Talent, backstage scramble make musical a gem


"GUYS AND DOLLS," a musical about gangsters and love, is being presented by pupils of North Carroll Middle School at 7 p.m. tomorrow and Friday at the school's Clendaniel Gym.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children.

This is the junior version of the Broadway musical, a story that circulates among a religious mission center, New York sewers and Havana, with gangsters rolling dice, lovin' and leavin', and wanting more than their shallow lifestyle of gambling and raids by police.

The leading roles are beautifully sung by Chris Gillyard as Sky Masterson, Jennifer Spears as Sarah Brown, and Kristi Hawver as Miss Adelaide, in a cast of 52 dancers, singers and a clarinet band.

Every time the curtain goes up on the actors and actresses, an entirely different group of 20 pupils breathes a sigh of relief. They're the stage crew, props, lighting and sound crews, and costumers.

They rule the stage between the scenes. When the action begins, they're invisible. When the curtains are opened by Chris Murk, everyone freezes, even if someone is left on stage behind a set.

"I got left inside the mission set once," said David Justus of the stage crew. He couldn't move offstage until the curtains closed on the scene.

While the play progresses out front, backstage Debbie Eckles, family and consumer science teacher, checks her cue list to inform the crew of needs for the next scene. The musical has 14 scene changes.

"I like being in stage crew, because you're in the whole play without memorizing any lines," said Amber Maurer.

Stage crew is a play behind the play that scrambles people and sets like a game of oversized musical chairs. The intermezzo, played on the piano offstage by music teacher Maryann Villa, is a melodic timepiece as the stage crew runs at breakneck speed to dress the stage for action.

Crew members capture the heavy side and rear curtains to pull them out of the way.

Other crew members slide the painted plywood set panels off stage. This tiny stage has enough room to hide the scenery panels between the wall and the 24-foot-high canvas scene of New York City.

The music stops, the curtains open and Lindsay Harman of the lighting crew flips two light switches from a stairwell. Diana Mogar works tiers of lights stationed on the gym floor, and pupil director Brent Darsch positions the sole spotlight.

"How fast was that one?" David asks. "Forty seconds," replies Howard Spears, a parent stage crew volunteer.

That time is down from seven minutes days ago.

The sets were engineered by Spears and Don Malbrough, who used ingenuity and pulley mechanics to drop a 24-foot-by-18-foot painted canvas from the ceiling of the stage for the dance club scene.

"I've never been on the stage in my life, except to play the triangle in a Christmas show in elementary school," Malbrough said.

A home improvement professional, he's devoted full workweeks to building and painting and working out details such as how to move the sewer arch into position.

Spears, a Baltimore County teacher, has devoted his after-school hours every day to prepare for the production.

Two pupils carry cement blocks that will anchor the arch.

Others guide the wobbly set on rollers and fold out the hinged side panels to link with the mission bookcases, which the crew drapes in painted cloth.

The wings of this stage can hold a single row of personnel. Gangsters in zoot suits tuck between stage crew and scenery waiting for their cues.

Adelaide and Sarah are on stage, discovering the inherent heartbreak of loving Sky Masterson.

The gangsters know the lines, too, but for them, it's a comedy routine.

When Adelaide and Sarah blend voices in "Marry a Man Today" the gangsters are singing backstage, too. Behind the curtains they're adding their hand motions in Betty Boop style and gyrating their shoulders.

A crew member shuffles with top hat and cane.

"Everyone knows the songs, and we know the tap dances, too," said Rachel Drozinski, who runs props to both sides of the stage. Beth Gillan works props at stage right.

"You have to know all the scenes. And if you forget something, you mess up the whole play," said Megan Kauffman, who handles props at stage left. "We know what our mistakes have been."

Other members of the stage crew are Andi Carpenter, Danny Bosley, Chris Thomas, Chandra Fadoul, Kim Spencer and Dan Hurley. The sound crew includes Jenna Myers, Kelly Nevin and Jaime Devilbiss.

The costume crew, including Hannah Rill and Jessica Swiecicki, traveled back in time at the racks of the Reisterstown Goodwill for 1940s silk skirts, wide-lapel suits, and an endless parade of designer hats. Additional sewing was done by Marcia Alford, Margo Hawver, Sherri Bosley and Bonnie Smith, who are parents and relatives of cast members.

"We did this play in high school, and our outfits weren't nearly as good," said Leslie Jeffers, a science teacher who is doubling as dance instructor.

Actresses dipped into the personal jewelry boxes of Peggy Buckler, family-and-consumer science teacher.

"This is my grandmother's. You can't lose this," said Buckler, sorting through bracelets and necklaces to find a gemstone ring for Amber Spicer, playing a Doll.

"These are the old North Carroll band uniforms. We used everything," Buckler said, flipping up the red cape of a clarinetist to reveal a hidden NC logo.

The art room is the cast's green room, where the actors and actresses wait out scenes, trying to concentrate on homework while fidgeting with high-heeled shoes and scratchy hat veils.

A gangster spontaneously pulls a necktie up to dangle from his forehead.

For this hour, for these 73 kids on and behind the stage, the play is everything.

Outdoor egg hunt

The annual Easter Egg Hunt and Scavenger Hunt at Pine Valley Park begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the nature center. Parking is available at Manchester Elementary School and off Wilhelm Lane in Manchester.

This year, plastic eggs will be hidden by Pine Valley Park volunteers.

Some eggs will contain prizes or candy. Children younger than age 10 are invited to join the hunt.

Children ages 10 through 15 are invited to look for specific natural items for the annual Scavenger Hunt.

Last year, about 130 people turned out for the combined hunts.

Pine Valley staff request that no one begins hunting before 10 a.m. to make the hunt fair and enjoyable for everyone.

Demonstrations on natural dyes for eggs will take place. Rain date is April 22.

Information: 410-374-3395.

Basket bingo

Parents of Girl Scout Troops 1131 and 1664 are sponsoring basket bingo at 7 p.m. Saturday in Manchester Activities Building, York Street.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Beanie babies, raffles and door prizes are featured.

Information: Cheryl Hann, 410-239-3996 or Lori Drumheller, 410-374-5376.

Musical cookbooks

North Carroll High School Instrumental Music Boosters is selling cookbooks.

The books will arrive for Mother's Day giving.

Each cookbook costs $12.

Information: 410-239-8533 or 410-239-6375.

Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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