Academy Playhouse Goes Online For New Musical

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

The show must go on at The Academy Playhouse in Orleans, where social distancing can’t stop the power of performance.

Starting Friday, July 3 at 3 p.m. The Playhouse will present its first ever free virtual musical via Zoom, “The Big One-Oh!” directed by Kevin Quill and J Williams. Six performances will take place: on Friday, July 3 at 3 p.m.; Saturday, July 4 at 10 a.m.; Sunday, July 5 at 5 p.m.; Friday, July 10 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 11 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, July 12 at 5 p.m.
Judy Hamer, president of the Academy Playhouse Board of Trustees, said that every member of the cast, choreographer Sophie Friend and directors Quill and Williams adjusted to the new virtual performance format with patience and enthusiasm.
“It has required a lot of little technical trials to get things to work correctly,” Hamer explained. “Karen Hepinstall, who is also treasurer of the board, a chemistry teacher at Nauset Regional High School, and a computer genius, has been our technical director through all of this. The kids are amazing! They didn’t blink on any of the differences of acting on Zoom.”
“The Big One-Oh!” tells the story of young Charley Maplewood. Charley isn’t the most popular kid around. He’d love some friends, so he decides to throw his own 10th birthday party, complete with a “House of Horrors” theme and a cake he’ll bake all by himself. Things don’t go exactly as Charlie plans, as the class bully shows up and soon the big one-oh birthday begins to turn into a big oh-no! Based on a book by Dean Pitchford, who also wrote the lyrics, “The Big One-Oh!” features music by Doug Besterman, and a book by Timothy Allen McDonald.
“The play is truly acting, dancing, singing, and interacting with each other,” said Hamer. “The actors have worked tirelessly with Kevin and J on acting and dance, and on choreography with Sophie. And they’ve had fun doing it.  It’s odd sometimes because they can’t necessarily look at one another — they can, but it doesn’t look like it on Zoom (unfortunately the boxes aren’t like the Brady Bunch’s boxes and they don’t necessarily know where someone’s box is on the audience’s screen).”
Hamer feels that the experience of social distancing and the necessary closing of theaters and other performance venues due to the pandemic has had one unexpected positive effect: It has brought into clarity the importance of theater and other forms of creative expression in our lives.
“Live theater is vital to our society,” Hamer said. “I used to teach ancient history and ancient literature and I always told my students (and tell my acting students today still) that theater has been around since ancient times as a way for people to get in touch with their own experiences by watching them on stage. Even silly kid shows do that. We will continue to bring as much as we can online until we can open the theater safely.”
To view The Academy Playhouse’s “The Big One-Oh!” for free, visit academyplayhouse.org, click the red bar that says “get your tickets,” and register to select the day and time of the Zoom webinar you wish to attend.