The cast and crew of Berkshire School's upcoming musical has a lot to sing, dance and shout about as they present the school's first musical in its newly renovated Allen Theater this week.
Gone is the dismal-looking gray wood building. Now, a bright and stately looking building with white columns is in its place. The project of renovating the Allen Theater and Allen House was designed by 1963 Berkshire School graduate-turned-architect, Steve Nelson.
"Last year, the building was old-fashioned. There was no formal entrance and you could not fit everyone into the theater. I came back after the summer, and was shocked. This, is nice," said Berkshire School junior, actor and singer Craig Alizadeh of Sag Harbor, N.Y.
This Thursday through Saturday, the school will present a production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit "Urinetown: The Musical" by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis.
The musical is about a town plagued by a 20-year drought during which water has become so scarce, that "private toilets have become unthinkable." People become forced to pay the monopolistic Urine Good Company, to do their business. This spurs on a musical tale of greed, revolution, and even love.
Theater-goers who head to Sheffield for this show will walk through new glass doors to enter a large, tiled lobby decorated with poster from past plays. Audiences will then be directed through another set of doors into a theater space renovated to include a new, accessible seat configuration with two aisles and aisle lighting, a new audio/visual control booth, new lighting, a new and larger stage with a formal crossover space, and more seats (they've added about 80 to bring the capacity to about 400 seats).
Back stage, there's a formal scene shop and a "green room" where students can dress, rehearse and rest when not on stage -- amenities that never existed before.
Sophomore Christiena Auguste sat under a new flat screen television, which allows students in the green room to see the show from backstage, and said she was eager to participate in her first musical.
"It's awesome. I'm looking forward to the experience with all these new things," she said.
In addition, to theater productions, the new space is also used for assemblies, other music and dance productions. There's even a large projection screen that can be lowered in front of the stage to show films.
"I think the new theater is an attraction, too," said junior actor and singer Liz Butler of Pittsfield, who joined Berkshire School this year.
Rebecca Rovezzi, a sophomore from Falls Village, Conn., and aspiring college theater major, said the new facility was a draw for her. "It's good experience and makes you want to produce a show as high as the level of the facility," she said.
Lead theater teacher Jesse Howard agreed, noting that this year brought a larger number of students trying out for the school musical, which has about 25 students participating in cast and crew. Between 10 to 12 students participate in an improvisational theater class he teaches with Ruth Fish.
Howard said overall, the school has ramped up its efforts to support facilities and programs dealing with the arts, including new music, dance and radio studios, and plans to for new visual arts space.
He added that local parents have stepped in to help with the shows, and he's had students go out into surrounding local communities to hang show posters in hopes of having the campus community develop a stronger role in the greater community.
"The goal is to have this program become more and more a part of who Berkshire School is, to become a point of school pride," Howard said.