Footloose draws big crowds to ECS

The Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS) has staged many memorable musicals over the years, but this year’s show might have generated a first.

All four performances of this year’s production of Footloose at the school’s cafetorium were sold out. The show was performed in the evening of Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and in the afternoon of Dec. 2 and 3.

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Evanne Wilhelm, who served as the producer and co-directed the project alongside Arlene Lafrentz, said she was “flabbergasted” by this year’s musical.

“I cannot believe how amazing the entire thing turned out,” Wilhelm told the Mercury. “I cannot believe that we made history at ECS … selling out all four shows of the musical.”

A total of 604 seats were available, according to the seating map for the show. They also set up 40-50 rush seats at the back, and in the last two shows, they had standing room areas at the back of the auditorium.

Wilhelm believes the great attendance can be chalked up to the production value this year and the growing reputation for the musical in the community. 

“They’re expecting good things, and when they come, they get what they expect and beyond what they could have imagined,” said Wilhelm.

This year’s musical featured a multi-stage setup. In addition to the main stage at the front of the cafetorium, there was an elevated stage facing the main stage, and several side stages.

There were a couple of lighting and sound kinks that could be improved upon if the setup were to be tried again, but she believes the audience enjoyed that up-close experience.

“It would depend on the show,” said Wilhelm. “It depends on what kind of show it is, and if it lends itself to that. I never really get stuck with there’s something that has to happen every single time.”

They also had new lights this year thanks to generous donations of $5,000 each from eight local supporters.

Wilhelm said it will be tough to say good-bye to the kids involved with this year’s musical who are graduating next June, especially since many of them were part of three musicals in their four years at the school, a rarity considering the musical is usually offered every other year.

She noted that this is also the first group of students who would have had her as their drama teacher for all four years at the school.

“I’m emotionally connected to those kids, and I think they are to me, too, so it’s really tough to say good-bye, but it’s also super joyous with the celebration of how much they have learned and grown.”

And at the end of the school year, when the school hands out its awards, it’s often kids from the musical who win the most high-profile awards.

“They’re thought so highly of, not just at musical, but they’re great kids all-around, holistically, in every aspect of our school.”

Footloose featured the talents of about 85 students through the cast and crew, and another 15 staff members and adult volunteers. They dedicated a lot of hours to the performance.

Auditions started in May, and a retreat weekend was held in June. After summer holidays, they rehearsed three times a week, and on every second or third weekend.

The last two weekends were very productive, with 14-16-hour days, including the time spent on makeup, hair, props, costumes, lighting and sound.

“It’s volunteer-based, and a lot of it is rental equipment, so we can’t afford to bring it in for much longer than that, which results in some incredibly long days, but the kids all pushed through, and we get a good result out of it.”

The net income from Footloose will be directed towards the next musical, which is expected to happen in two years. Wilhelm is confident that the revenues from ticket sales, concession and raffles will be enough to have another show.

“I’m looking forward to getting the total value on that, and investing in some pieces and things that we need to make our program even better,” said Wilhelm.

© Copyright 2018 Estevan Mercury

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