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Selecting our school’s annual musical
June 2017, musical co-directors Señora Sylvia Mendes and M. Nicolas Aubert, along with eight members of the musical’s faculty leadership team, announced their choice for the 2017-18 Secondary Division Musical: Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
“Students’ reactions to the announcement were explosive,” says M. Nicolas Aubert. “This production embodies the magical aspect of Disney, and I think it brings out the inner child in all of us.”
Given the broad popularity of this all-ages show, next year’s musical might well be the best-attended yet.
“While there are a host of criteria when choosing a CFIS school musical, popularity is actually not at the top of the list,” M. Aubert explained. “We start the process of choosing our school musical by having lots of discussions with students. We ask them what styles, themes or characteristics they would like, rather than which specific musical they would like to perform in.”
With a host of criteria, including complexity of orchestral pieces, appropriateness of theme and number of quality roles for both genders, the process to select the school musical takes hours of research and discussion on the part of ten teachers, who together review over 25 musical productions.
“In the Little Mermaid, there are diverse roles for both boys and girls,” says M. Aubert. “For instance, often there is a sole actor providing comic relief, but in this production, there are a number of characters. The songs are also beautiful and catchy, and the many speaking and singing roles allow many students to share the spotlight.”
Faculty also consider the talents, interests and strengths of individual students, in order to showcase the students, while being careful to not overstep the collective ability of the group with vocal or orchestral pieces that are too challenging.
“We look for a musical that has the potential to showcase our unique students through acting, singing, set design and painting, and especially dancing, as this is an accessible skill and we have a lot of dancers within the CFIS community,” continues M. Aubert. “We actively integrate the skills of our students. A number of students this year could do backflips, for instance, so we made sure to show that off. For our gymnasts or tap dancers, we create a way for them to show off their talents.”
Each year, faculty look for an area of challenge. In a year where the musical pieces are difficult, they may ease back on the complexity of the set, to allow more time to be spent supporting the orchestra. Each year’s CFIS musical offers the student orchestra the opportunity to play alongside professional musicians, which provides an enriched and authentic experience for the student musicians.
“With ‘The Little Mermaid’, the diversity of sets will be challenging, as will the orchestral pieces for a number of instruments,” says M. Aubert. “Some musical arrangements can be so difficult that it limits our choice. ‘Les Miserables’ is an example of this. And often, the musical score is written for a four- or five-piece rock band, rather than a 25-person orchestra. This makes it very complicated for us to rearrange the music—although having said that, we are interested in doing a rock musical in the near future.”
Finding an appropriate theme is another limitation. Faculty directors work with the administrative leadership to review and make any needed changes to individual lines and language; however, if the subject or overarching tone of the production is misaligned with our school values, it isn’t an option.
As the fine and performing arts program at CFIS grows, faculty can see the fruits of their labour, both year to year, and amongst our alumni, three of whom have chosen to study the performing arts at the university level in the last two years.
We invite the community to stay tuned for more on next year’s musical, including following our Twitter hashtag: #cfismusical2018