Students represent Minooka in all-state musical
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As students and teachers attending MCHS wasted their summer days away, three dedicated performers dreamed of the demon barber of Fleet Street.
Seniors Benjamin Dow and Nate Garner, as well as sophomore Hannah Babyak, passed time over summer vacation waiting outside of a closed black box auditorium among other actors and technicians.
After two days worth of auditioning, competing against over 400 other high school students, these three MCHS students will be performing in the All-State Musical production of Sweeney Todd at the annual Illinois High School Theatre Festival at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Jan. 5-7. Each of the students were cast in ensemble, along with Garner as understudy for Judge Turpin.
“Sweeney Todd is such a hard show, and that is the best part. It has so many intricacies that make the show a masterpiece,” Dow said. “The darker comedy of the show keeps it alive and chilling.”
The musical is set in 19th century England, following the return of barber Sweeney Todd to London after suffering through 15 years of exile. This is where the subtitle “Demon Barber of Fleet Street” finds its roots, as Todd’s ultimate goal is to seek revenge on the judge who enforced his banishment.
“It is so insanely challenging, but that only means that it will be that much more rewarding once we start doing performances successfully without messing up a phrase or harmony,” Babyak said.
Previously, Dow performed in the All-state musical production of RENT, also cast as ensemble and receiving a solo. Garner also auditioned last year, but unfortunately did not get cast. However, he worked himself to his limits to achieve his ultimate goal of being able to tell stories through theater and make them meaningful to an audience on an even larger scale.
A mere few weeks into the second semester of the previous school year, the dates of auditions and applications were released to the general public. From that point on, the three worked tirelessly to prepare two songs and a monologue to audition in front of the casting directors on June 11 and 12.
“I only remember the exact date that I auditioned because it was probably one of the most terrifying days of my life. … You could practically feel the talent the minute you walked into the room,” Babyak said.
The typical butterfly feeling in your stomach was evident for the time leading up to the audition, but once they stepped out and onto the stage, performance mode was on and they knew they did the absolute best that they could regardless of the results.
Also, an added bonus was the fact that when it was your turn to audition, the person who was after you would watch you perform. On audition day, Dow watched Babyak, and Garner watched Dow, still bringing the MCHS vibe to a different place, making it more comfortable to know at least one other person in the room.
Callbacks occurred a week later across the entirety of the day on June 18. This group was cut down to only 75 high schoolers, which would be narrowed down even further a week later when the cast and crew lists were posted.
“For me, the callback was even more intimidating than the initial audition, and it was so crazy because everyone was so committed to their roles and their acting choices, which was just so cool to see,” Babyak said.
As of August, Dow, Garner, and Babyak made their way to Glenbrook North High School for rehearsals one weekend out of every month. Their longest rehearsals generally ran from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.
“It may seem long, but time flies when you’re surrounded by as many talented professionals that are just as goofy as you are,” Garner said.
It was unanimous when the performers were asked what the best part of the experience has been thus far, despite the fact that they are not among their usual MCHS theater crowd. Although the experience has meant something different for everyone, the three agreed that the people are the best part of working so hard. Plus, according to Garner, they’re also a bunch of fellow meme-ers.
“The best part of All-State is the people, no doubt,” Dow said. “It’s such a loving and supportive group that gets along so well and make the experience a blessing each month.”
The amount of professionalism that has been demonstrated by not only the three MCHS performers, but also the remainder of the cast and crew of Sweeney Todd has been absolutely mind boggling. Some might even report back that it is hard to believe that all of the teens involved are only in high school due to the humbleness and respect demonstrated.
“Everyone there cares so much about the show, what they are doing, and are so grateful to be there,” Babyak said, “To be surrounded by people who are this hardworking and passionate about this one super challenging show is just crazy.”
With the immense amount of time that the performers and crew members have spent together, they have been able to develop relationships and share memories that could last for a lifetime. The growth that is seen in not only the level of ability of the performers, but also their own human nature is something that is irreplaceable in terms of life experience.
Babyak’s most valuable lesson from her experience in Sweeney Todd is the fact that you should never take anything for granted. “When an opportunity presents itself, you must work hard in order to achieve it. You can never get anywhere or achieve anything without putting in the effort or giving it your all,” she said.
Not only has the experience made Dow, Garner, and Babyak into better actors, vocalists, and dancers, it has also transformed them into people that they never thought they could be. The trust that is instilled through the hours of time spent together with other talented peoples in the theater is something that they hope to last a lifetime.
“There is so much respect and love within this cast that I couldn’t be more appreciative to be able to add this one to my resume and keep in my memories forever,” Garner said.
Despite the fact that the three are far from home and spend copious amounts of time away from their usual theater family, they hold close to their hearts that they are extremely lucky to have the support of their fellow performers from school by their sides through the whole experience. No matter what, they know that they have been given the chance of a lifetime, and have made the most of it since the minute they stepped on the stage.