The hard work behind BASH’s “Oklahoma!”

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Provided by Aaron Maniphone

The official cast photo for BASH’s musical titled Oklahoma!

–Article contains the works of Emma Webster, Alia Interian, Jolie Marte, Alyssa Reber, Addison Phiel, Carlee Strunk, Larissa Domingueti, Mia Haraske, Jenna Christman, Sabrina Falzone, Caleb Hook, and Leah Bohner–

As many may know, Oklahoma!, was the spring 2022 musical that lots of students went to see with many tickets being sold out within a few days. Most people went to see this musical because of the fantastic actors and actresses that played as the lead roles or to just support a classmate, but what many people tend to overlook is the time and effort it takes from backstage work to building many of the main props like the infamous house seen in many scenes. So while many people love to see the play itself and how much work the actors and actresses put in, an equal amount of work goes into making everything come together with the incredible props, costumes, and backdrops that are put together by BASH’s talented stage crew. 

Talking with the student play director, Aleeya Anousaya, she discussed the overall amount of work put into the production of the play, creating friendships within the theater community, and the behind the scenes of how production went along. When asked more about herself, she responded with, “I’ve always been the kind of person to stay involved, throughout all my years in school I’ve been in Orchestra, Band, Show Choir, TSA, Student Council, and planning on possibly starting in  FBLA.” With a lot on her plate, it’s amazing how well the play turned out. 

Madelyn Olejniczak, junior and first time student director, also became a crucial part of the show; when she was dragged into the position by her friend and soon to be fellow castmate, Olivia Helmer (11th grade), who stars as Ado Annie. Maddy and Olivia had originally wished to try out for the musical together, but Maddy had dropped out when she found out about the student director position needing to be fulfilled. Maddy at first wasn’t too sure about how she fit the role of student director, but throughout all the long and tiring rehearsals she started to get the hang of it and learned how she was worthy of the role. She said, “Being stern and consistent while also being chill and social at the right times became her way of controlling the rowdy cast.”

Not only has the student directors and stage crew put in a lot of work into the show, the cast also faced many struggles in their roles. One of the lead roles, Aunt Eller, a 50-year-old respected authority figure and a hearty woman was a significant character within the musical. Though playing the role was not a simple task for young senior Elena Gehret. She comments, “I was nervous about playing an older character. I had to figure out how my character would talk, sit and walk. . .after a lot of hard work, I was able to step into Aunt Eller’s shoes.” Elena also mentions that she was shocked and worried about playing the character. “When I first got the role my first thought was ‘I can’t do this.’ But my director said, ‘You can do this. I believe in you.’”

Cast members performing in Oklahoma!, and senior Elena Gehret wielding a prop weapon. (Provided by Elena Gehret)

Sydney Kuszyk shared her experience as playing the main character, Laurey, and her opinion on theater entertainment. Being cast as a main character, she explained her role. “I play Laurey who is stubborn but sweet, and doesn’t know what she wants when it comes to romantic scenarios.” While playing in the musical, It’s not just singing, there is a control of emotion that the cast has to acquire. She also revealed  that, “The storyline of the play made me feel a mix of happy but serious in certain scenes”. 

Emmalynn Adams’s character was Laury’s dance double, and was a key component to one of the most important parts of the play. Emmalynn has multiple other dance roles throughout the play, where she has to dance around the stage, running from person to person dressed as  Laurey. 

Cassidy Nuss, Greta Freed, and Annika Snyder having fun in their costumes for the musical. (Provided by Cassidy Nuss)
Emmalynn Adams, Jack Burell, and Justin Knarr dressed as their characters. (Provided by Emmalynn Adams)

A controversial character, Jud Riley, was played by a very non-controversial Justin Knarr. Justin is known for being outgoing, kind, smart, and very musically inclined. “It was hard to get comfortable with the character [Jud]. I told the director I did not know if I could do it.” Justin explained, the director had reassured him that they chose him for this part for a reason. Justin is in band and show choir, so the stage is no stranger to him. Although Justin did a fantastic job acting on stage, if the musical was instead a play, he would not have been interested. 

Olivia Helmer (11th grade), who played Ado Annie, who is a main character in the musical, had a lot to say about what took place during the production of “Oklahoma!”. Olivia was incredibly dedicated and committed to the musical. She stated that they began rehearsing straight after winter break and the leads had rehearsal every single day, however, the ensemble didn’t have to rehearse everyday until February. Olivia has participated in six musicals and says, “Every musical I feel like I become a better actor and singer because they teach us new lessons.” Olivia also stated that she loves meeting new people at rehearsal because most of the kids are really interesting and funny. “Not like your typical theater kids,” Olivia expressed.

Greta Freed, a senior, whose role was Ellen, was a member of the ensemble, featured dancer, and had a few lines throughout the musical. Greta shares, “Being in the musical is a really fun experience. Not only have I learned so much about acting and performing from Mr. Hazel and Mr. Brunner, but I also have formed super close friendships with all of my fellow cast members.” Being in the musical also requires, of course, practice, which Greta was involved in with rehearsals, vocal practicing, and choreography.

Freshman Aaron Maniphone shared his first taste of BASH musical theater after his final

performance in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma. Aaron Maniphone played Mike in this year’s musical. In doing so, he got to participate in his first production. The show provided opportunities for the entire cast to experience everything BASH theater has to offer. In addition to the drama seen on stage, the cast also had their fair share of action backstage. “I had a nosebleed [Saturday] night on stage,” Maniphone shares. “If something bad happens like that you’re just supposed to sit.…I can’t get any blood on my costume because we had to return them since they were rented.” The cast had ample time to form friendships as they spent months together. According to Aaron Maniphone, “The dance rehearsals were definitely big bonding moments. I was really worried going into it, but seeing everybody else look as stupid as I did made me feel better.

Cassidy Nuss, freshman at BASH, is one of the 33 students who appeared in the play. Cassidy played Ellie and was also a part of the ensemble. Cassidy has a musically inclined background. She stated, “I am in the orchestra, I have done community theater, and played Cinderella’s mother throughout Into The Woods while attending middle school.” Her most recent musical activity was very time consuming, she says, “Oklahoma practices were 3 hours long and as the performance got closer the practices were more frequent, being everyday. We once had a 6 hour long practice on a Saturday.” She further stated that they practiced for 3 months. 

Freshman Emily Gates, who played Gretchen in Oklahoma, described the casting process, the overall experience, and explained how special the musical was. Although Emily recalls being nervous, she does ascertain some comfort from the amount of hard work put in. She said there’s a “certain relief” obtained so one can “focus on the more important aspects of performing” because of “working so hard and knowing everything [about the role and the character]. It helps when you interact with people and listen to the audience’s reactions.” She then explained about her state of nervousness. “Once you get over the initial nerves you’re just glad to be out there and having fun.”

When asked in an interview, Bridgette, who was played by Kamilah Jenkins, is described as “. . . an extension of what I am, she is me but to the max.” Kamilah expressed her enjoyment of the overall process of creating, practicing, and performing the musical with a smile on her face. “My favorite part of the process is seeing the whole thing come together. Seeing it go from just an idea to an amazing show that other people get to enjoy from all the hard work and practice is so just rewarding.” Kamilah happily shared that her favorite part of the musical was just being able to experience it with other people and have that closeness that comes with the journey of theater production. 

Overall, there was a lot of hard work put in by everyone involved in the musical from the student directors and stage crew to all of the actors and actresses. Senior Elena Gehret, who has been involved in Boyertown’s Music Department throughout her years, leaves a few words behind for aspiring auditioners for future musicals at BASH. “To those in a musical already, know that your role is important no matter what. It does not matter if you’re a lead, a supporting lead, or in an ensemble. Each character plays a very important role and without each role, the show wouldn’t be possible.” To anyone auditioning for a musical, it’s okay if you don’t make it. There are a lot of celebrities who didn’t make it in their school’s production. If you’re really passionate about something, do it no matter what because the music industry can be hard. Don’t let anything turn you away from what you’re passionate about. . . Don’t give up on your dreams.”

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