As far as musical productions go, Macleans never disappoints. This year, the performing arts department went all out with another exciting Disney show and presented a family favourite: Freaky Friday the Musical! 

Starting in the first week of term two, the show spanned five days, with four evening performances and one weekend matinée. It was a great success and captured the hearts of many audience members with its fun and relatable yet heart-warming message. 

The amount of work that goes on behind the scenes (literally) is incredible and as an audience, it can be hard to look beyond the stage and understand what it actually takes to pull off such a flawless performance.

In order to deliver to such a high standard, the cast and crew have worked on this show for almost six months. With rehearsals starting in January and the auditioning process happening even earlier, it’s safe to say that the countless hours were worth it.

From memorising lines and perfecting choreography to organising costumes and plotting the lights… It has taken a truly commendable amount of commitment to make this show happen.

To give you some insight on what it’s like to be involved in the show, I interviewed several year thirteen students. They have all left their own unique legacies within the musical ‘ecosystem’ and have lots to share.

So without further ado…

Cast: Maria Sur; Actress for Katherine Blake

(Year 13, Mansfield House)

1. “Do you have a favourite memory from rehearsal that you’d like to share?”

My favourite memory was probably vocally learning ‘Bring My Baby (Brother) Home’ – there was so much laughing from all of us including Dr Miles and it was just such a fun song to learn. I couldn’t stop laughing at ‘shooby-doo-wop’ which was one of Isaiah’s lines. On top of that, Quinn, Kate and I had about 4 bars of improv-riffing where we could sing whatever we wanted (within reason). I did get to try one very high note that I low-key dreaded singing. (I believe it’s a G#5, which is definitely out of my comfortable range lol)

‘Bring My Baby (Brother) Home’ is definitely one of my top songs because it only works if we all lean into the stupidity of us desperately singing for the return of Fletcher.

2. “Is there any particular part of the process that you will miss the most?” 

Probably being able to experiment with the scenes. I spent most of the rehearsal process in crutches and Miss Burnett basically put me on a stage-ban where I wasn’t allowed to be on the stage and had to sit on the side while I read out my lines. Even when I was allowed back on stage, I was significantly restricted by the crutches. After I got them off right before the holiday intensives, I was able to explore my scenes and her potential in the blocking a lot more.

An example of this is the end of ‘Vows’ which ends in me physically rejecting Quinn’s character. When we initially blocked it (before my stage ban), Miss wasn’t loving the scene but we figured that we’d make it better later. Then ‘the incident’ happened and I broke my leg so we never went through with it.

During our first intensive run, I forgot how I was supposed to reject Quinn so I just ended up making a massive ‘X’ with my arms right in his face. From that point onwards, I changed up my rejection every time. In the actual shows, I turned my stop hand into a bird, jelly-fished my hand away, dabbed, did a ‘got your nose’, and nae-naed. It was a fun challenge to think of new ways to change up my blocking for slightly different results every time.

3. Were there any pre-show rituals that helped you get into the zone?

The group rituals like ’21’* were good for calming down, focusing, and getting a read on everyone else’s energy. I didn’t have any personal ones except for singing through my songs. 

*’21’ is a drama exercise where the cast stand in a circle, hold hands, and close their eyes. They then count from 1 to 21, but each number can only be said by one person at a time. The goal is to get to 21 without anyone clashing.

4. Looking back to the beginning, what would be your biggest take-away from this journey?

That there’s no need to compare yourself to other people and actors. I was really surprised to see that I got Katherine since I am by no means the strongest singer, and last year was the only musical I’d ever done. Throughout the process, I would subconsciously think about how other people could be playing my role better because they were better singers and I ended up putting a lot of pressure on myself. Breaking my leg definitely didn’t help since that slowed down the rehearsal process and I had to learn most of the show from the side.

One of my peeves when watching videos of high school theatre is that some people give no commitment to the delivery of their character which makes it less entertaining to watch. In the end, I figured that even if I couldn’t be the best singer, I would at the very least act the hell out of Katherine and make her entertaining since that’s definitely closer to where my strengths lie. I put a lot of work into grinding lines, adding meaning and intentions, and overall just understanding both Ellie and Katherine’s characters as well as their arcs so I could make the right choices to convey it clearly to the audience.

I think if I kept on getting into my head about the singing, I would have held myself back from giving my best performance. Getting comfortable in the character and delivering her well has made me a lot more confident in my abilities as a performer. I’ve come to realise that there’s no need to compare myself to anyone. No one is ever an exact perfect cast, so it’s up to the performer to tailor their character to fit their strengths. In other words, to make it their own so they can slay the role.

Band: Jenifer Kim; Cellist

(Year 13, Rutherford House)

1. Do you have a favourite memory from any part of the process that you’d like to share?

After each performance, the band would gather in MU2 to take a group picture. We came up with different ideas for it, which progressively got weirder and more funky as the nights went on (band kids you know). I made a lot of other fun memories too, like chatting with people around me while we waited for the cast to get ready. We also had a mini birthday celebration because not one, not two, but three people in our band had their birthdays during the intensive week! Going out for lunch before dress rehearsals and dinner after our last performance was also great fun.

2. Was there any piece in particular you enjoyed playing the most and why?

I personally enjoyed playing ‘What You Got’ because of the funky chemistry between Ellie in Katherine’s body and Tori. The finale is also one of my favourites, because the band gets to play a beautiful tune during one of the emotional moments that Katherine and Ellie share. (Special mention to the exit music, where there was a cool sax and drum kit solo.)

3. Were there any challenges that came with performing alongside a live show?

We definitely faced some challenges. Firstly, the band had a lot of music to learn. (Keyboard 1 had over 300 pages of music!!) Secondly, we encountered some technical issues – such as laptops shutting down and incapacitating the keyboard connected to it (this happened during one of the shows, and freaked us out). But overall, along with Dr Miles, we were able to improvise and resolve the issue fairly quickly. I think this was only possible because of the strong bond we had. The band was very close and tightly knit this year, which allowed our brain cells to sort of click.

Aside from tech issues, we had to be hyper-focused on what was happening on stage at all times. Not everything went as rehearsed each night, and we had to be aware of that and adjust accordingly. Being together with the cast when we have such a large distance between us was obviously challenging, but it was a good opportunity to learn ensemble skills, cooperation and teamwork. And hey, we pulled it off quite nicely so I’d call it a success :))

Tech: Andrew Chen; Audio

(Year 13, Te Kanawa House)

1. As the tech guy, what does your role entail?

My job can pretty much be described as “making everyone sound nice”. Essentially, all I do is monitor and change the volume and dynamics of all of the cast on stage. I do the same for the band, to ensure everyone’s voices and all instruments are heard. I also assist with the setting up and plotting of lighting, sound effects, mics, etc – as well as with the resolution of various technical problems we may encounter throughout the show.

2. What have you enjoyed the most during the process?

Overall, the most enjoyable part of the process was definitely the various interactions I had with various members of the cast, band, crew, and staff with our silly banters and conversations during breaks and sound checks. However, a close second would be seeing the shows come together throughout the last few weeks of intensives, as the magic starts to build for the season to come.

3. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I hope to be back for more, but with future plans still unsettled, I can’t say for certain that I will be able to be.

To all the staff, cast, band (+BVs*), and crew of ‘Pippin’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, and ‘Freaky Friday’: thank you all for an amazing 3 years of working together to put on shows that were all incredible. These experiences have been THE highlight of my past three years at Macleans College, and I hope they have been for you all too.

<3 – “1x Andrew Chen”

*Backing vocalists

Crew: Madi Buckley; Backstage

(Year 13, Rutherford House)

1. What was your favourite part about being in the backstage crew and why?

If I had to choose one, it would be the overall experience of learning so many things about musicals. From set design and technical knowledge to building unique relationships with my backstage peers (and the cast). Personally, I prefer to work by myself when it comes to projects, but you most definitely can’t run a musical with just one person, so having a group was a new but exhilarating experience. I learnt so much about not only myself, but others too.

We spent so much time together knuckling down on all the tiny details with moving set pieces, opening/closing curtains and solidifying cues that we all learned each other’s parts and sort of became a hive-mind. If one of the members was struggling or was simply anxious about opening night, our small community backstage came together and made it okay again. 

2. Do you have a most memorable moment you’d like to share?

My most memorable moment would have to be the day I signed up. There is no way that it wasn’t destiny for me to end up in backstage crew. Basically what happened is that on the day of sign ups, I was super tired and was contemplating whether or not I even wanted to join backstage. I’d been told that it was a lot of fun but heaps of work (which is true, but it’s so worth it).

As I was walking to the bus stop to go home and give up on my dream of possibly decorating, painting and running a set for a musical, I spotted my bus quite literally driving past me. I put my hand out and even locked eyes with the driver, but I was IGNORED. So my only option was to walk back to school and sign up. That would be the only time I’ve ever been thankful for missing the bus.

The hilarious dynamic we had backstage for ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Freaky Friday’ was also memorable. There were many moments where I almost suffocated from trying not to laugh as my fellow backstage friends and I practised our own ‘backstage musical’. (We ended up being shushed many, many times.) Our ‘backstage musical’ included Batman as the main character (because we’re always in the shadows) and had a very interesting storyline.

On top of that, we made little drawings, mini hot glue sculptures, and decorated our backstage clothes with leftover scraps of fabric from the costume room – all in the small moments of free time that we got before the show nights. Honestly, I never really expected to build such a deep connection with the backstage team… but turns out, our little Batman family was always meant to be.

3. If you had one thing to say to future backstage members, what would it be?

I feel like a wise grandparent handing down some insane wisdom right now; there’s so much I want to say. To all of you who are thinking of joining props and backstage, please, please, please do. The experience and knowledge you gain as well as the connections you build will be so insanely special. With that being said, backstage is not an extracurricular where you can regularly relax and choose when to come in. You must make sacrifices and work hard, but it definitely pays off. As a year 13, I’ll be graduating and this comes with a complex of emotions and strange feelings…

I used to always worry that I would leave Macleans without making a huge achievement; like coming first in sports or being a maths champion etc, you get what I mean. But in moments when I think of my college experience, I instantly remember the communities and experiences that have changed the course of my life all together. I know people say “don’t have regrets!!” but looking back, I WISH I joined backstage in year 9. It was the highlight of my senior years, and I cannot wait to watch the future of backstage flourish – even if it’s from a distance. 

Also a little note to the current and future backstage members because I adore you all so much… Just because we are occasionally forgotten about, (which basically means we’re doing our job right and not being seen), doesn’t mean your peers, cast and audience members don’t see you and your everlasting hard work and dedication. Nothing could happen without you and I’m so proud that I can call you all family. You’re going to do amazingly next year and all the years after that.

After reading these wonderful answers, it’s clear that there’s more to the process than meets the eye. But if one thing’s for sure, it’s that being part of a show is beyond rewarding and truly unforgettable. Maybe some of you will be inspired by these legacies and become a part of them yourselves in the future…

At the end of the day, every person involved had their own part to play in contributing to the jigsaw puzzle of a successful production. So next time you watch a school production (or any production), remember to give a top-notch round of applause at the end to honour everyone who put their blood, sweat and tears into it!

To every single teacher involved and most especially to Miss Burnett (Director) and Dr Miles (Producer/Musical Director), thank you for your unparalleled dedication. To all the students who were part of this stunning show, well done – you deserve many pats on the back! And last but most definitely not least – to Maria, Jenifer, Andrew and Madi, thank you for bringing us on your journey. Your presence will truly be missed by so many.

24th May, 2024
Written by Hope Zhang, Maria Sur, Jenifer Kim, Andrew Chen and Madi Buckley, edited by Hope Zhang, Ally Chu and Aaron Huang
Photography by Ben Campbell (BC Photography)

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