Podcast: Whittier School Drama Club Readies for Disney ‘Descendants: The Musical’

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Haverhill Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

A new theatrical season is about to open at the John Greenleaf Whittier School in Haverhill with the production of Disney’s “Descendants: The Musical.”

Music teacher and JGW Drama Club Executive Director Robert D. “Bobby” Gariepy III explained how to audition for a part during a recent appearance on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” program.

“Jan. 8 is vocal audition. Come prepared to sing 30-seconds of your favorite song. Tuesday, Jan. 9, is acting auditions. So be prepared to read from the script, and Wednesday, Jan. 10, that will be group dance auditions. We will teach you a small dance, and you will dance on stage in small groups in front of kids auditioning for the show. Everyone who tries out for our show is accepted into the performance. Whether or not they get a role, like a solo role, whether they sing or they have a couple of lines, that’s one thing, but everyone is invited to participate no matter what. We always do that to keep the door open for everybody,” he said.

Gariepy said auditions are open to students throughout the district, from Grade 3 to Grade 12, and the show is a blend several stories.

“Similar to how, when I spoke with you about, ‘Into the Woods’ over the summer with the different fairy tales coming together in one place. Now, this is kind of like the Disney side of the villains and their children, and how that comes together. The kids are absolutely obsessed. They know almost every song. They know almost all the dances. I have taught them nothing. So, it’s quite impressive to be at the caliber already. I think it’s going to be a fantastic production.”

Gariepy went on to talk about some of the songs.

“’You Want to be Evil,’ There’s that one. There’s ‘Rotten to the Core,’ ‘If Only’ is another really popular one that the kids like—it’s a slower song. We sang a couple of these at our winter concert on Dec. 15. The kids insisted on giving a little bit of a representation of their spring musical in their winter concert, and I said ‘okay we can do that.’”

Gariepy said he is thrilled with the public support the group receives, adding that royalty fees for the shows are quite steep—leading to the need to fundraise and to make sure the shows themselves make a profit.

“When we did ‘Matilda’ in the spring, it net profited thousands of dollars for us to continue to do the things that we do. We did ‘Into the Woods’ over the summer. We did the ‘Addams Family’ this fall. Every performance has been a major fundraiser for us and’ in-between, we’ve been awarded some grant money as well, which has been really nice—one from the Haverhill Cultural Council. We’re really grateful for the momentum, for the representation, for the support for our kids because the kids need it. Kids really do need theater and show who they truly are, to be able to be comfortable with themselves.”

Gariepy said rehearsals for “Disney’s Descendants the Musical” begin Tuesday, Jan. 16. Additional information is on the JGW Drama Club web page.

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