The cast of Central Middle School’s spring musical had a unique opportunity this year: the chance to perform the inaugural play in the new Performing Arts Center. After giving four performances last week, students and teachers agreed that the new space was a game-changer.
“Our old stage could only seat 250 people on folding chairs,” said Lauren Scherer, a seventh grade science teacher at CMS and choreographer for the show. “The room actually projected audio backwards — sometimes people on the stage could hear the audience better than the audience could hear them.” Scherer said kids on the crew had to get a running start to build up momentum to close the curtains.
“We pride ourselves on having a student-run production,” said Scherer. Students are obviously the performers, but they are also the crew as well as the musicians in the orchestra. Modernizing the PAC means it is much easier for students to take the lead, as well as providing the community with a much-improved space to enjoy the fruits of their efforts.
In addition to acoustics more conducive to hearing what takes place on stage, the new space boasts stadium seating for approximately 700 as well as modern lighting and sound equipment. The total cost for this addition was $9.9 million and was part of the CMS expansion that was completed this year.
This is a significant investment in an artistic space, and it was designed to cater to many different audiences.
The school’s band, choir, and orchestra will all get to perform there as well. Next year all elementary school concerts will be held there to introduce students to the performance space. Additionally, the PAC is available for rental to outside groups.
The production of “High School Musical” staged four performances over the week of May 2. The first performance had almost 400 people in attendance. “We were lucky if opening night saw 150 in the old space,” said Scherer. Other performances were even more packed, with the Friday show featuring an almost sold-out house.
Some of this extra turnout is probably due to making the production a no-cut show. Anyone who wanted to participate could. This led to a cast of 90, a crew of 70, and 10 musicians in the orchestra pit. Scherer said the decision to run such a big show was very intentional.
“This was our first show back from COVID,” she said. “We wanted to get as many kids involved as we could.”