When the time has come to choose a fall musical for the Upper School to produce, what’s an Agnes Irwin director to do when he can’t find an enticing story with strong female leads?
Well, write one, of course.
That’s the story behind In Harmony, this year’s fall musical, to be performed November 19, 20 and 21 (purchase tickets here). With an original script and music written by longtime collaborators Bill Esher, Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair, and music teacher Jerry Kapral, In Harmony tells the story of a televised 1962 competition between three sister singing groups.
The story goes like this: It is 1962, where in Cincinnati, Ohio, WKRC-TV, an ABC affiliate, is hosting a contest to find the next new sister act on Sing Your Song, hosted by local celebrity, Kip Kiley. After weeks of searching, the three final singing sister acts are to appear on the finals of this contest, sponsored by Huckleberry Foods, to be broadcast nationally.
Three sets of sisters — the Wright Sisters (Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi, Naomi Paradis, Gigi Gardner) from Chicago, the O'Donnell Sisters (Abby Rubin, Ellie Damstra, Connie Thompson) from Philadelphia, and the Moore Sisters (Dejah Bradshaw, Sanaiyah Watt, Acacia Pressley) from Detroit — are to compete. The musical follows the finals of the search for the new sister act: the rehearsal week in the first act and the live broadcast in the second.
“Beginning in the 1940s and continuing through the 1960s, sister singing groups were incredibly popular,” Esher explained. After watching a documentary on the craze, he came up with an idea: What if these sister acts became the basis for an Upper School production?
Esher approached Kapral in July about working with him on the fall musical. Having worked together on more than 30 productions in the past — including one full-length musical — they saw the partnership was a no-brainer.
The pair set to work outlining the show in early July, developing the shape of the narrative and researching songs from the early 1960s. July and August were spent writing the script and the music, and auditions were held in early September.
The play calls for a few musical numbers with a medley of songs from the time period — including “Do You Love Me” and the “Mashed Potato” — as well as about nine original songs, written by Kapral.
“It’s exciting because we’re the original cast,” said Abby Rubin ‘16, who plays Mary Kathleen O’Donnell, the oldest of the O’Donnell sisters. “We all love the script: the plot is great — it’s witty and charming, and the musical numbers are really fun.”
“It made me laugh out loud when reading it,” said Connie Thompson ‘16, who plays Abby’s younger sister, Mary Frances O’Donnell.
The show will be performed at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19, 20 and 21 in the West-Wike Theatre.
Photos by Karen Mosimann