Music Theatre International offered free licensing to all schools and theaters such as Valley College, to produce “All Together Now!”
By Annette M. Lesure, Staff Writer
Valley College’s Theater Program will simultaneously perform with more than 5,200 shows around the world over a four-day period, and feature songs from well-known musicals such as “Mamma Mia!”, “Little Shop of Horrors” and more.
The show, titled “All Together Now!” was created by Musical Theatre International with the goal of bringing artists and audiences back to the theater, providing theaters and schools with the opportunity to fundraise to recover from over a year and a half of closures. The debut will be from Nov. 12-15, with in-person and virtual performances around the globe. The rules of the licensing stated that the lyrics of the 15 out of 35 songs ultimately chosen cannot be changed but can be depicted in any creative way the directors and performers choose.
"This is my first time [participating] in a global performance," said theater major Satya Vanii. "I am excited about this because it makes me feel we are all in solidarity and connected. We join hands sharing what we all love doing: performing and creating! The [show] title is so fitting!"
The audience can expect some modernized show changes being created by director and Theater Arts professor Cathy Pyles, who has been with Valley for 18 years. Prior to teaching, Pyles performed in many Broadway musicals such as “CATS” and “42nd Street.”
"[Musical Theatre International] sent us the sheet music, rehearsal tracks for us to rehearse with and performance tracks for those that can't afford to pay a band right now," said Pyles, whose diverse cast and crew encompass the LGBTQIA community and a broad spectrum of ages. "The great thing about this show is there are no restrictions on gender or ethnicity. You can have any person you want sing any song."
The show will have songs such as “Spread the Love” from “Sister Act” which was originally performed by nuns. The song will now be portrayed as Gay Pride. “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods” will be presented by four older actresses of the ensemble. While “Seize the Day” from Newsies, which was originally inspired by the 1899 real-life newsboys strike in New York City, will be a depiction of Black Lives Matter protests.
“I am all for the diversity because for the last few years as a society we have been doing as much as we can to have our voices heard in the LGBTQIA community and Black Lives Matter movement,” said Valley alumnus and theater arts major, Eric Jaison, who is also an LGBTQIA member. “We have been dealing with these controversial issues for years. It is important that we use our voices to portray these stories because it’s the world we are living in, even if it’s not so comfortable or a bit triggering at times. The protests that happened last year were real so I don’t think it’s wrong to portray these situations. I feel like people come to the theatre to escape from the real world, but also to get educated and cultured. Especially now that theater has changed so much in the last few years and people just want something to relate to their own lives. It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to put myself in the shoes of those who I am portraying as an actor and speak for those who don’t have a voice.”
As of Oct. 4, over 40 countries were in participation. Although there are no current statistics on the total number of performers, if each show casts 25 people as Valley has, that would tally roughly 130,000 performers.
“I just found out that my high school dance teacher is doing the show on the same weekend. It’s so surreal because we have been waiting and aching for this moment to be back on stage and show our art to everybody,” said theater arts major Rachel Logan who is performing in three pieces, including a solo of “Astonishing” from the musical “Little Women. “Having all these schools do the same thing at once really goes to show how much community theatre means. The fact that we get to share this all together and we are all connected in that way, it’s very important.”
In a bittersweet coincidence, "All Together Now!" will be the last show ever performed in the Main Stage Theater prior to the demolition of the Theater Arts building in June 2022. There will be one final spring performance in the small Horseshoe Theater, just before the end of an era of a building that was built in 1961.
The structure will be torn down after housing theater arts students and staff for 60 years and up to 60 hours a week, according to costume maker and shop supervisor Samantha Jaffray.
"It is going to be very emotional,” said Jaffray. “A lot of us have spent a lot of our lives in this building. This is like a family so it's going to be wild. The new building is so beautiful, but this [old one] has so much history.”
Ticket prices and how to purchase them will come closer to the performance date.