Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
The cast of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s production of “Fame: The Musical” perform during rehearsal in the high school’s auditorium. In the front row (left to right) are Rueben Grimes, Clara Smith, Eulaysia Bostrack. In the back row are (left to right): Roman Mahanyu, Zoey Billings, Rachel Wood and Shelby York.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire The cast of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s production of “Fame: The Musical” perform during rehearsal in the high school’s auditorium. In the front row (left to right) are Rueben Grimes, Clara Smith, Eulaysia Bostrack. In the back row are (left to right): Roman Mahanyu, Zoey Billings, Rachel Wood and Shelby York.

JDHS puts on pandemic-friendly production of ‘Fame: The Musical’

Feel it coming together?

Not every role is such a stretch. In an upcoming Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé production of “Fame: The Musical,” talented high school students will take the stage to portray talented high school students enrolled in a performance arts school.

But that’s not to say that putting on a musical stage show amid a pandemic hasn’t presented distinct challenges.

“We kind of knew that going in that it was going to be a lot more work,” said Tommy Varela-Kossak, JDHS drama and acting student teacher, in a phone interview. “We said ‘We’re going to give it our best shot.’ Luckily, we’ve been able to pull it off.”

The musical will be available to stream Friday, Saturday and Sunday. While the streaming video will be of a pre-recorded performance, Varela-Kossak said the show available to folks at home will be shot in one take in an effort to maintain the energy of live theater.

The student actors will be performing in masks, and a socially distanced band under the direction of Thunder Mountain High School’s Brian Van Kirk will provide accompanying live music while spread out in the mostly empty JDHS auditorium.

Varela-Kossak said students have had to work especially hard on breath control in light of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Clara Smith talks to Jaylynn Martin in a scene during rehearsal for “Fame: The Musical.” Masks are part of the mitigation measures the production adopted in light of the pandemic. Additionally, the show, which opens Friday evening, will be livestreamed instead of performed in front of a full auditorium. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Clara Smith talks to Jaylynn Martin in a scene during rehearsal for “Fame: The Musical.” Masks are part of the mitigation measures the production adopted in light of the pandemic. Additionally, the show, which opens Friday evening, will be livestreamed instead of performed in front of a full auditorium. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Additionally, he said the pandemic introduced some rehearsal wrinkles.

“If a student is ever considered a close contact for someone who has tested positive, there is a quarantine they’ve had to abide by,” Varela-Kossak.

That’s something that came up multiple times, but quarantining students were able to participate in practice via video. That kept the production on track.

Offering the show via streaming created complications, too. Varela-Kossak said initially, the spring musical was envisioned as being “Mama Mia,” but streaming rights proved to be that plan’s Waterloo.

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“We had to find a show that would let us stream,” Varela-Kossak said. “’Fame’ is kind of what we landed on.”

“Fame: The Musical” is a 1988 musical based on a 1980 film that won a slew of awards, including an Academy Award, for its music and led to television series and 2009 remake.

It follows a disparate cast of characters who are students at a prestigious performing arts school as they wrestle with a host of coming-of-age-type problems that are sometimes humorous and other times heavy.

Varela-Kossak said the show, which follows the lives of students at a prestigious performing arts school, features resonate themes and recognizable adversity.

“We all can relate to some of the struggles in this show,” Varela-Kossak said.

Tommy Pearson (right) sings during rehearsal for “Fame: The Musical.” Rueben Grimes can be seen in the background. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Tommy Pearson (right) sings during rehearsal for “Fame: The Musical.” Rueben Grimes can be seen in the background. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Plus, it’s a chance for students, friends and family to enjoy a live theater production despite uncertainty that’s dogged the school year.

“It’s been a whole bunch of unknowns,” Varela-Kossak said. “A lot of unknowns that have now been aligning. We are really just glad to be able to produce some live theater in whatever capacity we can.”

Know & Go

What: “Fame: The Musical”

When: 7 p.m. on March 12 and 13, 2:30 p.m. on March 14.

Where: Online.

Admission: One person $10, family ticket $25. They can be purchased online at Showtix4u.com/events/JDHSFame.

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