A week before classes were back in session at the College of William and Mary, the campus was mostly empty.
While everyone else was on break, the Sinfonicron Light Opera Co. was busy at work preparing the next production: “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
Alex Bulova, the show’s director, said the musical is about a man who listens to his favorite record, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” When he puts the needle on the record, an entire 1920s jazz musical comes to life in his apartment.
“It’s a love letter to classic Broadway and why people come back to the theater,” Bulova said.
Throughout the show, the man in the chair walks the audience through the history of the musical and its actors.
“It is particularly special for our theater company to (put on “The Drowsy Chaperone”) since our company has been around for 54 years now, so we are entering into this legacy of theater,” Sarah Marksteiner, the show’s producer.
From set design and choreography to the lighting and orchestra pit, this musical will be completely put on by students.
Bulova said the main issue with producing the play was the closing of Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. PBK Hall closed late last year for renovations. Sofia Quinteiro, the play’s assistant director, said some people thought Sinfonicron would be on hiatus until the new theater opened.
“For a little bit, we weren’t sure where we were going to perform, but luckily we acquired the Kimball Theatre,” Bulova said.
However, since the Kimball is a small theater, Bulova said the crew had to find a new location, so students were spread out across campus to make it work.
“It has been a challenge organizationally to have people going from one building to another and keeping everything on time,” Bulova said. “But seeing that play out and people accept this as their new home, that’s really rewarding. It really speaks to what a family Sinfonicron is. It doesn’t matter where it’s happening, it's the people that make it Sinfonicron.”
One of the main areas of play production was the Campus Center.
In Trinket Hall, the floor was littered with plywood and paint. A constant hum of sea shanties echoed through the room. The upbeat songs seemed to power students as they carried heavy set pieces from one side of the space to the other.
Truly a labor of love, Bulova said one of the students brought in their own power tools for the crew to use to make the set.
Just below the whirlwind of activity in the hall, the costume department was busy feeding fabric to humming sewing machines in the Campus Center’s basement. The room’s manic energy was accentuated by fabric and scrap piles lining the back wall.
A few doors down from the costume department, actors were practicing steps to the song “Show Off,” where a character dances, balances plates and charms snakes, all while saying she doesn’t want to show off anymore.
Markesteiner sat the back of the room watching the actors rehearse. As a senior, it's her final year working on Sinfornicron.
“The talent and passion of the students behind this is really what I love about Sinfronicron, and about this production environment is that we will only have been working on this production for two and a half weeks when it goes up,” Marksteiner said. “So all of the singing, all of the choreography, the orchestration, the tech has happened in this very short time frame, so it’s done with a lot of passion and a little bit of audacity.”
Want to see it?
“The Drowsy Chaperone” will be performed 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and 18, 2 p.m. Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m. Jan 20 and 2 p.m. Jan 21.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for William and Mary students and faculty.
You can purchase tickets online at sinfonicron.org, in person at the Kimball Theatre or over the phone at 790-0094 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. The box office will also open an hour and a half before each show.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.