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ON THE SCENE: ‘The Good Old Days’ for Northwood students

November 7, 2019
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Northwood School Drama, led by Noel Carmichael, presented a remarkable interactive 100-year musical survey of pop music held to enthusiastic audiences over two nights at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Oct. 29 and 30.

This original performance, titled "The Good Old Days," created by Carmichael and assisted by student Sarah Sheridan, got the audience singing and clapping along and calling out for songs from their favorite decade.

"The play came initially from the idea that each generation thinks the music of its generation was the best and that the music of the current generation is crap," said Carmichael, who conceived the theme and directed the play. "We wanted to play with that idea. We've got different responses from different people on which part of the play they like best that usually corresponds to the music of their generation, so the idea worked."

Article Photos

Matthew Burns performs on stage.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Carmichael and Sheridan interviewed many people to learn what music and songs they like best as a means of helping them identify what to highlight from each generation. Sheridan, who worked on the musical as an independent study project, developed the dialogue and helped construct the scenes over her summer vacation. Her previous experience was helping create the sets and costumes for the play Northwood staged last year.

"It was a lot harder writing dialogue than I thought it would be, but I came to enjoy it," said Sheridan. "We had many meetings on how can we have this and not have that. Seeing it all come together was great as well."

They decided on a musical that reviewed a century of popular music. The performance began by initially showcasing songs from a half dozen decades performed by a mix of solo and ensemble in a seemingly random fashion. Kirk NguyLe, a freshman, assisted by a fast-paced video, provided a spirited overview of the history of popular music setting the stage for engaging the audience.

The students and musicians had to become knowledgeable and adept at performing a wide variety of musical styles and corresponding clothing and dance drawn from over a hundred years of repertoire, no mean feat in and of itself. The students were no slouches with many belting out their songs as if they were born to the stage, when in fact for quite a few it was their first time performing before a live audience; and for some, not an experience they had in mind when they came to Northwood.

Senior Margot Rouquette, of France, who had never been in a play before, came to Northwood for hockey and has been a member of the school's outstanding girls team that had an undefeated season until the weekend before the show.

"I think being in a play is very exciting," said Rouquette. "It can be pretty stressful being on stage sometimes because I don't know what I'm doing or the dances are new to me; and the same for my solo, which is the first time I've sung before an audience. I was a bit nervous, but I wanted to try something new this year, so I signed up."

"I found the idea performing on stage very relaxing because I like to sing, but then I didn't realize there would be a lot of dancing," said senior Julia Geraldi, another first-time thespian who came to Northwood for Alpine ski racing. Much to her surprise, she learned that dancing on stage provided her an intense workout that benefited her sport. Another bonus was getting to know a lot of people who were new to her.

William Vanterpool-Stanford, of Brooklyn, came with lots of experience acting, but not singing and dancing, so the play provided him an opportunity to stretch himself.

"A musical is different. It's like apples and oranges," said Vanterpool-Stanford. "It not as much of a plot, but is still tells a story."

Students also designed and created all the props and costumes and provided the tech and lighting for the show. Musical director Brianna Sanford pulled together a talented quintet of students musically adept who could hop as quickly from one decade to another as the they could change their costumes.

"Students had input in all aspects of this musical," said Noah Pittman, a junior who hails from Vermontville. "It's been a bit of a roller coaster. We had a lot to work out with logistics and everything, but I think it came along nicely. This is my third play at Northwood, so I am still pretty new to performing on stage. I like breaking character; if you can go on stage for an hour or so not being yourself and have fun doing it, then I think that's a win."

Sheridan's dad was thrilled about his daughter co-developing and then performing in the musical.

"I'm very proud of her," said Mike Sheridan. She worked on the play all summer. I think she gained a lot of confidence and has learned a lot from taking on a project of this scale and seeing it through from start to finish. I think that's super cool."

The audience went wild for the performance with many clapping or snapping their fingers along, sometimes joining in the singing, and enthusiastically suggesting decades and delighted by the results. The only thing they didn't do the night I was there was dance along, though the performers encouraged them to do so. Busy though the students were on stage and off whipping into costumes appropriate to the decades, the musicians were equally nimble.

"It was quite a challenge," said Sanford. "We've only met seven times getting ready for this performance. We've had to work around school and sports schedules. Everybody worked very hard on their off time on this."

All the students sang and danced their hearts out, with many displaying a terrific presence on stage. One such was junior Adelia Castillo, who praised the process of creating the musical saying, "It was a fantastic experience. It brought us all together. I had such a good time. Hearing music from different times was just incredible. I came to love the music from the seventies. It's now my favorite."

"I didn't expect the audience to get so involved," said Rouquette after the show.

"My son Noah surprised me," said dad Hugh Pittman. "He brought out more skills than I've ever seen in him before. I was impressed. I'm proud of him. They all did a great job. The energy was terrific."

"I am so pleased that we had a big crowd," said Carmichael. "Many have come up to me and said that they had so much fun, and that was the goal."



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