Musical adds dance for true story with a twist

Cast+members+Kendall+Henderson%2C+Taylor+McMullen%2C+Reese+McMullen+and+Isabelle+King+rehearse+a+scene+in+The+Hello+Girls.

Emerson Heath

Cast members Kendall Henderson, Taylor McMullen, Reese McMullen and Isabelle King rehearse a scene in “The Hello Girls.”

Emerson Heath, Staff Writer

“Legally Blonde,” “Mamma Mia,” “Pippin”; these are some of the quintessential shows performed by high school theatre troupes across the country. However, this year, the Kinkaid theatre department decided to go in a different direction. 

From Feb. 24-26, the theatre department will perform “The Hello Girls,” a musical that chronicles the true story of five American women who served as switchboard operators during the First World War and their fight for their military recognition. 

In World War I, the military was having trouble communicating quickly. Cue “The Hello Girls.” Hundreds of bilingual women were tasked with operating telephone lines, which turned the tide of the war. They worked together using their bilingual abilities to communicate orders and requests to the front lines.

Scott Lambert, Director of Visual and Performing Arts, was inspired to choose “The Hello Girls” because of the fact that this story isn’t included in Kinkaid’s and most schools’ history curricula.

“This is a story that needs to be told,” Mr. Lambert said.

The original off-Broadway musical was written for ten actors: five men and five women, all of whom played instruments on stage. Mr. Lambert adapted the ten-person cast to fit Kinkaid’s 60-person ensemble. 

“It is definitely a challenge,” he said. “The job as a director is to have a creative vision and be able to communicate that vision to a large number of people.”

Students and cast members were mostly unaware of the off-Broadway show.

“When I found out it was ‘The Hello Girls,’ I was intrigued because I had never heard of it.” Sophomore actress Ella Fox said.

“I’m excited to be a part of something so fun and different because it’s a very cool story we are telling,” Fox said

For Mr. Lambert, centralizing the story about the five female leads is paramount. 

“Every design element in the show and every choreographic element in the show is about putting your focus on the five Hello Girls,” he said.

The original musical didn’t include much dancing in it, so creating the choreography was an interesting process.

“This was a huge choreographic challenge for me,” Ms. Danyale Williams, dance teacher and choreographer, said. “There was no blueprint to follow or video to glean inspiration from, so the movement had to be organic and took a lot of thought. The most important aspect of choreography is simply to help tell the story of the characters.”

As the musical takes place in 1918, historical accuracy is a fundamental level of criteria. Mr. Lambert emphasized that the most important part of the show is “telling this story correctly.” However, an exciting aspect of this musical is that even though the show took place in 1918, the show opens with present-day actors telling the audience a story, then flashes back over 100 years ago. Throughout the show, there are subtle reminders that the characters are, in fact, actors, making the show a play-within-a-play. The contemporary music reflects that while the show takes place in the past, present-day actors tell the story.

Mr. Lambert emphasized the idea of “The Hello Girls” being a concept musical. 

“Things aren’t necessarily spelled out for you the whole time,” Lambert defines. “It is asking you as an audience to go on the journey of telling this story.”

Students attending “The Hello Girls” will experience a blend of history and entertainment. 

“The production of this show is going to be unlike any production of the show that has ever been done,” Lambert said.