ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY’s theatre students delivered a socially-distanced, fist-pumping, foot-stomping rendition of We Will Rock You Young@Part in the school’s first ever virtual musical last week. Featuring the songs of Queen, and telling the story of two young rebels trying to restore rock ‘n’ roll to “the iPlanet” in a post-apocalyptic world, the performance rocked audiences from as far away as Finland, Italy, Honolulu, and Kapolei.
Directing a Queen musical for middle and high school students is a daunting task under the best of circumstances. In the middle of a pandemic, it’s even more so. But director Brandi Dul, musical director Ellie Healey, and technical director Patrick Block were more than up to the challenge.
“It started with Ellie and me asking ‘Do we do a musical at all this year?’” shares Brandi Dul, IPA theatre teacher and director of the show. “And Ellie was like ‘Yes, we have to do it. We’re going to kill the momentum if we don’t.’ And I checked in with people and they said absolutely, the musical is so exciting. And, yes, we could have had an out with all that’s happened this year, but we decided to do it.”
It was as challenging as they expected, having to contend with Zoom auditions, virtual rehearsals, 22 actors, and 22 Queen songs performed in a novel format. The actors had to record their parts separately, with it all brought together seamlessly by professional videographer, editor, and sound engineer Kings Kalohelani.
“There was so much learning and so much growth for everybody involved,” explained Dul. “I was so proud of the students because they were really open to absorb it all and be flexible when we had to pivot when something wasn’t going to work, and be open to changing things up. You have to lean into that growth, because if you lean away from it you become rigid and then it just doesn’t happen. It was so neat to watch so many people lean into it.”
There were many moments throughout the process that made Dul proud of her students, but the one that struck her most was an observation shared by Kalohelani.
“Kings told me that he works with a lot of schools, and he sees all kinds of students with different levels of talent everywhere he goes, but the one thing he really noticed about our students was just how kind and supportive they were of each other during the entire process,” shared Dul. “And that really touched my heart, because he was so right. I mean it was stressful and it was hard, and there were moments that we weren’t quite sure, and even through the hard conversations and the trials and errors, all our students were just really kind through the whole process. And that was probably what I was most proud of.”
And Dul believes it was all worth it, because it provided a way for the students to connect meaningfully during a time when they really needed it.
“The decision that each student made to continue creating together, even though there were a lot of odds stacked against us, to make the choice to find connection through creativity I found to be just really beautiful,” she shared. “They were all yearning for connection, everybody was so isolated. There are easier ways to be connected – they could just play together on Discord, or talk on the phone – but they committed to be connected through creativity, by investing so much time and hard work into their creativity. I think that is one of the best things.”