Enthusiasm roars for summer musical


photo courtesy of Luis Hernandez

Dylan Maye, Entertainment Reporter

Maria Anzalotti hit send on her virtual audition tape for Mean Girls, in which she sang a spunky, rock-musical song and performed a monologue about her prior experience on the Speech team. One month later, the cast list is sent out by email, and Anzalotti will be playing Janis, the bad girl outcast who befriends the main character. Anzalotti gets ready for a second year of growing as a performer in District 214’s summer show. She is grateful to have this program to return to in the summer and sees it as an important change of pace for her performing life.

“It was very easy to get stuck in the same program where you can always pretty much tell what a production’s going to look like, and so it was nice to mix up who I was auditioning with,”  Anzalotti said. “It was nice to have that experience to make me a better performer.”

District 214’s upcoming production of Mean Girls marks the 10-year anniversary of the district’s summer musical program, which brings kids from high schools across the district to audition for and participate in a special musical performance, with shows in the Rolling Meadows High School theater from June 28-July 1. 

The show, based on the hit movie “Mean Girls”,  is about a 16 year old girl named Cady who moves to North Shore, Illinois, from Africa. She attends a new school and meets the most popular clique of girls, The Plastics. As she contends with the quirks of high school, she slowly gets sucked into The Plastics’ world of betrayals and false friendships, learning along the way to look past her peers’ pompous exteriors and see the true humans in all of them.

Prospect High School’s Jeremy Morton is one of the founding producers and a director of the district musical, along with Stephen Colella, fine and performing arts coordinator at Wheeling High School. The show being in the summer means there is much more time and energy to be spent on rehearsing. Even though students and directors often don’t know each other, this aspect of the preparation means there is ample time for everyone to connect while working towards a common goal. 

The themes and heart of a show like Mean Girls were not lost on Morton when considering a show for the program’s anniversary production. 

“I think the freshness of the show itself is going to have an immediate draw, but also the cultural phenomenon of the movie,” Morton said. “What I like about the movie is that there is this beautiful message about looking past the meanness. We live in a society and a world where it’s easy to just kind of be mean. But is that really worth it?” 

For Morton, the bond between cast and crew members from schools around the district that is built during production makes the drawn-out process, from audition videos in December to the show dates in June and July, worth it.

“It brings kids from across district 214 and we celebrate art. We celebrate and become close in a completely different way. I love that our students go and support each other’s shows,” Morton said. 

Anzalotti, who was in the district’s production of The SpongeBob Musical last year, recognizes the possible difficulties in the summer show compared to the regular school shows, as students must perform with and in front of people they have never met before, creating a new challenge in connecting with cast mates and directors.“It’s a lot tougher to establish who I am as a performer, establish what I want the directors to know about me, so I think the audition process is a lot harder, and that was something that I had to swallow last year especially,” Anzalotti said. 

Despite these difficulties, Anzalotti still finds different aspects she loves about the summer productions than school ones, motivating her to return for a second year. 

“I really love working with a really good, technically advanced choir,” Anzalotti said. “But we haven’t done a lot of dance-heavy shows at Prospect since I’ve been here, so it’s also really nice, in my opinion, to be dancing more frequently [in the summer shows].” 

Jen Pendergast, Anzalotti’s mother, remembers her daughter’s infatuation with dancing and singing when Anzalotti was younger and adults around her telling her how impressed they were by her. She believes in the power that fine arts programs in high schools have after seeing their profound impact on her own child.

“There’s all these different intelligences, and the electives that you offer in a school, fine and performing arts as well as applied arts, as well as physical education, I think they’re all important,” Pendergast said. 

Students in these programs learn valuable performance and social skills through them that they can apply to life after the show wraps. Performing in shows in the community has shaped many students like Anzalotti into the people they are now, and their experiences in theater have been an integral part in forming new relationships. 

“Because (the friendships) are less natural, it takes effort on our part, which means that we put a lot of effort into making these relationships happen,” Anzalotti said. “Even if it’s less second nature, it’s just as close, if not more so because of how much actual time we put into making sure we build those bonds.”