July 9, 2009

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The Bard and Disney
New Thalian Players and Nashua Theatre Guild take it outside
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Disney’s High School Musical in Manchester
New Thalian Players is aware that a performance of Disney’s High School Musical is not exactly rare. However, those involved in this year’s Theatre in the Park say director Elizabeth Perrin-Vigil really does bring a unique take.

“My generation isn’t really as into the whole High School Musical phenomenon, so when I was approached with the idea of doing it, I tried to — as much as I could — not look at a lot of video for it,” Perrin-Vigil said. She tried to create a vision from what she heard. “I loved the idea of creating a stage that looked more like a concert,” Perrin-Vigil said.

She’s using lighting as color and is going for an “industrial,” “ambiguous” space — in part to solve the problem of having scenes that take place in several different school rooms.

She’s given each clique in school a color. As time goes on, Gabriella incorporates all those colors in her clothing. In the finale, instead of everyone wearing the school colors of red and white, they wear all of the colors to show that the cliques have broken up and, as the song says, “We’re All in This Together.” (High school’s social order is threatened when Gabriella, a shy, smart new student, and school basketball star Troy, audition for the school musical.) 

“It’s the kind of thing that any mom and dad would want to hang out for a couple hours watching with their kids,” music director Michael Shaughnessy said. Even if they’ve seen it on TV, the director’s vision here is different, he said. In some parts, it’s actually pretty touching, he said. “You will be surprisingly moved,” Shaughnessy said.

“We realize High School Musical has been done a lot lately,” producer Angela Lucido said. But it’s popular, and NTG was looking for something very family-friendly for this show, which is free to the audience in Veterans Park in Manchester.

New Thalian is more than 20 years old and was originally housed at Notre Dame College. Since the college closed, New Thalian has had to seek storage, build and rehearsal space. The community company has mainly only produced these summer park shows since losing mill space a few years ago.

“We really very much depend on the generosity of Manchester,” Lucido said.

The Mt. Zion School is providing use of classroom furniture for High School Musical, Lucido said. The Kfoury family let NTG use a room at their Central Paper Company for rehearsals. Their daughter Christine Kfoury is on the NTG board. The Music Factory is providing a deal on light and sound work. Manchester Parks and Recreation, and Licensing staff, have been “as helpful as [they] could possibly be,” Lucido said.

New Thalian “begs and borrows as much as we can,” Lucido said. “It is, after all, absolutely free theater in the park.... We’re trying to keep that alive as a cultural enhancement for Manchester,” Lucido said. Lucido and Perrin-Vigil said they are involved with the show because of NTG founder Beth Ann O’Hara: “She’s really the heart and soul,” Perrin-Vigil said.

“She’s a talented actor and director and producer in her own right. It has been primarily through her love of theater and her tenacity that she has kept this thriving,” Lucido said. Lucido thinks people in the community have been generous to New Thalian in part because of their esteem for O’Hara. “She is really a class act,” Lucido said.

Perrin-Vigil said her heart is with keeping New Thalian Players and community theater in general alive.

NTG is using a “high-voltage” rock band style for High School Musical, Shaughnessy said. The West High Class of 1995 graduate recently moved back from California. He scores music and teaches private music lessons and in high schools. Also a singer and songwriter, Shaughnessy is releasing an inspirational album, Permission to Be (michaelvincentshaughnessy.com).

Choreographer Becki Dennis has already choreographed this play for Andover High School and performed in and was the dance captain for it at Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. Most of the dances for NTG are Dennis’ own choreography, somewhat inspired by moves in the movie, with the exception of “We’re All in This Together.” Some of that is taken from the film because it’s so familiar that kids in the audience might get up and dance along, Dennis said. 

Dennis, of Andover, Mass., has frequently performed at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, is in a national commercial for Boys Town, and will be seen in Yellow Taxi Production’s performances of The Pact at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord in July, among her other credits (Beckidennis.com). Perrin-Vigil has been a part of professional and community theater in New Hampshire for a long time, although she just recently returned from two years in New Mexico, where she and her husband work in film. As a film location manager, Lorenzo Vigil often pulls Perrin-Vigil in to help, and so she’s performed in and worked in the art department for Crazy Heart, a post-production film with Colin Farrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges. She played a nurse as an extra on a recent episode of In Plain Sight (USA Network).

For High School Musical, Lorenzo Vigil has assisted by building and painting sets, among other support — “I can’t do it without him,” his wife said.

Perrin-Vigil’s next project this summer is a benefit show in Wells, Maine, which she hopes will raise $10,000 for Camp Sunshine, a camp for children with terminal illnesses.

Lucido, of Bedford, now spends about five months of the year in New York as a freelance scenic artist. Since 2000, she’s worked for Shrek on Broadway with Dreamworks, Carl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de La Renta, Vanity Fair magazine and many others. She was the art director for the Nashua Telegraph for 17 years.

Lucido was kind of the “instigator” for the Fairy Tale Festival in Nashua, a free literary event for children which she hopes to bring to Manchester, as well. She helps out at Bedford High School productions. Even with Lucido’s art and design background, it’s Perrin-Vigil’s vision for the costuming, scenes and lighting for High School Musical, Lucido said. 

The Tempest in Nashua
Exiled to a remote island with his daughter Miranda, Prospero discovers how to use the island’s enchanted elements in The Tempest, according to the Nashua Theatre Guild.

The Guild performs a shortened version of the play for its 17th Shakespeare in the Park program, Saturdays and Sundays from July 18 through July 26 at Greeley Park.

Director Kevin Riley said this is NTG’s first performance of The Tempest at Greeley and the Guild has only repeated probably two of the Bard’s plays in those 17 years.

The Tempest will be staged as “no-frills Shakespeare” in an “organic” way, Riley said. This is in part because the Guild has no budget and stage microphones are being used by other companies that weekend (so sit close to the stage to hear the actors).

However, “it was probably bare-bones staging when they did it at the Globe,” Riley said.

NTG is using contemporary costuming. The spirit Ariel, played by Elizabeth Ten-Hove, will be dressed more “spiritedly.” And Gail Angellis’ has a monster-themed costume as the half-human, half-fish Caliban. 

Ten-Hove, a 17-year-old from Concord, Mass., is composing and recording music for the show.

Riley directed Macbeth in 2001 and Love’s Labors Lost in 2006 for NTG’s summer Shakespeare at Greeley.

NTG continues its 49th season with Steel Magnolias in September.


Outdoor musical
What: Disney’s High School Musical, presented by New Thalian Players
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., July 17-July 25. Pre-show acts go on at 6:30 p.m., High School Musical starts at 8 p.m.
Where: Veterans Park at Elm, Merrimack and Central streets in Manchester
Cost: Free, but donations are encouraged.
Contact: newthalianplayers.org
Weather: New Thalian may continue with the show if there’s only a few light rain showers. They usually wait until the last minute to make weather-related decisions, so you may have to go there to find out if the show is postponed for rain. Rain dates are Sundays, July 19 and July 26.
Note: To volunteer, call 666-6466 or e-mail newthalianplayers@gmail.com.
Related: Find out about the Sarah and Laura Silverman benefit performance for New Thalian’s Theatre in the Park on page 5.

Shakespeare outside
What: The Tempest, presented by Nashua Theatre Guild; Nashua SummerFun co-sponsors.
Where: Greeley Park, Concord Street in Nashua
When: Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., July 18-July 26
Cost: Free
Contact: www.nashuatheatreguild.org, 320-2530
Notes: The play has been shortened to run about 90 minutes or less.
Cast: Arthur Barlas, Anne Dufault, Gail Angellis, Elizabeth Ten-Hove, Peter McLeod-Warrick, Michael Harrington, Neal Blaiklock, Justin Fredenberg, Chris Vick, Rich Hurley, Carly Jo Geer, Melissa Morin, Anna Paratore and Joe Pelonzi.

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