Making of a musical
Just a few weeks into the start of the DLHS production of "All Shook Up," Mark Everson and Carol Nustad had a discussion on the stage before rehearsal started. The talk between the director and production manager wasn't about set pieces, dance numbers or actors learning their lines; it was all AA batteries.
"How many are we going to need," asked Nustad?
"Fourteen mics, one new battery every show...Will we need a few nine-volts," Everson replied?
Many things go into the production of a musical or play that people will see on stage, but it's the behind-the-scenes preparation weeks before the curtains open that sometimes goes un-noticed.
According to Everson, a musical requires much more time and preparation than a play, "Because there's three times the things to learn," he said.
"On a straight play, you're basically learning some scenes and some lines. With a musical, you've got dance, you've got music and you've got scene work."
Initial preparation will usually start 10 weeks before the musical opens.
"Set design is often one of the first things we do because it dictates a lot of other things. Choreography and blocking is all based on what's on the stage at the same time," Everson said.
Music preparation comes next. "All Shook Up" had 26 songs the cast needed to learn -- an unprecedented number for a high school musical.
Taking the reigns of vocal director was DLHS senior Ashley Morben, who also played the part of Natalie in the musical.
To be vocal director, play a part and still be a student took a huge time commitment from Morben, Everson said. DLHS choral director Kathy Larson would normally be the vocal director, but due to time constraints, she wasn't able to help with "All Shook Up."
So Everson said he begged Morben, who plans to attend college for music teaching, to take the role of vocal director.
"I've watched her work and teach before," Everson said. "So I knew she could do it, it was just a matter of time commitment and whether she was willing to do it."
With not much time to see friends outside of school or the musical, Morben said her cast-mates are like her second family.
"For the musical, this is pretty much my social life," she said. "We'll go out to eat together and do lots of things together. You meet lots of friends through the musical. It's really worked out well."
When it was certain they would do the production, costume designers Kari Williams, Michelle Norby and Madalyn Sukke saw "All Shook Up" at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre to get some ideas for costumes.
"So they do their research on it and we make sure they have a script," Everson said.
The director can then put the costumes out of his mind and into the hands of his capable crew.
"They say, 'If we have any questions, we'll give you a call.' And that's a great relief for me," Everson said.
The same thing goes for the set builders, who spend an evening going over what can and can't be done with the set pieces.
"When we first told them we wanted a sliding wall -- conceptually, that's something we've never done before -- so we had no idea how we were going to do that," Everson said. "Those guys are amazing. Greg Mueller and Mike Williams said they could make that happen. They didn't know how they were going to do that either."
After much conversation and several versions, a 30-foot tall jukebox was installed on a sliding garage door track and worked perfectly.
"This just turned out exactly how we needed it, which doesn't always happen," Everson said laughing.
Then comes the cast. There are 40 parts in "All Shook Up," which means trying to juggle 40 different student schedules while trying to rehearse. Most of the main characters will put in extra rehearsals on Saturdays and Sundays along with four nights during the school week with the whole cast.
Everson and Ronita Hackel did the dance choreography at her studio late into several nights, according to Everson, who also worked around Hackel's dance class schedule.
Everson said for the whole production to come together takes an incredible amount of teamwork.
"You cannot do a musical without a team, and I trust those people so much," he said. "And that's such a huge part of being willing to even do it."