By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The Albion High School’s musicals often take the preview day’s student audiences to worlds far unlike the ones that they’ll return to when the bell tones for the next class.
But like many parts of this year’s show, “Shout!” is not like previous years’ performances.
With a single, simple set design and the instrumentation only coming from the occasional blowing of a pre-solo pitch pipe, the show puts all the focus on a 22-student cast — a far cry from the airborne theatrics of “Peter Pan” or the historical lessons of “The Sound of Music.”
“It’s all about emotions and relationships,” director Gary Simboli noted. “They loved it from the start, the first read through. They loved the music and it’s relative to them.”
The a cappella nature of the show is not a restraint on the story, which features themes that students know well. There’s the awkward double date, a hallway explosion of anger and a school dance.
“It’s like a real-life reality show on the stage,” Lydia Erakare, who plays Kate, a teen who hides her emotions behind a sunny facade.
The story is told in a whirlwind style, with different stories coming together for inclusive double and triple scenes playing out in front of the bright orange backdrop, which Simboli noted looks like a shout captured onto the wall. It’s all told with a bright, infectious energy of expressive outbursts tempered in moments of emotional depth.
The real strength of the show comes from the students’ individual performances and their ability to blend back into the story. The character who a minute ago was the focal point, spotlighted and showcased laying their heart out, appears the next moment as a peer weaved through another character’s big scene, cajoling them and pulsating through the background.
Among the storylines that plays out over the 25-song show is the push-pull of “doom and gloom” Ariane, played by Cheyenna Eagle; and Erakare’s Kate, who is foisted onto her as a peer mentor. It a relationship that is filled with clashes until they come to understand one another.
The roles aren’t foreign to Eagle and Erakare, as Lydia is Cheyenna’s freshman mentor — something that wasn’t known during casting. They both see parts of themselves in their characters.
“It’s much like my own personality,” Erakare said. “I’m not one to tell people how I feel.”
“I am kind of like my character,” added Eagle.
The idea for a non-instrumental show came from students’ interest in a cappella performances.
“We’re doing more of it with the choirs, and they like it,” said Simboli, whose barbershop quartet plays a similar role in the musical.
The audience did too, laughing uncontrollably during an extended breakdown of the various types of things that happen at a high school dance and applauding after an emotional solo by Alyssa Lawrence, whose character Dana feels held back in her life by her parents.
The show itself is a relatively new one, having only been performed at a few schools after debuting in 2008. Lindsay Price, who wrote the musical, is actually coming to Albion to see how it goes. She could walk away impressed.
“Shout!” will be performed three times this weekend at the Albion Middle School, with shows at 7 p.m. Friday and at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $4 for adults and $3 for students and seniors; and are available at all school offices and at the door.