WMS tackles first-ever musicalWoodbury Middle School's first-ever musical, "The Phantom Tollbooth, Jr.," will open Nov. 29-30.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Woodbury Middle School will be bringing a childhood classic to the stage Nov. 29-30 when it performs its first-ever musical “The Phantom Tollbooth Jr.”
The play tells the story of Milo, an unambitious boy who hates school.
One night Milo falls asleep, and his dresser turns into a magical tollbooth.
“He decides to take the challenge and travel through all these different worlds,” director Marcie Berglund said.
Through his adventures in different worlds, Milo finds two princesses, Rhyme and Reason, who need to be rescued.
“Milo eventually realizes that there’s a lot more to life than he thought,” Berglund said. “It’s pretty much the book.”
A first-time musical
Berglund was approached last year by WMS music teacher Becky Schenk about doing a possible musical, since the school had never done one before.
“I couldn’t get my head around it,” she said. “I asked Becky to give me some time to think about it.”
Last summer, the idea of a musical surfaced again and Berglund agreed to do it on one condition – that WMS social studies teacher Lanka Liyanapathiranage choreographs.
“I wasn’t going to do it without him,” Berglund said.
“Why not, we haven’t done one,” he said. “We were all up to it.”
The first musical Berglund considered was “School House Rocks,” but she decided to consider “Phantom Tollbooth Jr.” as well since it was a new musical.
“Really the hardest part about a musical is the music, so I gave them to the music teacher,” she said. “She felt ‘Phantom Tollbooth’ was a little easier and that the kids might like it a little better.”
WMS eighth grader Sid Price, who will be playing King Azaz as well as the Phantom Tollbooth, said he is excited about the musical.
“It’s good to be the king first of all,” he said. “Plus the show has a life lesson in it without being too cheesy.”
WMS eighth grader Max Nord, who will be playing Tock the dog, said he hopes the fact that the musical is based on a children’s book will bring out a larger audience.
“Hopefully more younger kids will want to come and see it,” he said.
In comparison to a straight play, a musical poses some unique challenges for Berglund and her cast.
Whereas in a straight play, where Berglund oversees the entire rehearsal process, she hands off some responsibilities to the vocal coach and the choreographer in a musical.
“It’s my job as director to put all the puzzle pieces together,” she said. “It’s my job to transition in and out of the musical numbers.”
The added challenge for students is that they not only have to worry about their lines, but they have to now add lyrics and choreography.
“There’s a lot of coordination,” she said. “Instead of worrying about one thing, their lines, they have to think about the lyrics, the tune and their dancing and everything else – there’s just two added elements to it.”
Price said he has favored standard plays over the musical because he doesn’t consider himself that much of a singer.
“But as long as there’s some sort of theater involved, you’ll see me there,” he said.
However, Price and WMS seventh grader Akul Seshardri said the added comedy has made the musical enjoyable.
“I think in a musical you’re allowed to be a lot more comical and just be more funny,” Seshardri said. “Last year was funny too, but it was in a more subtle way.”
“This year we’re just being ridiculous,” Price said.
Berglund said she anticipates audiences enjoying WMS’ first-ever musical.
“I think they’re going to enjoy the kids’ energy,” she said. “My hope is that they’re going to see that the kids have learned a little bit more about the craft.”
Woodbury Middle School’s first-ever musical, “Phantom Tollbooth Jr.” will run Nov. 29-30 at the school. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students.