Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, March 2000
I am keenly aware that this is a high school production and that tender young egos are at stake here, and so I will heed the good advice of Thumper’s father: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” And that just about says it all as far as this sad production goes.
What I do want to say does not concern the individual performers, but the sad state to which this once grand local tradition has fallen. I have sat through nearly twenty Greylock musicals now, and I can remember the days when this was a much-anticipated late winter event. They put on some GREAT shows! Everyone in town turned out, and there was much anxiety over the weather forecast for the performance dates lest some end-of-season snow cancel any of the performances. Dozens of singing, dancing kids filled the stage with energy and excitment.
Last night, despite cooperative weather, the auditorium was barely half full – and so was the stage. The kids know as well as I do that the spring musical has fallen from grace. It is no longer cool to be in the show because the show is no longer cool. Frankly, last night’s performance was an embarassment. If I were the Principal, Superintendent, Dean of Students, etc., I would be alarmed by this public disgrace. But I am quite sure that none of the people holding those titles care – if they did care they would never have allowed their formerly excellent theatre program to disintegrate to this level.
I am sure there are people out there wailing that these are “just kids” doing “the best they can” and that I am a horribly mean old woman to speak so harshly of their show. Well, I have worked with “just kids” in the theatre since 1971 and so I speak from great experience on this subject. And I would remind you that the students who put on those outstanding Greylock musicals of the past were also “just kids” doing the best they could. Either the gene pool has taken a serious nose-dive in Williamstown and Lanesboro over the past decade, or something has happened at an institutional level. And since many of the kids performing last night are Starlight alumni and my older son’s peers who I have known since they were in diapers, I cannot blame the gene pool.
To the faculty and administration of Mt. Greylock I would say that it is high time they turn their attention towards their arts programs. I know that theatre is not an official part of the curriculum the way music and fine art are, but it is a very visible extra curricular – as visible as any of the sports program on which considerable taxpayer monies are spent. You wouldn’t send your football team out in a collection of ill-fitting mismatched uniforms – why send your actors on stage without giving them similar support and advantages?
Considering that it is free to attend a Greylock sporting event, but a ticket to the musical is $7, this makes it even more frustrating that the quality of the production is so poor. I know that it is expensive to buy the rights to perform a musical, and that having a live pit orchestra is an additional expense, but where did the money come from to do it right all those other years? I saw much better shows at Greylock when I was paying $4 for a seat. Factoring in inflation, I am getting considerably less for my money now than I was then.
I hope that someone who can make a difference at Mt. Greylock reads this and takes some action. I hope the students do something to try to make their annual musical production something that is “cool” and a source of pride once more. I hope that next year I will enough nice things to say to be able to write a real review.
“Gigi” runs through March 4th at Mt. Greylock Regional High School on Rt. 7 in Williamstown, with performances at 8 pm. The show runs two and a half hours with one intermission. For further information call the school at 413-458-9582.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2000