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More in Arts & Entertainment
'Serving Up' a little more than just Broadway
BROADWAY – Allison Whitney is surrounded by her new friends, and together they sing "Getting To Know You" from The King and I, part of the original musical review "Serving Up Broadway." The show is a 40-year retrospective of the history of the Oxford Hills School Community Broadway Show. Performances are April 5 and 6 in the Mark S. Eastman Auditorium at OHCHS.
OXFORD HILLS — After 6:30 p.m., you would think that the halls of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School would be quiet.
But as you stroll those halls, you will hear strains of “All day long I’d biddy bum, if I were a wealthy... I got rhythm, I got music...O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin'... but then I thought about the game!”
After 6:30 p.m., practice for the musical review “Serving Up Broadway” has begun.
Professional dancers and musicians performing songs from some of the all-time great musicals is the premise of “Serving Up Broadway,” an original musical review celebrating 40 years of the Oxford Hills School Community Broadway Show.
Performances will be on April 5 and 6 in the Mark S. Eastman Auditorium at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.
In rehearsals, lights dim and change color. Feet patter across the stage. A chorus of voices warms up. Directors give orders. Many in this group have worked together in past shows. After “Damn Yankees” in April, 2012, the idea for a review show was born.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to do a retrospective,” remembers Jane Riseman.
In October, Riseman, Dennis Boyd, Kyle Jordan and Jennifer St. Pierre met to pick a song from each of 20 previously performed biennial community shows.
The music was arranged for solos, duets and a seven-part band by Terry White, a former band director at Cape Elizabeth who now composes.
Meanwhile, Riseman took the 20 songs and created a song script, from which she designed the whole show. The show will be centered around the Broadway Cafe, with "Act I" inside of the cafe and "Act II" on the street outside of it.
“Every song will stand on its own,” explains Riseman. “There will be no costuming; instead, everyone will be dressed in black.”
Her favorite thing about directing is “helping the actors develop their character.” And since there is no dialogue in this play, she has to help the actors create “really specific movements and facial expressions.”
Riseman has performed in seven community musicals and has been stage manager for two. This is her third show directing. She believes that the community show is a “fabulous experience that everyone should be able to do – and I love to provide that opportunity,” she says.
Co-producer Kyle Jordan describes Riseman as “one of the most creative people I have ever worked with, and while this may have started as my vision, it has become her baby.”
As the review was being developed, the super team of Riseman, Jordan, Boyd, and St. Pierre had the idea to bring back cast members to revive their old roles. While they couldn’t get everyone back, the cast has actors from across the State, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and even Alabama.
The age of the cast members ranges from eight to 75 years old. Steve Jones, reviving his role as Frank Butler in the 2004 “Annie Get Your Gun” show, feels that “every time you do a role, you can bring something new to it.”
He believes that the community show becomes “the nexus where the performers and community come together.”
Steve Sessions, part of the review’s chorus, finds the community show “exciting because it brings together the experience of older people and the energy of the younger ones.”
Another member of the chorus is Sophie Lawton, a sophomore at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. "High schoolers get experience and learn a lot from the older actors who have experience and have gone into the world outside of Oxford Hills," she says.
Peter Allen is reviving his part as Curley in the 1980 Oklahoma show.
“There are so few chances for generations to get together, and it’s wonderful to work with different age groups and to get to know them as people. It Is really important for a community,” says Allen.
“It trains everybody into knowing that you are part of a greater effort. You realize that everyone has a small part, but everyone is equally important ...This review is a kind of memory piece for everybody.”
“It is so much fun to bring back all the memories from all the shows,” says Nancy Marcotte, the artistic director. Marcotte has participated in 17 shows and has seen almost all of them.
The community show began in 1974, when Benny Reehl, founder of New Vaudeville and a Buckfield resident, approached Cynthia Westcott and Jerry Walker about starting a community broadway show that included students. At the time, Westcott was the choral teacher and Walker was the band teacher at Oxford Hills.
“‘Let’s do it’ was our first reaction,” remembers Walker. “We have been involved in theatre most of our lives and we weren’t afraid to take this on.”
A $500 donation from the Music Boosters allowed Westcott as music director, Walker as “tech” director, and Reehl as director to launch their first show, “Fiddler on the Roof.”
As Teyve might say, "A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of [Oxford Hills], you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, why do [we keep putting on the community show]? That I can tell you in one word ...Tradition."
Now, 20 years later, the biennial community show has become nothing short of a tradition.
“The community not only expects, but looks forward to the show,” says Jordan. “It’s part of who we are, and part of what we do here.”
The Mark S. Eastman Auditorium is located inside Oxford Hill Comprehensive High School, 256 Main Street in South Paris.
Reserved seating tickets to the auditorium are on sale at Books N Things, 430 Main Street in Norway. Tickets cannot be purchased over the phone; however they may be ordered by calling Books N Things at 739-6200.
Your reserved tickets will be waiting for you on the night of the show one hour prior to each performance. Remaining tickets will be available at the door prior to each performance. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/senior citizens.