No music, but spring Drama offers a humorous look at the past


BP Photo by Ezra Fax

COMEDY: Senior Mati Davis and freshman Hannah Merritt practice the humorous Caught With His Trance Down, which debuted April 13.

By Abby Blumofe, Staff Writer

Shalhevet Drama’s spring performance last week was unexpected in many ways.  The troupe performed the 1897 comedy Caught with his Trance Down last week, rather than a musical as originally planned. Instead of four pay shows in the Wildfire Theater, there were only two, but all students were treated to a free performance during school hours with their grade.

And as usual, the reviews were excellent, with audiences laughing uproariously as the usual Drama cast alternately bickered, tricked and hypnotized one another throughout a tightly produced, 45-minute show.

Set in 19th-century France, Caught with his Trance Down tells the story of an upper-class man named Marcel Boriquet, played by junior Ezra Fax, being manipulated by his servant Justin, played by Amin Lari. When Boriquet intends to get married to his Antoinette, Justin does not approve and tries to ruin it. Senior Mati Davis, in his last role at Shalhevet, played Antoinette’s father. Antoinette was played by Hannah Merritt and Shana Lunzer played Mati’s servant.

Set among 1800s-esque velvet chairs and couches, the comedy was sarcastic and clever as Boriquet turned into a dog and then a woman, Francine and Marcel were hypnotized by Justin, and then Marcel Boriquet was hypnotized to act like a monkey to do housework and convinced that his fiancee was hideous.

All these comedic scenes provoked roaring laughter from the audience, especially during the fight scene between Justin and Antoinette’s father, in which the two hypnotized one another to hit themselves and do chicken dances. Caught With His Trance Down opened April 12 with on-campus performances for each grade, and then gave two public performances on Sunday, April 17.

The unusual schedule was because this year three school-day performances were given to all four grades, meaning the entire student body had the opportunity to appreciate live theater.

In addition, the cast was not burdened with selling tickets, and the performance week felt lighter because the Drama students went home right after school, Ms. Chase said.

And the musical, it seemed, was an idea whose time had not come. Though 12 students had originally showed interest in the musical, only six showed up to audition for its nine roles last September, according to Drama Director Mrs. Emily Chase.

After much time and preparation spent arranging the musical, she was disappointed that it did not run and said she did not plan on trying a musical again.

“I was disappointed, as I had paid for rights, ordered the music, and hired a music director who helped conduct auditions,” Ms. Chase said in an interview. “I was able to get most, but not all, of the money back. However, I am very happy with the play we are working on now; everything’s worked out.”

There had not been a musical since 2013, when the group performed a student-written show called Nashville Nights. This time, Ms. Chase chose The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

At fall Drama meetings there was a general interest from the people involved. But in the end, not enough were able to commit two to three hours of rehearsal twice a week— the minimum needed in order to successfully run a musical, according to Ms. Chase.

“It may be that some freshman expressed interest early in the school year,” Ms. Chase said. “They later on realized their work load was too heavy for them to add in rehearsals.”

Students also cited scheduling conflicts.

“It conflicted with my other co-curriculars and it seemed too time-consuming to balance both,” said freshman Lucy Fried, who has sung in musical theater in the past but did not audition for the show.

When word spread that the musical was canceled, freshman Donna Grunfeld was both upset and relieved.

“Personally I feel a little relieved and disappointed, because I thought this was going to be funny and knowing Mrs. Chase she’d be able to put on a good show,” Donna said. “At the same time I am relieved because I have a fear of singing publicly.”

Junior Eliana Meltzer, producer and stage manager, said a musical would have been more time-consuming.

“Having a musical would have taken up more time beyond the two to three hours spent at least two times a week practicing and perfecting,” Eliana said.

A musical would have required dancing, longer rehearsal hours and complicated sets, which would have been especially difficult this year because of calendar issues and the timing of chagim.

Although the initial plans fell through, it worked out in the end.

“We have six actors in the play, and they are in love with it.” Mrs. Chase said before the show opened. “These things always seem to work out in the end.”