As the school year gets into full swing, one of the most memorable events at Harvard-Westlake is the fall musical. Due to the pandemic, this year’s production will be different from other years in the past, but rehearsals and preparation for this year’s musical, “Songs For a New World,” are well under way and the performance will be open to watch via Vimeo.
“Songs For a New World” is a one of a kind production with a unique format since it is a compilation of different songs that each tell their own story, rather than a production with multiple numbers contributing to the main plot according to lead actor Samuel Hines ’24. “Musicals like these are like a blank canvas for directors since they can do what they want with it and have their own artistic freedom.”
The musical will be performed and recorded on Zoom, and people will be able to see the finished product on Vimeo, according to Jim Doughan, a Performing Arts and Communications teacher and director of the musical. “We will record, mix it, record performances and then lay in some more video images and try to tell our story,” Doughan said.
This musical will be different from previous years, according to Doughan. “There’s a huge difference. Personal connection, being with the kids, seeing them every day. I miss that a lot.”
Hines shared a similar sentiment, saying: “It’s a new experience for everyone; this has never been done before. But in a way, it will still be as if we are all together because it’s new for everyone. I’m actually really excited.”
Since a significant aspect of the typical live audience musicals that occur in person is establishing a connection with the audience, a pre-recorded musical has its challenges. Many personal connections are compromised with virtual showcases, as explained by Hines, since he experiences these challenges first-hand.
“The interactions with the audience are gone, so from the actor’s perspective, it will be more difficult since our goal is to perform out to the audience. It’s going to be more like we are performing on set for a TV show” said Hines.
However, there are numerous benefits of having the musical performed online, such as decreased pressure since you have multiple chances to perform. Lead actress Nyla Shelton ’24 shares her positive outlook: “It is nice that there is less pressure since there is more time to record the acts, rather than performing live and only having one chance to perform everything.”
Cast members also report that a strong sense of community has been developed through this process. Doughan explained that one of the positives of having a virtual showcase was that they have been able to include many people in this production. Since this musical is a compilation of various numbers, many members of the HW community are part of the cast either as a lead soloist, supporting soloist, or ensemble member.
While this year has been a new experience for all of us, Doughan expressed a feeling we have all experienced. “This is a new way to approach a musical and I’m learning as I go. The good thing about that is it’s new and exciting and also a little scary.”