Spring musicals go online for 2021

Colonial School District  |  Posted on

The student video crew recorded Plymouth Whitemarsh High School junior Natalie Chapin singing the song “Snow.”

Colonial School District students who were hoping to take the stage this year to entertain live audiences found themselves having an experience that was more like making a movie, as they converted their spring musicals into shows that could be streamed online. 

“The biggest challenge in creating We Aren’t Kids Anymore was that it was a totally new experience,” said Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) senior and assistant director Shayna Saltzburg. “This means that everyone — the cast, crew, and directors — was learning about the process as we were filming.”

While set building usually begins in January, the only construction sounds in the PWHS auditorium were to create a sound booth to isolate the singers as they recorded unmasked. The actors took home cameras to film themselves in different scenarios, and group scenes were shot outside on the grounds of the Abington Art Center to allow for social distancing and removing face masks during takes.  

At Colonial Middle School (CMS), the team recorded Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. socially distanced with lead actors wearing face shields and others in masks, while taking advantage of a 30-foot green screen built in the school gymnasium. 

“Making a musical this year was definitely a different experience, especially since neither program wanted our shows to be footage of students in Zoom windows,” said CMS music teacher and musical director Amy Venkus. “The kids did a great job. The results really are amazing.”

Both PWHS and CMS took advantage of Colonial School District video staff and video professionals who are parents of students in the theater program to help with the production and give it a more film-like approach. The high school also worked with a student video crew — some who had experience through Colonial Instructional Television (CITV) and some new to the process — to run cameras and edit several of the components.