- Last Updated on 11:48 AM 10/29/12
- BY Kirk Compton/Special to The Gazette
When a great song begins on the radio — no matter where you are — sometimes you’ve just got to move. It might start slow at first, but eventually you’ll be tapping your toes, snapping your fingers or drumming on the steering wheel.
This simple premise, of moving when the music starts, is the same on stage. If an actor is in a scene and the first notes commence then they know it’s time to start to move — dancing and singing blending into one.
This task, of helping song and dance become one, is what Pat Crew and Patricia Ricketts undertook in taking on choreography for Halifax County Little Theatre’s production of “Tom Sawyer.” The two, who’ve worked on past productions together, have plenty of experience and understand what it takes to blend music and lyrics together.
“Mz. Pat [Crew] and I have choreographed several HCLT productions in the last three years and were asked to continue with “Tom Sawyer.” As a child I performed in many HCLT productions and I have provided choreography assistance for ‘Suds,’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ and now ‘Tom Sawyer,’” Ricketts said.
Having a varied history offers Crew and Ricketts the tools needed to teach anyone a few basic steps. While it’s certainly a challenge to work with actors who may have little to no previous dance background, there are some among the “Tom Sawyer” cast who they’ve worked with before.
Ricketts said, “We have had the privilege of working with many members of the varied cast in other productions, so we are familiar with their abilities and strengths. This is to our advantage, as they assist us in teaching other cast members the steps.”
“Tom Sawyer “cast member Sarah Brogden agrees.
“The choreography can be difficult because of a lot of moving and running around the stage, but it’s also fun, and it makes the show more interesting to watch,” she said.
Since the music in production is not just from one genre, there will be lots of varying styles performed - including jazz, acrobatics and even stage combat. While staged combat is non-traditional in most mainstream musicals, the process of learning and performing the moves requires the same acute skills any good dance demands.
“While the choreography process is similar for these scenes [staged combat], the actors must use cues and sequences from one another to remain synchronized, rather than relying on the musical score,” Ricketts said.
Hunter Powell, another “Tom Sawyer” ensemble member, has only had limited dance exposure but is enjoying himself – and the stage fighting – all the same.
“I like the [stage combat] moves. Mz. Pat and Patricia are really good teachers,” he said.
Being a participant in a musical is hard work. There are not only lines to learn, the right notes to hit, but also dancing to be done – and sometimes all three at once.
Ricketts said, “Dance adds another element of talent to musicals. I am always impressed by each cast's ability to balance the many aspects of a musical – lines, cues, singing and dance numbers on top of that. The dance numbers in this musical add to the playful and fun experience, further transporting the audience to the time and place of ‘Tom Sawyer.’”
Tickets are on sale now, including Halifax County Little Theatre season tickets, which save money and include all of the theater season. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” opens on Friday, Nov. 16, and runs until Dec. 1 in the Chastain Theater at The Prizery. Tickets can be purchase online at HCLT.org and at The Prizery at 572-8339.