By Ralph Morang
Posted Jan. 30, 2015 @ 2:53 pm
Updated at 3:04 PM
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine – Whimsy is on the minds of around 30 Marshwood Middle School students this week. Under the direction of Alden Caple and Miles Burns, the company was putting the final touches on its school musical on the Marshwood High School stage Thursday.
“Whimsy” is the musical. Thursday was supposed to be opening night, but that was lost to the whimsy of snowstorm Juno, as were two days of rehearsal. But the show is on track for Saturday.
Rehearsal Thursday afternoon began with the 20 actors, all with cordless microphones, crowded around composer Burns at his piano upstage right, nailing down the lyrics to “Peaceful.” In the house, Caple was going over cues with his tech crew.
With the two groups thus engaged, the stage seemed a lonely place. But, when Caple ordered a run-through of the final song, the stage was suddenly filled with singing and dancing characters. Well-known characters like Little Red Riding Hood, Mother Goose, the Three little pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. All this apparent even in rehearsal clothes.
“Marshwood is unusual in how talented and polite the kids are,” Caple said. “They are a joy to work with.”
“Whimsy” is about “The Boy,” played by Max Tullgren, who imagines that the school janitor is Snow White, that the school bully is the aforementioned “Wolf.” He sees “whimsy” all around, and without revealing too much, he has that whimsy taken away. The cast of characters surround The Boy with the support to find it again.
All this came out of the imaginations of Caple and Burns, who took songs Burns and Scott Hermenau wrote for various theater camps and created a story that should resonate with middle school students, and anyone has been one. They said the show was written for this cast.
Caple, 27, is the director of Drama at Portsmouth Middle School and Portsmouth High School. Burns, 29, is the interim artistic director of the Seacoast Repertory Theatre. This is their second year on a Marshwood Middle School musical, so by now they have some young veterans on the boards.
Even so, the young performers had some rough patches, but no more than any show about to go on.
Those patches were quietly but firmly smoothed out by the two directors. And after a cast meeting, Caple called for a dress run-through.
Now, the show’s bones were fleshed out with costumes and lights. The cast knew its job, as several members were advising the two adults on what came next. Burns said, “The level of talent in the middle school is unreal.”
Carple is a Marshwood Middle School and High School alumnus. Costume creator and parent Jennifer Latta made costumes when Caple was at Marshwood, and has been involved with theater projects for 16 years. She made costumes for “Whimsy” from scratch or repurposed them from other shows. Of the cast, she said, “They are amazing. A lot of them are new to this.” And of the directors she said, “Alden and Miles are laid back. The kids respect them and they know what’s needed of them.”
Then the stage was alight with the imagination of one middle school boy as he went though the school day, turning everyone into his characters – Alice and the Red Queen, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, Jack looking for his beanstock; even Huck and Tom were there.
Stage co-managers Ava Magoon and Sarah Arenberg were learning their cues and high up in the back of the house, Isabella Trull and Nate Reppucci trained their spotlights on the cast.
As the rehearsal began, Marcos Abell as Pinocchio asked Caple, “Should I get my nose?”