The following is an unedited story submitted by Oxford Hills School District Music Department:

“Serving Up” a little more than just Broadway

By Ariel Garber

After 6:30pm, you might think that the halls of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School would be quiet. But as you stroll those halls, you will hear strains of, “All day long I’d biddy bum, if I were a wealthy…I got rhythm, I got music…O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’…but then I thought about the game!” After 6:30pm, play practice for the “Serving Up Broadway” musical review has begun.

Professional dancers and musicians performing songs from some of the all-time great musicals are the premise of “Serving Up Broadway”, an original musical review celebrating 40 years of the Oxford Hills School Community Broadway Show. Performances will be on April 5th at 7:30 PM and April 6th at 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM in the Mark S. Eastman Auditorium at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

In rehearsals, the lights are dimming and changing color, there is a pattering of feet running across the stage to get to their spots, a chorus of voices and constant direction from director Jane Riseman, co-producers Kyle Jordan and Jennifer St. Pierre, music director Dennis Boyd, choreographers, and more. This group had worked together in past shows, and after the “Damn Yankees” show in April of 2012, the idea for a review show was born.

Their ?rst thought after “Damn Yankees” ?nished was “wouldn’t it be fun to do a retrospect?”, remembers Jane Riseman. In October, Riseman, Boyd, Jordan and St. Pierre met to pick one song out of each of the 20 previous biennial community shows. The music was arranged for solos, duets, and ensemble case accompanied by a seven-part band. Terry White, well known retired teacher, performer and composer from Westbrook, was hired to professionally arrange each of the songs.

Meanwhile, Riseman took the 20 songs and created a song script, in which she designed the whole show. The show will be centered around “The Broadway Cafe”, with Act One inside of the cafe and Act Two on the street outside of it. “Every song will stand on its own,” explained Riseman, “There will be no costuming; instead, everyone will be dressed in traditional cabaret black.” Her favorite thing about directing is “helping the actors develop their character.” And since there is no dialogue in this play, she had to help the actors create “really specific movements and facial expressions.”

Riseman has performed in seven community musicals, been stage manager for two, and this is her third show directing. She believes that the community show is a “fabulous experience that everyone should be able to do and I love to provide that opportunity.”

Co-producer Kyle Jordan describes Riseman as “one of the most creative people I have ever worked with, and while this may have started as a collective vision among many, it has become her baby.” As the review was being developed, the super team of Riseman, Jordan, Boyd, and St. Pierre had the idea to bring back cast members to revive their old roles. While they couldn’t get everyone back, the cast has actors from across the State, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and even Alabama returning to the Oxford Hills stage.

The age of the cast members ranges from eight to seventy-five years old. Steve Jones, reviving his role as Frank Butler in the 2004 “Annie Get Your Gun” show, feels that “every time you do a role, you can bring something new to it.” He believes that the community show becomes “the nexus where the performers and community come together.”

Steve Sessions, part of the review’s chorus, finds the community show “exciting because it brings together the experience of older people and the energy of the younger ones.”

Another member of the chorus is Sophie Lawton, a sophomore at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. She feels that, “high schoolers get experience and learn a lot from the older actors who have experience and have gone into the world outside of Oxford Hills.”

Peter Allen is reviving his part as “Curley” in the 1980 Oklahoma show. “There are so few chances for generations to get together, and its wonderful to work with different age groups and to get to know them as people. It’s really important for a community,” says Allen, “It trains everybody into knowing that you are part of a greater effort. You realize that everyone has a small part, but everyone is equally important.”

“This review is a kind of memory piece for everybody,” adds Allen. “It’s so much fun to bring back all the memories from all the shows,” says Nancy Marcotte, the artistic director. Marcotte has participated in 17 shows and has seen almost all of them.

The Oxford Hills School-Community Broadway show began in 1974, when Benny Reehl, founder of new-vaudeville and Buckfield resident, approached Cynthia Westcott and Jerry Walker about starting a community broadway show that included students. At the time, Westcott was the choral teacher and Walker was the band teacher at Oxford Hills.

“‘Let’s do it’ was our first reaction,” remembers Walker, “We have been involved in theatre most of our lives and we weren’t afraid to take this on.” So, with $500 from the Music Boosters, Westcott as the music director, Walker as “tech” director, and Reehl as the director, they had their first show, “Fiddler on the Roof.””A ?ddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of ‘Oxford Hills’, you might say every one of us is a ?ddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we ‘keep putting on the community show?’ That I can tell you in one word…Tradition.”

Now 20 years later, the biennial community show has become nothing short of a tradition.

“The community not only expects, but looks forward to the show,” says Jordan, “It’s part of who we are, and part of what we do here.”

The Mark S. Eastman Auditorium is located on the campus of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, 256 Main Street in South Paris. Reserved seating tickets to the Auditorium are on sale at Books ‘n Things, 430 Main Street in Norway. The purchase of tickets is not available over the phone, however they may be ordered by calling B’nT at 739-6200. Your reserved tickets will be waiting for you at the will call table on the night of the show one hour prior to each performance. Remaining tickets will be available at the door prior to each performance. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/senior citizens .

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