North East Connected

Students get back to doing their ‘favourite things’

Students had to climb ev’ry mountain to ensure their first college production since the pandemic began went ahead as planned.

The 87-strong cast at Emmanuel College, in Gateshead, overcame a host of challenges to stage The Sound of Music to audiences of around 1,000 people in a four-night run.

Show director Paula Wells, who is creative arts and events lead, at the college, said: “Obviously we were working in interesting times, rehearsals with masks, which was very difficult for them and me as director, and our Maria had Covid a couple of weeks before we opened. But it all came together, and we had everybody in the part they were cast in for the show. I am very proud of them all.”

The show was double cast, apart from the main roles, to give more students the opportunity to shine and have the experience, but also in case Covid hit in numbers.

“We are very, very blessed at Emmanuel with lots of interest, lots of talent and young people who just want to show how skilled they are at singing and dancing and love being involved in the arts,” said Ms Wells.

The casts were led by Hannah Waterfield as Maria, who is working towards her grade 8 London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) musical theatre and grade 8 singing, and Isaac Stamper as Captain von Trapp, who last year achieved grade 8 distinction in LAMDA acting.

Rachel Anderson was Mother Abbess, Emma Dawes played Liesl von Trapp and Sophia Beadle was Sister Margareta whilst also stage managing.

The Sound of Music, the classic tale of the wayward nun who becomes governess to the seven von Trapp children and falls in love with their father, was the first production at Emmanuel since the college staged Antigone in February 2020.

Mr Wells said: “At that time we carried on, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen, putting on a Greek tragedy before a world tragedy.

“Since staging on a show became a possibility again, we had lots of conversations around its feasibility, whether or not it was the right thing to do and we did have to pause rehearsals when students needed to be in year group bubbles.

“The respect I have for the students is boundless as they been doing this while keeping their studies going and being careful around Covid. The amount of maturity these young people have shown is unbelievable. We talk about resilience, leadership and character education all the time and where would you see that better than this?”

A further 16 students played in the orchestra for the show, and 12 staff supported the production.

Ms Wells added: “We are always keen at Emmanuel to promote the arts. The production is the training ground for life for students and we’re passionate about it, not just the staff who teach the arts but other staff who thanked us for giving them the chance to see the show together.

“There has been a real buzz around school. It’s an uplifting musical anyway, but it’s felt like almost against the odds, we got there.”

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