2018-05-03 / Life in Leelanau

Wardrobe changes among highlights of Leland musical


THREE OLD FRIENDS (from left) Franklin (Tracy Grosvenor), Mary (Avery Fessenden) and Charlie (Jakob Gale) bounce ideas off each other for a show that they are creating. THREE OLD FRIENDS (from left) Franklin (Tracy Grosvenor), Mary (Avery Fessenden) and Charlie (Jakob Gale) bounce ideas off each other for a show that they are creating. The Leland Public School drama program will present Stephen Sondheim’s semi-autobiographical musical, “Merrily We Roll Along” tonight, Friday and Saturday and again May 10, 11 and 12.

Based on a story by George Furth, “Merrily We Roll Along” is a cautionary tale about holding onto our friendships, dreams, and creativity.

The story, which spans from the mid-1950s to the 1970s, begins in the present and moves backwards, tracing the lives of wealthy, jaded composers, Franklin Shepard (junior Tracy Grosvenor) and his two estranged friends, Mary Flynn (senior Avery Fessenden) and Charley Kringas (junior Jakob Gale), through each milestone of their personal and professional lives — both good and bad.


THE CAST and crew of more than 40 will present ‘Merrily We Sing Along’ this weekend and May 10, 11 and 12 at Leland Public School. THE CAST and crew of more than 40 will present ‘Merrily We Sing Along’ this weekend and May 10, 11 and 12 at Leland Public School. Because the show moves through iconic decades, costuming provided a special challenge to retired Leland teacher and costume director Kathleen Lau. Many actors change clothes four to five times and the leads have as many as nine costume changes over the course of the two-hour show.

“It was a lot of work to create and keep track of this many costumes, but I am eager to see the result,” Lau said. “I know that the actors are able to fully embrace their characters when they step into costume. It’s an amazing transformation.”

Several high school tech crew members have helped Lau over the past three months. In addition to keeping track of costumes, they have created a project that will play throughout the show, highlighting key events over the 20-year span.

“Creating and sourcing time-period photos was time-consuming, but I think the result is fantastic,” senior Brooke Clarke said. “My favorite period is the 1960s because the clothing and the events are so specific.”

The musical features a cast of 43 students from Leland and Lake Leelanau St. Mary.

Music director Rick Church will lead a full orchestra for the show — a first for Leland drama students. The orchestra includes professional musicians including Laurie Sears, Tom Riccibono, Josh Wagner, John Lindeneau, Maggie Coco, Andy Evans, Michael Robens, Alex Whiting, Noemie Berube and Dorothy Vogel.

“The change to sing with a professional orchestra is an incredible opportunity for our students,” Church said. “But the opportunity to attend a show backed by a full orchestra is something that will be an amazing treat for our audience.

“It’s difficult to find that at a high school anywhere in northern Michigan.”

Leland English teacher Jeanne Gross acted as “dramaturg” for the production. A dramaturg is a literary editor on the staff of a theater who consults with authors and edits texts.

“We spent a lot of time with Mrs. Gross researching the time period as well as the intricacy of Sondheim’s lyrics,” Grosvenor said.

Eventually the plot leads to an inspiring conclusion where the three best friends are at the start of their careers, facing a bright future: young, talented, and enthusiastic about the worlds waiting for them to conquer.

“This is such and important piece of art with a great message for our students and audiences,” director Jeremy Evans said. “The layered beauty of Sondheim’s music and lyrics as well as Furth’s message make this one of my all time favorite shows.”

Shows are set for 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday and again next Thursday, May 10, Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12 in the school Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are $12 for adults; $10 for students and are available by calling 256-3815 or at the door.

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