High School Musical: Irresistible source material and an all-team effort!

Reading the program for “High School Musical,” there is a recurring theme from the Director’s Note to the Performers’ Bios. So many of the cast and crew were touched by the movie when it first came out on the Disney Channel, so when Mayfield decided to mount a production on the Pike stage this year, everyone was excited to take part in the fun! 
Mayfield has two major theatrical productions each year, one play in the fall and a musical in the spring. The major difference between the two productions is the massive collaborative effort behind the musical, where all of the leaders in Mayfield’s performing arts come together. Like all theatrical productions in Pike, Maryanne Householder serves as the Director, and Angelo Collado serves as the Technical Director. But for the musical, Andrew Alvarez and Christin Hablewitz also come in as Music Directors (vocal and instrumental, respectively), and Ms. Hablewitz works as the conductor during performances too! Sarah Alaways acts as the Choreographer for the production, and still in her first year at Mayfield, this has been her first collaboration of this sort with the theatre department. And this impressive expertise is not limited to the adults—student leadership shines during the musical as well. This year, two graduating seniors brought their talents to this production—Sofia Olona '23 was Assistant Director and Kendall Cuenca '23 was Dance Captain. In every way, it has been an all-team effort.

Ms. Alaways described the explosive energy of the undertaking. “My most memorable moment from the musical rehearsal process was our very first dance rehearsal! The energy in the room with dance students, theatre students, and vocal students is something else,” she said. “And all of the big group numbers are really upbeat and iconic, it was easy to feed off of their enthusiasm and excitement!” 

Musicals usually have some kind of emotional draw for actors, but the source material this time around was resonant to students on two fronts. The first point of connection was the lasting popularity of the movie the stage production was based on. But Miss Householder described another element that made this production distinctive from others in the past: “This is so special for our students because typically when we do a musical, you're playing these different characters of different ages and different backgrounds.” That is not the case in “High School Musical.” “This show is so closely related to who they are as individuals,” explained Miss Householder. In short, students get to play high schoolers while still being high schoolers. And there seems to be some inherent magic in that overlap.

Assistant Director Sofia Olona talked about how this musical was inescapable in her young life, “I was only one year old when ‘High School Musical’ came out, but my older sister made sure that my days were filled with the soundtrack.” This movie became a kind of modern classic, spawning several sequels, and it is still ubiquitous to many current high schoolers." Sofia adds, “This movie became such a pivotal part of my childhood!”

In spite of the age difference between the Director and Assistant Director, Miss Householder also remarked that, “‘High School Musical’ was extremely popular when I was in high school.” Miss Householder attended Alverno Heights Academy, and when the time came, she decided to create a lasting token of appreciation for the musical as part of her high school experience. “I even had ‘We’re All In This Together’ (the title of an iconic song in the score) engraved inside my class ring!” 

It’s remarkable how many students changed their theatrical focus, or decided to try theatre for the first time, because of this specific musical offering. In addition to being Dance Captain this year, Kendall Cuenca auditioned to be in the cast as well, and she explained she was “thrilled to be taking on the role of Kelsi.” It was a similar journey for Callie Pippert ’23, who was involved in tech theatre for the last four years, but moved from the tech side to the performing side because she had “loved ‘High School Musical’ since she was in preschool.” There was so much student interest, Miss Householder was able to double-cast the show, with alternate casts performing different nights. Mr. Alvarez, one of the Musical Directors, remarked on the willingness of the students to tackle the hard work of character development, especially when taking on roles they already knew from their childhood. Mr. Alvarez said, “The most rewarding part of the process is watching the show come together and seeing students develop their characters. “

A sense of spectacle is often what draws people to the theatre, and in musicals, this is when production values really shine. “One of the most memorable moments is when the cast comes in to see the final touches on the set after a full weekend of working on the set,” Tech Director Angelo Collado said. He added, “I love to see their responses to their final set looks.” Musical Director and Conductor, Ms. Hablewitz, feels the irresistible connectedness of this kind of work. She explained, “So many moving parts come together to put on a production like this…the musical is a wonderful way to experience the power and fun of live performance.” 

The cast and crew have been working hard on this production, and many of them exude a kind of breathless exhilaration about taking on this opportunity and sharing this experience with others. But the Director, who is working on a production that was so near and dear to her heart as a teenager, admits the musical has brought up “some mixed emotions.” Alverno—Miss Householder’s alma mater—recently announced it would be shuttering its high school at the end of 2023. “I don't have the privilege of going back to my high school after this year,” she said. “It's bittersweet to do a show that meant so much to me in high school while my high school is in the process of closing.”

Still, Miss Householder is always buoyed by enthusiasm that this musical seems to bring out in everyone, “The biggest thing that I want audience members to walk away with is just joy,” she said. “Cornelia Connelly always talks about joy and having that joyful spirit, and I really feel that this show exudes that.”
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.