The White Pines Collegiate arts department is going retro for its biggest theatre production in several years.
Approximately 30 students from Grades 8 through 12 - as well as seven of the school’s teachers - will be acting, singing and dancing in a production of The Wedding Singer in early December.
Cinematically, The Wedding Singer is a 1998 romantic comedy - set in 1985 - starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, in which two people who have experienced disappointment and heartache with their respective fiances find true love with each other.
Anyone familiar with 80s pop culture will love the Pines production, said teacher Hollie Filice, the show’s director.
The production will run for approximately two hours, with an intermission.
There is no shortage of admiration from the teachers organizing the show for the students appearing on stage and those helping out behind the scenes.
”The dancers took a lot of risks in terms of learning the choreography and performing it because there really isn’t a dance program here at White Pines. They had to really go out of their comfort zone to learn these dances but everyone was so invested. It’s been really great,” said teacher Jen Febbraro, who serves as The Wedding Singer choreographer, speaking to SooToday.
“We’re quite proud of the undertaking of the magnitude of this show. It’s kind of a show stopper in terms of the musicality and the choreography. It’s a heavy show in regards to that and to take that on right now in this school, we had an overwhelming response from kids who wanted to be a part of it,” said teacher Erica Nogalo, the show’s producer.
“Their responsibility, commitment and accountability has been wonderful. They’re energetic, they’re enthusiastic and they’re committed to their roles and to the show as a whole. They’re really going to perform and show the audience what the 80s were all about,” Nogalo said.
“People should come out and support community theatre,” said Greg MacLachlan, White Pines music teacher and the show’s music director.
“The arts are one of the most important ways that youth in particular learn to express themselves. All the big things in adolescence, the feelings of growing up…I think music and theatre are one of the best ways that teaches kids how to learn about the world and how to handle the influx of information and culture and growth that they need to go through to become an adult.”
“It’s almost like a rite of passage. I think there is no rite of passage better than getting on stage and performing. It helps you learn about who you are and how you relate to other people.”
“They’ve been so coachable,” MacLachlan said in praise of the young cast, stating the performers have been able to handle criticism and prepare a well done production.
The show is very much a new experience for Grade 12 student Malia Kirk, who plays The Wedding Singer lead female character Julia Sullivan.
”I’m doing a co-op right now in the vocals and drama class but this is my first time really doing acting. I’ve done lots of stuff in music, I play violin and piano but this is really my first time in the acting realm of things. I’m really enjoying it. The cast is amazing and super supportive of one another,” Kirk said.
“I’m really impressed by the amount of progress we’ve made over the past few months. It’s a really short time frame to put together a show of this size. We’re super excited to have audiences come in and watch. There are so many great 80s references and jokes that we don’t get as a cast but the audience is going to love it. The music is awesome and it’s a really well crafted show. I can't wait for people to come see it.”
“I don’t think I’m going to sleep a lot before the first show,” Kirk chuckled.
“I think we’re all going to be nervous. There are lots of lines to remember, and cues, but it’s going to be great to have costumes on, and all the lighting.”
“It took a while to get into my character but now it’s really cool to get to shift into the mindset of a waitress in the 1980s. She's going about her life and I just get to be a high school student and then go into practice and transform into this other character and I really think it suits me pretty well. She’s a fairly quiet, more reserved character which I think suits my personality.”
“Sometimes I’ll go about my daily life and then someone will say something that reminds me of a line from the show, so my brain’s constantly on that track now.”
“I definitely want to go into something in music,” Kirk said, looking to her future after high school.
“I’m not specifically sure whether it would be musical theatre or music performance or composition but I definitely want to stay in the arts. I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to translate into a career but I can’t see myself not playing music.”
Grade 11 student Gabriel Fournier stars as lead male character Robbie Hart.
His role in The Wedding Singer production is not his first, but it’s his biggest to date.
“It’s exciting. A lot of hard work went into this. I’ve never done anything of this size before. I’m excited because my whole family’s coming to see this show.”
Fournier said he’s into his character, often finding himself singing the show’s musical numbers as he goes about his daily life at home.
“I do want to go into acting,” he said.
“I’m looking at courses down in Toronto, maybe U of T.”
“I like being the good guy, the lead, but I’ll take any role. I just love doing this and expressing myself in ways I can’t in other areas.”
“We’re like a huge family here. It’s all coming together nicely,” Fournier said of his fellow performers.
Grade 12 student Alder Devries plays Sammy, Robbie Hart’s best friend.
“Sammy’s a good guy. He’s comedic relief for the most part. There’s a lot of serious stuff happening and then my character will pop a punch line.”
Approximately 10 to 15 students are assisting in sound, lighting and other support roles for the production.
“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress since we started with the choreography, the singing, all aspects of it. We started working on it in September. We have about 15 days until opening night. This is my first musical production,” said Grade 11 student Graham Kirk, serving as music and sound technician.
“Often I use my third and fourth periods to work on stuff for the musical, whether it’s pressing T-shirts or hoodies for the show or programming the music. Sometimes outside of school I’ll be watching through the show writing down notes in my binder about different cues for the music to change and stuff like that.”
All the hard work behind the scenes is worth it, said Kirk, who also designed the production’s poster.
“I’m both nervous and excited. I’m really excited to see how it’ll turn out. I think it’s going to be great,” Kirk said, adding he is proud of sister Malia as she prepares to perform in the show’s lead female role.
He has played guitar for nine years and wants to get into music production as a career.
The Wedding Singer will be performed beginning at 7 p.m. on Dec. 8 through Dec. 10 at the Sault Community Theatre Centre.
Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door.
Tickets are also available by calling ahead at 705 945-7181 or by email.
Funds raised through ticket sales will go back into White Pines arts programming.
There will also be two free daytime performances for 700 elementary school students Thursday, Dec. 8 and 500 more on Friday, Dec. 9, both shows beginning at 9:45 a.m.
This marks the first time The Wedding Singer has been performed in the Sault, White Pines teachers stated.
“There’s nothing like live theatre,” director Filice said.