Young Observer

‘So much more than being on stage’

  • Dedication shown: Warwick Academy students, parents and staff taking part in the sold-out production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Annie (Photograph by Voorhees Joell)

Why dedicate 20 hours a week to rehearsals?

Whether we are loyal servants at the Warbucks mansion or orphans nagging the nasty Miss Hannigan, we all have one thing in common: a passion for performing. During the past six weeks, 27 Warwick Academy students, staff and parents have been part of the preparation and performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s sold-out production of Annie.

Set in the 1930s, Annie follows the life of a witty young girl who has to live in a gloomy orphanage run by the ruthless Miss Hannigan. However, her life is completely changed when she is chosen to spend the Christmas holiday with Oliver Warbucks, who is played by Warwick Academy parent Phillip Barnett.

Annie explores life lessons that we should all value, including staying optimistic no matter the circumstance, and being kind to all creatures.

We were given the opportunity to work with highly skilled professionals from England, including Nina French, director and choreographer, and Phillip Shute, musical director. They definitely did not “hold our hands” during the rehearsal process, and due to this and other experiences during the production we gained valuable life skills to help contribute to not only the Warwick Academy family, but also to the wider community.

For the students, there is a multitude of skills learnt in theatrical productions that help us to excel in the classroom. Teamwork is the number one skill. Musical theatre is one of the most collaborative forms of expression due to the range of people that work to put on a production — actors, directors, designers, etc. By working with a diverse group of people you learn that everyone is equally important and that their opinion should be heard.

Time management and organisation is also an important skill, especially for the older students like McKenzie Hassel who is planning to study musical theatre at university. She commented that “it has taught me a lot about multitasking which is a very important skill that I have also used through IB”.

Something about completing a dance number or memorising a harmony is a major confidence booster, bringing happiness and many smiles to everyone involved. In working closely with the “orphans” this year I have observed many of my fellow students taking risks, trying new things and growing as performers.

For everyone, along with the skills mentioned above, there are many more that apply outside of the school environment as well, resilience being one of them. Preparing for a full-scale production like Annie takes a lot of energy and sleepless nights, however, we have all come to rehearsals equipped and ready to work. Respect is also a moral quality further developed when participating in performing arts for others and what they are contributing.

Personally, performing has always been a huge part of my life; from twirling around my living room to belting out on the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York City, performing arts has taken me to many different places including Stagedoor Manor in upstate New York.

At Stagedoor, I am able to spend three weeks with people from all around the world that share my same interests and this has led me to develop relationships that I am sure will last a lifetime. I have also been able to act as a mentor and role model for younger students, which has helped me to advance my leadership skills.

We don’t dedicate 20 hours a week rehearsing only to hear the thunderous applause at the end of the show, but also because of the life skills and sense of community that is gained from it. After a rewarding experience in the production of Annie, the Warwick Academy family can proudly say: “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”