From 29th to 31st October 2019, the British School Manila’s visual and performing arts senior school department put on a spectacular production of Chicago. The musical was held in the new theatre space, Bayanihan, in the Creative Arts Centre.
The leading actresses were both from Y12: Arianna Everley played Roxie Hart and Nicola Allen played her rival, Velma Kelly. After the shows finished, the leads gave an insight into why they love performing and what made everything alright on the night.
How did you get into acting/performing?
Arianna: I am lucky as both of my parents worked as performers, which fuelled my love of acting. Actually, I’ve wanted to play Roxie Hart in ‘Chicago the Musical’ since I was 10, so this production was a bit of a dream come true for me.
Nicola: When I lived in England, my school’s drama productions used the local theatre. In primary school, I thought this was amazing. We did a comic, stylised piece, exploring unnatural and exaggerated movements which really helped me gain confidence on stage.
Was there anything in Chicago that was especially hard?
Arianna: The choreography. I’ve never thought of myself as a dancer and was very self-conscious going into the rehearsals.
Nicola: Doing high energy dances whilst still having to sing was very difficult. In addition, trying not to compare myself to other singers, dancers and actors.
What did you do to get into your character’s head?
Arianna: Costume was a big part of it for me because when you put on your stage outfit, you really start to feel like someone else. I developed a walk for Roxie, and pre-show I would spend some time walking around as her. I also tied the character to my headband. It sounds silly but I always imagined that putting it on almost made me become her and when it was off, I was me.
How do you feel before the start of the show?
Nicola: Before the show was the most fun because everyone is tensed up on a mixture of nerves and excitement, and we’re all trying to get mic-ed, do our hair and makeup and get costumes on. It’s when doors open that reality begins to settle in, and backstage is completely quiet. Whispering or writing messages of assurance to cast members is something we would consistently do throughout the show, before and during.
What is your favourite song and line from the show?
Nicola: My favourite song and line from the show is most definitely ‘Funny Honey’ and the argument Roxie has with Amos during the song. He speaks about this ‘cock and bull story’ and Roxie retaliates by singing ‘I can’t stand that sap! Look at him go, ratting on me!’
Who in the show was most like their character?
Arianna: I don’t think any of us were very much like our characters. Or at least I would hope not since the majority are killers.
In what ways have you developed as a performer during this show? Why?
Arianna: My biggest development was my growing sense of confidence towards being on stage, which is something I struggled with throughout IGCSE Drama. I found that I was able to move more comfortably and take more risks as rehearsals went on. To simply enjoy myself was a big step, and I think my performance was better for it.
What and how has your involvement in productions affected other parts of your education positively?
Nicola: Extracurricular activities and subjects are inextricably linked. In my opinion, having time to work (in a fun environment) through acting and dancing with many people helped me wind down from my IB studies.
The longest-running musical in Broadway history was an ambitious play to adapt to the new Bayanihan stage, and marked the next level of British School Manila’s commitment to providing its students with the best learning experience. With the caged ceiling and all-round acoustics, the technology gave the actors greater freedom on stage to explore their artistic expression, grow in confidence and take risks – all key components of BSM’s learning experience. For the students not in front of the audience, the technical input needed to make the production a success required as much dedication, attention to detail and teamwork to allow the stars of the evening to shine. The tech team justifiably received loud applause during the curtain call.
The Creative Arts Centre highlights the importance the school puts on the visual and performing arts. The arts are a key part of the holistic learning journey for all BSM students, from the early years to the International Baccalaureate diploma.