I sat in awe of my peers’ talents on March 9th, as I watched Benet’s production of She Loves Me with my castmates. As the first of two musicals, it filled the “normal” musical season timeslot, from January to mid-March. After working tirelessly the production had finally come to its culmination with two live performances and two days of filming. I was particularly astonished by the talent of this cast’s strong set of principal roles, led by senior Leah Coffey, playing Amalia Balash. From her rendition of “Vanilla Ice Cream,” to Aidan Diamond’s musical debut with “Tonight at Eight,” to the seductive performance of “Ilona” from Andrew McDonald, accompanied by Alison Gedraitis, this year’s senior class had much to offer. I had the opportunity to interview choreographer and director of the show, Ms. Kelsey Lauren, for a behind-the-scenes look at She Loves Me.
We began our discussion with how the musical had adapted to pandemic restrictions, and whether or not the sense of community that made the St. Daniel’s community so special had been altered. Ms. Lauren stated: “ All the members of the production were masked at all times, and students were appropriately spaced apart. Thanks to the hybrid schedule, we were able to schedule extra rehearsals, which was a perk!” In terms of the community, it was made clear that the community was intact. In fact, it might have been stronger than ever thanks to a smaller, more intimate cast size and an overall sense of gratitude for the opportunity to perform. The conversation then moved to viewing the show: who was allowed to come watch, why, and how would everyone else see it?
When deliberating whether or not She Loves Me would have an audience, the directors knew it would have to be limited. They wanted the students involved to have a chance to perform for their friends, but also for their parents, especially as this may have been the final performance for seniors. The director settled on inviting the cast of the second musical, Little Shop of Horrors, to come watch one night, and senior parents the next. Then, the next two days were left open for filming the show in its entirety, and taking it apart scene by scene – the best of both worlds. As for everyone else, Ms. Lauren shared that “this year more than any other year, our seniors need to feel loved. This is the way our theatre community can support seniors while still making all feel included. Everyone else will be able to see the show via video.” Although the decision on how to distribute the production has not been made yet, rest assured that the directing team will make every effort to inform the Benet community and make the video accessible.
Overall, Ms. Lauren is thrilled for everyone to finally see the show! “It’s adorable, with an important message that reminds us love is love.” Her gratitude to everyone in the production knows no bounds. “On behalf of Mr. Wand, Mrs. Butera, and I: I would like to say how very grateful we are for the energy and dedication the cast, pit, and crew have put into making this show yet another fabulous full-scale production.” Once She Loves Me is available to the general public, I highly recommend taking the time to support your peers and watch it. It truly is sweeter than vanilla ice cream!