As Mississippi slowly wakes up after dealing with a pandemic, one thing most citizens have looked forward to each year is still happening: the Columbia High School musical. While restrictions and precautions are still present, the time-honored beloved tradition continues.
In fact, this year, it is a two-for-one deal with two one-act plays. “Check Please” and “Check Please Take Two,” both by Jonathan Rand, will be presented next Friday, March 12, at the Crystelle Ford Auditorium.
The plays are about dating and/or speed dating loosely. The lead actors are Jade Thompson, who plays “Girl” and Nicholas Jones, who plays “Guy.” Some of the other actors and actresses will have dual roles.
“They go on dates with a bunch of interesting people, to say the least,” Assistant Choral Direcotr Mitchell Crawford said.
Jones said he did not think, when the school year started, that they would be able to do a musical this year.
“I think it is just amazing that we are able to go out on the stage and perform,” Jones said.
Thompson said, “I think it is really nice to be able to finish out with such a great group of people.”
Due to the guidelines concerning the coronavirus, the actual performance will be closed to the public. Parents of the actors and actresses are the only ones allowed to attend the live performance. Crawford knows the students thrive on the live energy from the audience. That is one reason why the parents are allowed to attend, so there will be some people in the audience to support the endeavor.
“They will get to have somewhat of an audience, just not the full sell-out we are accustomed to,” he said.
Jones said he wasn’t worried about the audience size, but Thompson said it is more fun to have a larger audience. She and costar Julia Johnson both said, though, they are glad there will be a partial crowd for the performers to play off the reactions.
However, the production will be live-streamed on broadwayondemand.com for $8, so everyone can still enjoy the highly-popular event.
Crawford said Wednesday that he knows the students look forward to doing the production each year, and they were glad for the chance to perform. Last year's musical “Grease” was presented just a couple of weeks before everything was shut down due to the pandemic.
He said the students were very excited when they found out there would be a musical this year. In years past, there has been an ‘A’ cast and a ‘B’ cast, with one cast performing one night and one performing the next night. This year there is only one cast. Crawford said it was not a problem this year because everyone who wanted to be in the production could be in it. No one was cut from the play.
“There are still going to be dancers and there will be some singing. Everyone will get to do something,” he said.
Crawford said Covid affected the musical in many ways, from not having a full audience to wearing special clear face masks for protection that still allows the facial expressions to be seen.
“We are trying to make it as normal as possible for our kids because the arts allow them to thrive,” Crawford said.
With the precautions that have to be in place, another difference they are doing this year is getting the students more involved on the production side, such as lighting and technology for the live stream. They will also be able to do a lot of the backstage work and the spotlights. Being able to incorporate them in every aspect of the theater was very exciting, he said.
“Covid has taken away from them so many things and we didn’t want this to be part of it,” Crawford said.
“Check Please” and “Check Please Take Two” will be live streamed at broadwayondemand.com on Friday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. Kimberly Walley is the Choral Director.