notes that it takes $7,000 to $8,000 to pull off the multi-faceted show.

While the snow put the show behind for a brief while, the crew scrambled with some long nights to get it done, and Meer said after Friday’s dress rehearsal the end product hasn’t suffered.

“We’re all pretty close friends, and even on the long nights, when it was getting miserable at eight, someone will make a joke and we’ll all realize why we were here,” Meer said.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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