The show must go on: students virtually perform spring musical


Kaitlyn Gibson

Mr. Deboer films a performer in front of the green screen.

Haley Maser, News Editor

After last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19, Joliet West’s annual musical returned this spring using a virtual format. Performances of A Killer Party were streamed to audiences on April 15, 16, and 18.

“Opening night was pretty surreal,” stated Kaitlyn Gibson, the show’s student director. “Normally, everyone’s running around, looking for missing props, going over lines… It was nice to not have a million things to do before the show, but that didn’t make me any less nervous.”

For $10 per device, audience members received a URL link to access the video performance. Written and digitally performed by Broadway actors in August of 2020, A Killer Party is a musical created to be performed virtually.

“Not only did we film [the show], we didn’t produce the show on stage like a normal musical, and it was filmed on cell phones with all different parameters,” Mr. DeBoer, the production’s director, explained. “I would say this was more difficult than a traditional musical because we (the collective we, students, staff, etc.) didn’t know exactly what action steps to take in which order… It was a lot of hustle.” The cast, crew, and faculty were required to take on various roles outside of what live theater typically requires.

“It’s definitely been so much harder than a typical year,” commented Kaitlyn Ruddy, who portrayed Lily Wright in the production. “I was excited that [the musical] was still taking place, but it was much harder knowing that it just wouldn’t feel the same. Having to navigate your reactions to another character’s dialogue was hard, especially when you can’t be with the other actors.”

Despite the unique circumstances the musical has faced this year, “there’s also been some really cool advantages,” according to Ruddy. “You could sing your song as many times you’d like until it was absolutely perfect. We could transform ourselves into any setting we’d like with a green screen [rather] than build a set.”

The virtual musical comes after last year’s performances of Matilda were canceled in response to the pandemic. “I think it was very important that we were able to produce a show this year after the cancelation last year,” stated Mr. DeBoer. “Not only did Matilda get canceled, the world shut down on our opening night.” 

The entire process of creating Matilda had gone forward, including dress rehearsals. “We put in months of hard work, but no one got to see that, because they weren’t allowed in the theater,” explained Gibson. “We are so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do a musical this year.”

After an abrupt end to the spring musical last March, A Killer Party marked a return to one of the numerous activities that many students have missed. “I met some amazing people, became closer with ones I already knew, and had an experience that I will never forget,” Gibson reflected.