A Message from Kimberly Sias
Kimberly SiasDirector All-City ArtsCleveland Metropolitan School District
Last year, the All-City Musical was the contemporary show Bring It On: The Musical. This year, we did an about face and selected a production that’s about as "old-school Broadway" as musical theater gets! In the All-City program, It's important for our students to understand the history of this art form in order to fully appreciate how performance styles have evolved over time. And what better occasion to celebrate that history as we mark a milestone of our own: the 20th anniversary of the All-City Musical!
Initially the cast was hesitent about 42nd Street because they weren't familiar with the language. The 1933-style vernacular didn't resonate immediately, so the humor of much of the slang was lost in translation. In addition, the sometimes complicated stage directions made it difficult for them (and myself!) to follow the action of the play. But our actor-scholars jumped right in (as they always do) and with a few a-ha moments realized that the story of 42nd Street isn’t much different from small-town kids dreaming big in 2019 (see a few of our recent graduates on page XX/ at [URL link]).
There’s another aspect of 42nd Street that I love. It explores two ideas at once: that of individual starpower AND the importance of ensemble. Everyone wants to be a star, and a very few are lucky to succeed. We saw it play out in our own process: there was stiff competition for the two lead roles of Peggy and Maggie. Even with all of the passion, preparation and determination each actress invested in her audition, only two girls were going to get those parts. Egos and feelings were bruised. Those who didn't land the larger parts struggled initially to shift their perspectives and pour everything into their assigned roles.
But our students are nothing if not resilient. Over the rehearsal process they have brought the ensemble to life and now understand--like never before--how important the chorus line is: without the ensemble, there's no show. That’s especially true in 42nd Street. Therefore, many of the students have worked hard to create engaging, memorable characters whether they have speaking parts or not.
So does this musical have anything to say about how we navigate our way through challenging times? Absolutely. “Sunny Side to Every Situation” has an emphatic message: when all seems lost, a simple shift in perspective can get us through those moments of adversity. The students and I often discussed the urgency of keeping the musical’s fictional production, Pretty Lady, open and having a successful run, accompanied by lots of talk about outstanding expenses and bills that are past due. In tough times, perspective is an essential quality.
As director, here’s what I hope you walk away from this show thinking and feeling: as adults, we sometimes get so consumed with the requirements of getting through a day, month, or year that we forget to take time to dream. Peggy showed up with a big dream that she was discouraged from pursuing, in both Allentown and NYC. But she forced each person she encountered to believe in her and in the process, they found a little hope and joy for themselves.
Hope and dreams deserve to be nurtured. The rewards for all of us are priceless.