There were tassels, flowers and garish vests everywhere— all accompanied by a good beat.
Victoria High School drama students were rehearsing the musical Hair, a story about a hippie tribe facing the threat of being sent to war.
“There’s lots of love, lots of peace and happiness, but there’s also a dark side to the story because the war is looming,” said Chris Stewart, a Grade 12 student who plays the lead, George Bermer.
Stewart has been in two other plays at Vic High but said this one has been the most challenging.
“It’s by far the most demanding show I’ve done, and not just in terms of choreography, but there’s something like 20 songs that we all have to sing,” he said with a laugh. “I think last time there were three!”
Vanessa Jones, a Grade 10 student who plays a tribe member, is new to musical theatre but despite the work said she loves it.
“It’s been amazing!” Jones said. “I thought it would be easy and fun, but it’s really hard but I enjoy it so so much that I’m definitely going to make this is my career.”
Students have been rehearsing since November, and steadily increasing their rehearsals as the May show dates approach. On a recent Friday professional development day the students spent their day off in the Vic High auditorium rehearsing songs, dances and scenes with the accompanying band and crew members.
The time commitment is some students’ favourite part of the musical because it fosters relationships with other cast members.
“I didn’t think it was going to be this much of a community,” said James Rodriguez, a Grade 10 student who plays Steve. ” I thought seniors were going to be kind of separated from the grade nines, tens and 11’s, but these past few months we’ve been so connected and I’ve just been able to talk with everyone and join this community.”
The play, which is usually set in the 1960s under the shadow of the Vietnam War, has been modernized and rewritten to refer to a non-specific war.
“I think it works with what’s happening today,” said Anouk Janess, a Grade 11 student playing a lead character named Sheila.
“There’s a threat of war hanging over our heads, and we’re a very rebellious tribe, and rebelling against the government with a lot of activism. It’s important, and it’s not your typical high school play.”
Kim Scholinder is the head of the musical theatre department at Victoria High School, and Hair is her inaugural show. While getting the choreography down is important, Scholinder says her biggest focus is on her students’ experiences.
“When people leave high school they remember the experiences they had in the field,” Scholinder said during a quick break between songs. “If they leave and feel like they had an enjoyable time, if they feel nurtured and supported and cared for and that they have a place to belong, that’s what’s gonna stand out to them and that’s what I wanna focus on when we do musical.”
The show will run from May 9 to 12 at 7 p.m. at Victoria High School at 1260 Grant Street. Tickets are available at the school office or will be available for purchase at the door, and cost $10 for students and $12 for adults.
A matinee performance will also be preformed on May 8 by donation, with funds going to local community organizations.