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UHS production of Little Women at Illinois High School Theatre Festival

From an Urbana High School press release:

Urbana High School’s production of Little Women: The Musical has been selected to perform at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival, January 8-10, 2015. It is the second time in two years that UHS theatre has earned this honor.

While the Theatre Festival is not open to the public, a benefit performance will be staged in the UHS Cobb Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday, January 6 at 7:00pm. All proceeds will help defray the costs associated with taking the show to the festival.
UHS Director of Theatre Tim Broeker referred to the show, written by Alan Knee, as a “bestkept secret of Broadway.”

“This adaption brings the classic story to life with some of the most colorful and beautiful orchestrations and lyrics,” Broeker said. The music is challenging, he added, but the level of vocal talent currently in his theatre program made this the year “to pull off the show.” With a cast of only 11, the production doesn’t lean on large ensemble numbers for momentum and energy. Instead, strong vocals and character development carry the show, stirring real emotion. UHS Senior Caitlin Elliott, who plays the lead role as Jo March, said that when the show ran in early November, real tears were shed on stage and in the audience.

“We go through such a range of emotion in this show—sometimes we would come off the stage from a scene crying,” Elliott said, pointing to “the beauty of the writing” and the cast’s character development work as keys to that emotion. “We had the luxury of a small cast, which allowed us to devote a lot of time to character development—there are so many strong character personalities in the show,” she said. “It was also important to really examine each of the relationships between the characters. The energy on stage makes up for not having a huge ensemble.”

Other contributions to the success of the show, Broeker said, include the minimalist scene design, the decision to put the 15-member orchestra on the stage behind a scrim, and the use of projection to guide the audience through the story’s timeline, and to enhance Jo’s role as a writer. A stage and technical crew of 30+ students make everything come together.

In producing Little Women: The Musical, Broeker was assisted by vocal director Cullyn Murphy, technical director Breanna Morton, and orchestra conductor Darren Hicks.

The Illinois High School Theatre Festival, produced by the Illinois Theatre Association, is the largest and oldest non-competitive high school theatre festival in the world. More than 4,000 students from 150 schools, as well as teachers, university representatives, exhibitors and volunteers, come together to put on over 25 different high school productions and over 150 workshops. In addition to Urbana High School, downstate Illinois will be represented at the 2015 festival by Centennial High School and St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

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