Phyllis McGuire | Mount Greylock Regional spring musical director preps for 20th year
WILLIAMSTOWN — The sound of singing drifts from Mount Greylock Regional School as students prepare to present their annual spring musical.
"I have been trying not to repeat shows we've done before," said Jeffrey Welch, who is into his 20th year as director of the spring musicals.
Nonetheless, Welch chose "Hello Dolly" for this year's show — despite it being a repeat of the 2003 spring musical.
"'Hello Dolly' is about homecoming, and we should be coming back to our home in the school's auditorium," he explained.
The auditorium was usually the venue for the spring musical, but for the past five years it has been unusable for several reasons, including a major renovation, and the event was moved to the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance at Williams College.
"Williams was very hospitable," Welch said. "The '62 Center is a world-class facility providing dressing rooms and amenities not available in our auditorium.
"But returning students in this year's production have only performed in the '62 Center and were hoping to get to the auditorium for their last show in high school," he said.
Their wish came true with renovations completed and a required certificate of occupancy issued in late February.
"Everyone is extraordinarily thrilled to be coming back," said sophomore Ruth Weaver, who is playing Dolly in the production.
"Hello Dolly," a timeless musical theater hit, premiered on Broadway in 1964, winning 10 Tony Awards. It kept its popularly with four revivals on Broadway, most recently in 2018, and gained worldwide success as well.
"Musicals are my joy," Weaver said. "I was very young when I first saw the movie 'Hello, Dolly.' Dolly is an amazing character who has so much power over the play."
Weaver opined that songs such as "Hello Dolly," rendered by all the characters in a scene where Dolly returns to a restaurant in New York City, parallels "our return to the auditorium."
"When I went into our new auditorium, it took my breath away. The new seats, practice room and lighting are great for theater," she said. "Standing onstage, I could imagine how many lovely productions will be put forward in the space."
"Hello Dolly" will be presented in Mount Greylock Regional School's renovated auditorium at 7 p.m. March 22-23. Tickets are $6 for students and senior citizens and $8 for adults and can be purchased at the door on the night of the show.
Much time and work go into the annual spring musicals. It all starts with auditions being held between Thanksgiving and Christmas break.
According to Welch, some students are very serious about theater. Some even did theater around the Berkshires as little kids.
"Other students come to auditions claiming they can't sing or dance, and discover talents they never knew they had. In a couple of cases they found their niche and became 'theater kids,' " he said. "A couple of boys who were athletes joined in junior year. It was their first taste of theater. They continued with theater in college."
This year, 40 students, grades 7 through 12, are participating in the spring musical.
Welch first became involved with "theater" when he was in fourth grade. "I played Ebeneezer Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol,'" he said. "My brother was 'into theater' and encouraged me to do it."
Now, Welch and his colleague Drew Gibson do a reading of "A Christmas Carol" at the Williamstown Holiday Walk.
When asked what his incentive is for directing the spring musicals, Welch replied, "To put on a musical everyone can enjoy." He was quick to add that he has lots of assistance from colleagues.
Parents pitch in, too. One dad helps by painting and building sets.
"And it's good to see teenagers doing something in which they have invested positive energy," Welch said. "There's something magical in live theater."
Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
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