Several safety protocols were put into place in order to make this production possible including self-screening and mandatory mask wearing, obstacles that students were happy to overcome if it meant still being able to perform. Jan. 29/21 (Alana Pickrell/CTV News Northern Ontario)

Looking to do at least one normal thing for students this year, St. Joseph-Scollard Hall managed to produce an entire musical despite the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic presented.

“There were a few hurdles to get over, of course, along the way,” said Musical Director Brian Overholt.

“Number one [was] to consult with our school board officials and officials from the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit and we came up with a plan together to move forward.”

Several safety protocols were put into place in order to make this production possible including self-screening and mandatory mask wearing, obstacles that students were happy to overcome if it meant still being able to perform.

“I think by the end I built up a lot of lung strength I didn’t have before,” explained grade 10 student Jude Zappala who plays a lead role.

“It was definitely a challenge at first. I think the biggest thing was that sometimes it would slip off your face so you’d have to readjust, but by the end it seemed pretty normal.”

Adding, “when I sign at home without the mask it’s just that much easier [now].”

“It was definitely a change to sing and act and dance with the masks on,” said Overholt.

“They did their best to always keep them covered the right way, I know some of the lead actors it does shift down a few times, but overall it worked out pretty well and they got used to it.”

However, the masks didn’t only cause an issue when it came to singing and dancing.

“It was frustrating at times when it came to the microphones,” said Overholt.

“We had to find a way of getting the students to be heard without the mics being shifted by the masks and so you’ll see in the production that the microphones are actually on their foreheads.”

One of the other biggest obstacles that COVID presented during production was having to wire the band in from a different room to help keep numbers down in the theatre.

“Everyone was wearing masks so we thought that it would have been okay, but the health unit said we couldn’t have that many people in the auditorium,” said Zappala.

“So we put the band in the music room, which is, you know, separated from the auditorium and so all of our tech people and our teachers had to work really hard to find a way to still do it live but having the band and the cast in separate spaces.”

In total 46 students were involved in the production of “Something Rotten” and they had 23 days total to put the entire show together.

However, instead of getting ready for the first curtain call, the show will be presented in a different manner this year.

“An audience is obviously out of the question. So what we did is we purchased the rights from the theatre company to film it and then we have the broadcast rights to stream it,” said Overholt.

Families will be able to purchase the play for $20 per family and watch it as many times as they want for a 48 hour period once it launches.

Zappala says that although he won’t get to perform for a live audience in the school auditorium, making it available online is actually a good thing.

“It should reach more people then we might have been able to if we would have done it in our auditorium because it’s online and I hope people are sharing it and all that to their relatives and friends,” he said.

“I think it’s a good way to lift everyone’s spirit, I think and just remind them, you know, even in this chaotic time arts and theatre and all that isn’t totally dead and there’s still ways to do it while following safety precautions,” he adds.

“Our focus really is to just put some smiles on some faces right now,” said Overholt.

The musical, Something Rotten, is set in the renaissance era and focuses on two brothers who are aspiring playwrights in competition with the likes of William Shakespeare.

Those involved say there is music, songs, choreography and everything you would see in a usual live musical without actually watching it live.

The hope is to use money from the ticket sales to go towards the installation of an orchestra pit, which is an approximate $300,000 project for the school.

The trailer for the musical can be viewed here.