New York Mills is a small school district in Central New York, with graduating classes between 30-40. The school’s football coach is also the drama director, and a friend of mine. (His athletes play offense and defense, just to field a team.) I was invited to their musical because I provided a favor regarding lighting.
I’ve seen Oklahoma! many times in my career, but I don’t remember enjoying a production as much as this one. The team of advisors (Director Teresa Zielinski-Lovecchio, Choreographer Juliana Muirhead, Orchestra Director Steve Shrey, Assistant Director Katie Morrissey and Drama Director Anthony Ricco) provided a strong framework which allowed the students to shine.
The choreography was fun and well-performed, particularly the men’s show-stopping dance in Kansas City and the women’s dance in The Farmer and the Cowman. The actors sang well and delivered good character accents. They seemed aware of the audience and played out to us. Of special note was Nick Vanderwood’s performance as Will Parker. Nick moved with confident grace on stage and would have commanded attention even if he’d never spoken or sung; Summerstage directors and choreographers, write down this name.
The backdrop was well chosen and gave the small stage considerable depth. Scene changes were brisk. The student lighting and sound operators did a terrific job – it’s great to see a school production where every job isn’t given to contractors. (In particular, the lighting was often far more imaginative than some of the area’s “professionals” tend to provide.)
A brief note about sound equipment. The microphones came from BOCES, and I hope school administrators everywhere read this and heed my words: BOCES has not provided qualified theatrical assistance (personnel or equipment) to any school production I’ve seen in 25 years. It wasn’t operator error that caused us to miss a good share of the dialogue last night – it was cheap stuff, provided by someone who didn’t know the difference, or didn’t care. Please do better in the future – let your student productions sound and shine that much brighter.