By Martha Garcia
It’s safe to say that almost everyone who attends a StarStruck musical production leaves the theater amazed at the talent and energy of our young performers and at how seamlessly the shows flow from song to song and scene to scene. Seeing a flawlessly performed musical number can be such an awe-inspiring thing, and yet the majority of the audience members probably never stop to consider that just a few months prior, that scene didn’t exist beyond the music director’s or choreographer’s mind. In every show, there is always at least one major show-stopping musical number that involves a very large segment of the cast. How does it all begin, though? How does the StarStruck staff transport that show-stopping number from someone’s mind to the opening night stage?
Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend the very first rehearsal of what will surely be one of Peter Pan’s major show stoppers: an exuberant, silly song and dance number in Act 2 called “Ugg-a-Wug.” In “Ugg-a-Wug,” Peter, Wendy, John, Michael, Tiger Lily, the Indians, and the Lost Boys decide to become friends and blood brothers instead of fighting with each other. The scene is a majorly fun part of the show for everyone who sees it.
To give you a sneak peek: The very first Ugg-a-Wug rehearsal was on Monday evening, October 28. At 6:15pm, musical director Nancy Godfrey had all 53 students sitting in their seats in the StarStruck studio to begin learning the song. That’s a LOT of students learning the lyrics, the various repeats, splitting up the vocal ranges, plus learning the proper melodies AND harmonies all at the same time in a group environment. Although “Ugg-a-Wug” is a relatively simple song containing minimal, mostly nonsensical lyrics, it’s not always simple for a large group to learn an entire song in a very short period of time. I have spent time around adult performers who weren’t able to learn songs as quickly or professionally as our StarStruck students! In fact, the kids nailed all aspects of the musical interpretations of the song within less than 45 minutes. That’s talent, folks! They were then ready to move on to the next stage of the learning process: the choreography.
Learning the basic choreography of “Ugg-a-Wug” took a bit longer than learning the song itself, but was even more fun to watch from a layman’s point of view. Choreographer Jeanne Batacan-Harper was very careful to patiently place all 53 kids in specific, individual spots on the floor: Indians seated as a group at center stage, Lost Boys seated in two groups at stage left and stage right, and Peter and Tiger Lily right in front as the two main featured singers in that particular song. Much time was spent carefully and methodically teaching very specific hand placements, body movements, and dance steps to the group, little by little and step by step. It was slow going, but it was going well. This was the first rehearsal of many for “Ugg-a-Wug,” but by the time rehearsal ended at 9:00pm, I was amazed at how much musical and dance material was covered and solidified in such a short period of time.
Without giving away much detail, let’s just say that precision, uniformity, energetic rhythm and musicianship, and some really strong follow-the-leader skills are key in properly conveying the message of brotherhood and friendship between all of the characters participating in the song “Ugg-a-Wug.” In two months, when this number is up on the stage at Ohlone and proverbially bringing down the house, it is going to be awesome. It will be unbelievable to think back to a time when the singing and choreography were just a blank slate. When you’re watching Peter Pan, pause to consider how far these kids come each year and how much work they put in to prepare for a StarStruck show!