When I knew I was going to be spending some time back in my hometown of Overland Park, Kansas, in between gigs, I KNEW I had to get involved with something, somewhere. In between auditions, casting trips, vacations, and yoga, I was looking for an opportunity to stretch my artistic wings and utilize some new tools.
As luck would have it, I reached out to my high school drama teacher, Ms. Laurie VanderPol, and she was in need of a director for the Spring Rep Show at Blue Valley West High School. The Rep Theatre class is the highest level of acting you can take at BVW, where it combines the skills you've learned in acting class and applies them to a performance-based class. Basically... you get to put on shows.
The challenge was finding something that would work for the entire class - should we pick a big comedy? A musical we can do without a budget? Or how about... work with the students on acting through song and create our very own Broadway-style Cabaret with solos, duets, full-scale production numbers with kicklines and choreography?! SOLD!
I started working with the students, many of whom had little-to-no vocal training, in January 2018. We met twice (sometimes three times) a week during their Tuesday and Thursday class time (1.5 hours). I asked them to step completely out of their comfort zone, as I barked "a-5-6-7-8" at them. What happened over two month's time was a miracle.
Through blood, sweat, and yes, some tears, we created a 15-number revue with songs ranging from Golden Age to Contemporary. With a dash of Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton to Chicago and Wicked, we put together a unique amalgamation of Broadway greats that allowed the students to shine. We worked together to take the musical numbers out of context and place them within confines that worked for our piece. It transformed the music, the students, and most definitely, myself.
Piecing together a revue reminded me of my time creating "Sisterly Love," a cabaret I did with the incomparable Alana Opie, my siamese twin from Side Show back in 2014. Being part of the creative process in producing something new is so special.
I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to work with the students of BVW, Ms. V, Ms. Opheim (our student teacher), and special assistant Derek Brookens (who helped create the pivotal finale, "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" from Spamalot). I can't wait to see what the future holds for these bright stars!
Danae DeShazer is an actress, singer, and dancer living in Sarasota, FL.