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Fredonia Musical ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ To Be Virtual

From left are Ava Hartung, Madonnina Gullo, Timothy Davis, Jack Forster, Anna Valone and Fred Gullo.

Six days before opening day of the 2020 Fredonia High School Musical, the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the musical and the entire world. Now, one year later, the Fredonia students who suffered the disappointment of last year’s canceled show had a chance to make up for it.

On March 19 and 20, Fredonia High School put on a recorded performance of Bob Martin and Don McKellar’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” in front of a very limited crowd at the Fredonia High School auditorium. The opportunity to perform is something that both the kids who participated and Fredonia Musical Director Ben Wendell are extremely thankful for.

“I want to express gratitude to the administration for letting us do this,” Wendell said. “We’re thankful they trusted us to be able to have it and do it safely, and we’re thankful for the kids to be able to have that experience, especially the seniors. It’s one of the first things we tried to do that started to feel kind of normal.”

The show, which is about a reclusive man who, when speaking about his favorite musicals, sees them come to life in his apartment, featured a live audience of around 70 people who were all invited guests of the cast and crew members. And thanks to the enthusiasm of the kids and staff involved, the show was a great success, in part because of that audience participation.

“The show went very well,” Wendell said. “We had an enthusiastic audience, even though it was small. It was a different kind of experience to have a small crowd, but it was still very special.”

But seeing the show is not something that will be limited to just those people who were there. Beginning Saturday, virtual tickets will be on sale on their new website, fredoniamusical.com. Anyone who purchases a ticket can view the performance from that weekend in its entirety, as many times as they want or whenever they want within the 48-hour window of buying the ticket. Tickets will be live until the middle of May. There was initial discussion as to how the virtual performance would be handled, but Wendell said the live audience once again played a part into how they decided to upload it.

“We had a few different options as to how we could have done it,” Wendell said. “We could have filmed scenes a little at a time and put them together but having a live audience made it better, especially because it is a comedy and having audience feedback was important.”

Wendell and the students involved got participation to go ahead with some type of show back in the fall, even though the number of cases was still rising. Though they started later than normal, the kids started their work in January. Because of the nature of the event, the kids who auditioned were all of the most dedicated members of the Fredonia Musical program.

“The kids who auditioned were the hardcore musical kids,” Wendell said. “They were willing to do it during the pandemic and potentially for no audience at that time, but they still wanted to be a part of it. It’s a smaller group than normal, but they were so enthusiastic. They were all veterans who I’ve worked with before in Middle School or High School, and they put in tremendous amounts of work.”

Though there were many regulations put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wendell said the more they started to rehearse, the more normal it felt. Even though they had to change certain parts of the show, such as a kissing scene and a spit take, they were able to navigate it and have a successful performance.

“There were lots of protocols to follow, but everyone took them very seriously,” Wendell said. “The more we got going with it, it started to feel more normal. We had to do new stuff we haven’t done before, but we navigated the weird challenges together.”

For more information about Fredonia’s performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” including ticket prices, visit fredoniamusical.com.

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