Minimalist production by musical theater majors examines political activism

Amidst the stunning performances of the cast, crew and faculty, the musical “Babes in Arms” had a vital message for its audiences.

Students, faculty and staff gathered for a Page to Stage rendition of the 1937 classic in Doty Recital Hall from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4. A Page to Stage show is one where musical theater majors perform with minimal lights, sounds, sets and costumes.

Musical theater and mathematics double major sophomore Sandra Kralik, who played Susie and Penny McCabe, felt that performing with fellow musical theater majors made the experience enjoyable.

“We all really got to bond,” Kralik said. “Especially working with faculty and staff, it was great getting to work with people who inspire us and see them on the stage just like us.”

The musical is centered around young kids living on Long Island whose parents leave to make money performing Vaudeville during the Great Depression. The kids must make money and stay out of trouble or they may be forced into a work farm.

Professor of theater and English and director of the musical Melanie Blood gave a brief history of the 1930s focusing on the Great Depression, Vaudeville—a dying performance art—and Jim Crow Laws. 

In the musical, the kids put on a show to make money despite the troubling times and dying art.

Musical theater major junior Mick Elliot—who played Peter—revealed the short time frame of rehearsals.

“We started rehearsals Columbus Day weekend. We’ve only had the show for like three weeks,” Elliot said. “So, trying to learn not only lines, blocking and staging but also all the choreography and singing on top of that was a challenge. But the nice thing was we never felt rushed.”

Despite the short time frame, the performers were amazing and showcased incredible choreography, which Elliot enjoyed learning.

“I would have to say all of the dance [was fun to learn] because for a long time all the majors really wanted to do a more dance heavy show. This show really gave us the opportunity to do that with two big ballets numbers and the individual numbers,” Elliot said. “I really enjoyed all the different styles I got to do in Peter’s ballet from waltzing to tangoing to Russian Kasich dancing. I really had fun with all of that.”

Kralik also believed the dancing made the show exciting although it was challenging to learn. 

“I would say maybe the dancing [was challenging],” Kralik said. “We were in character shoes that have a heel and we did pretty high kicks. That’s always a bit of a challenge because the stage is a little slippery, but we made it work and we overcame all of the challenges.” 

Throughout the characters’ struggles to put on the show, serious themes such as gender roles, racism and individuality helped define the staged story. Elliot believed these themes reveal an important message everyone should learn.

“I think the idea of young people being able to make a difference. You have a group of kids coming together to stand up for what they believe in be it equality or their own personal rights as young people,” Elliot said. “I think it really translates, especially in today’s world, young people being able to go out and vote for what they believe in. Giving the message that you can really make a difference I think is the big take away.”