West Fargo High School to present "The Pajama Game"
When the curtain goes up for a West Fargo High School musical production everything seems to fall into place. The cast knows their lines, the dance ensembles glide across the stage, and music flows from the orchestra pit right on cue. But what the audiences see on stage is only the tip of the iceberg of what goes into making a production successful.
This year's musical, "The Pajama Game," will have five evening performances. Tickets have been selling quickly for the 7:30 p.m. performances on Feb. 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21. Sell-out crowds are expected, thanks to the promotional efforts of the marketing team and a lot of legwork from cast and crew members who distributed posters around town, prepared press releases, and printed programs for ushers to hand out at the door, along with a myriad of other duties to help promote the show.
Under the direction of WFHS alumnus, Adam Pankow, and assistant director Sarah Tron, the cast for "The Pajama Game" has 47 students, with an additional 30 musicians in the orchestra pit, and 24 students working behind-the-scenes in costume, makeup, sound, lights, choreography and backstage. Each student is required to perform a minimum of 10 hours of set work, but most students give up an average of 40 to 50 hours of their weekends to help with costumes and set work. According to Pankow, there are about a dozen students who have logged in over 100 hours for the musical, above and beyond the after-school hours spent at rehearsals.
With the hustle and bustle of set work going on all around him during last Saturday's all-day work session, Adam Pankow said, "When you look at the whole scheme of things, it is very gratifying and humbling to see everyone united for the cause. Thousands of hours have gone into this."
Auditions for "The Pajama Game" were held in November with rehearsals beginning in December. The cast immediately began memorizing lines, the pit orchestra members started working on their individual parts, dance routines began forming, and set work began.
Karen Morrison and Sue Jordahl estimate that the orchestra has put in over 100 hours of rehearsal time as a group, and countless hours individually. Morrison focuses on working with the woodwind section, Jason Carlson helps develop the brass section, Jordahl works with the rhythm section, and Heather Klundt works with the strings.
Morrison and Jordahl are also the vocal directors, coaching the soloists and singing ensembles. Mary Noel and Katie Philips are the choreographers, Sarah Brandner is in charge of the lighting design, Chris Olson is the sound designer, Pankow is in charge of scenic design, and Mike Anderson is the box office manager.
Cast member Robbie Deitrich Jacobs said it took him three or four weeks to learn his lines and another two weeks to learn his solos. He had very little experience dancing before the production, but discovered he enjoys dancing.
"It was kind of difficult to learn the dance routines," Jacobs said, but he added, "Dancing is a newfound passion of mine."
Eric Halvorson, who plays Hasler in "The Pajama Game," knows he has to use his time to the fullest. He gets up at 5 a.m. to get ready for school and do his homework, and is usually up until midnight.
"My family is very structured. We always eat at 6 p.m., and we eat together," Halvorson said. However, while rehearsals for the musical have been going on, Halvorson eats the student potlucks at school. "I see my dad more here [at school] than I do at home," Halvorson said. His dad has been faithfully coming to help with set work every Saturday along with a handful of other dads.
Monica Schroeder plays Virginia and is a featured dancer and soloist in the production. She admits set work isn't her favorite commitment. "I prefer doing costumes. The wood gives me slivers," Schroeder said as she pinned a tissue pattern onto plaid fabric that will become a sleeve.
Getting ready for a musical production is a major undertaking, but the camaraderie that develops between drama students and their families is priceless.
"Parents who help with set work or bring food for the potlucks get to interact with their kids more and get to know who their kids are hanging around with during set work and on Strike night," Sarah Tron said.
Strike night is traditionally the last night of a production when the cast and crew tear down the set and celebrate the end of another successful run.