Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Big Story

This is just a brief and wondrous shout-out to the entire cast, crew and hangers-on of Big Box Story, the absurdly good musical that was produced by a bunch of teenagers and went on to receive national attention. According to the CP24 newsbrief, the last student production to be mounted on the Stratford stage - which Big Box Story was, last night - was King Whistle!, which is proving nearly impossible to track down.

High school drama? That's actually not unheard of: student drama has been done in both Stratford and elsewhere, and it's always a nice acknowledgment of the high drama that high school tends to produce. Naturally, it tends to take a back seat to "real" theatrics. Big Box Story, on the other hand, is something else entirely.

First of all, it's amazingly polished. Some of the lead roles went to kids in the ninth grade - kids who subsequently had to sing, dance, and kiss each other onstage (insert death by mortification for your average fourteen-year-old). There were a dozen or so songs, plus choreography, and there was rarely fewer than a half-dozen people onstage. Just the kind of mental calisthenics required for everyone to perform is pretty amazing. Oh yeah - how many people is "everyone"? About forty. That's...a lot.

During last night's opening remarks, the Festival's Artistic Director Des McAnuff joked that with a cast that size, "this was the largest opening of 2009." It wasn't just the size of the cast or the age of the playwright that got people buzzing: this was a real-deal Community Event. The Avon Theater seats 1100 people. It was sold out. There were custom-made mugs in local coffee shops and Big Box Story-themed window displays in local boutiques.

It's a touch frustrating, because the media was all over the fact that the playwright is an 18-year-old child of Stratford Festival musicians: they sort of left out the rest of the players. This cast has been rehearsing and performing since January, which is a long time to be putting in 10-hour days of unpaid rehearsal. Not to mention many of these students were also involved in Absolute Alice, the show that went all the way to the provincials. Not to mention that they're all full-time students. Not to mention all that previously-mentioned singing, dancing, kissing, etc.

So! Congratulations to every single person in the cast and crew: you are all stars. You were all, by turn, touching, hilarious, goofy, kind, mean, and frazzled. You were all total professionals. You were all so watchable and entertaining, without hitting any of the false notes that sometimes comes from teenagers pretending to be adults. It wasn't even sweet in that aw-look-at-our-kids way: it transcended that, and launched you into the stratosphere. Brava! Bravo!

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