New Westminster Secondary School has long been known for the quality musical productions led by the same dedicated group of teachers under the moniker School’s Out Productions.
Their efforts started in 2008 with Annie, and since then audiences have enjoyed Bye Bye Birdie, Grease and Footloose.
With this year’s Legally Blonde, the group has entered new territory: For the first time ever, musical theatre is actually a credit course at NWSS, rather than just an after-school activity. Which isn’t to say the students don’t still put in their own time – there are still after-school and weekend rehearsals – but for the first time ever they also receive credits for their experience.
Frances Monteleone, drama teacher and production director, says the teachers were determined to get the students credit for the work they were doing, and so spent hours and hours of planning to create a full-fledged course and get it approved by the board and the ministry.
The result of their efforts is a course involves three streams of students: cast, crew and orchestra.
The 45 cast members earn eight arts credits for learning song, dance and acting under the leadership of Monteleone, Kelly Proznick (voice) and Lindsay Waldner (dance).
Students in the cast auditioned last spring for the chance to get into the program, then auditioned again in the fall for roles in the musical. The course includes students from grades 9 through 12, with a wide range of skill and experience levels, and they’re graded not just on voice, dance and acting but also on their professional etiquette. And students have an equal opportunity to earn good grades whether they’re one of the leads or a member of the chorus.
Monteleone is quick to point out that every single student in the class brings an enormous amount of talent to the stage.
“They’re all in it for a very specific reason, because we saw that potential in them,” Monteleone says.
The 24 orchestra members, led by Steve Clements, earn four arts credits.
And the eight crew students also earn four arts credits – and, more importantly, have a chance to learn every aspect of technical production, including lighting, audio and stagecraft, from professionals involved with Massey Theatre.
“Our goal was to continue to promote the program,” Monteleone says, noting it’s important to all the teachers to ensure that all the arts continue to be showcased and highlighted. “We’re keeping the interest alive.”