By SEHAR JAMAL
This season, the UMW Theatre Department is presenting the musical “Merrily We Roll Along” at Klein Theatre. The story, which revolves around the lives of three old friends is especially important to the students involved, as the lead actors are old friends themselves.
The story follows the lives of three friends: Frank played by Neal Gallini-Burdick, Charley played by Abraham Shaikh, and Mary played by Olivia Whicheloe. These three actors have been acting together since their first UMW musical, “Avenue Q.”
Now, these three are making this production part of their senior project, and the friendship of the characters mirror their friendship in real life as they embody the UMW theatre experience.
The senior project is meant to “provide a challenging experience that connects theory and practice for a student about to complete a major in Theatre,” and that is exactly what the actors are doing through this show.
After each rehearsal, the actors must write a journal entry detailing what happened during rehearsal and how to improve for the next, and a blog, which includes detailed research about the character and time period of the show.
At the end of production, the seniors will be evaluated by a panel of judges who “assess our blog, assess our process, and come question us about our process to decide whether we have passed or not,” explained Shaikh. “The goal is to make you better, and focus on how you can improve.”
Being in theatre since freshman year, the three actors have improved phenomenally through the help of the theatre department and singing and acting coaches. This prepared them to excel in their senior project as well as acting endeavors outside of school.
Shaikh emphasized the standard of excellence the theatre department has. “They expect professional quality work from us, and that prepares us for professional work outside of school.” Over the years he has experienced a “deeper understanding of the theatre and a richer understanding about the text and interpretations of characters, which leads to a richer experience for me and the audience as well.”
By their fifth day of freshman year, now seniors Gallini-Burdick, Shaikh and Whicheloe were cast in “Avenue Q,” throwing them into the whirlwind of the theatre. “The people in that show were the only people that we had really met at school and being in rehearsals for the rest of the semester really solidified our friendship,” explained Gallini-Burdick.
“The whole theme of the show is about old friends and how you navigate being old friends, and it is really apt to our relationship,” said Gallini-Burdick. The three are now performing in their third show together and personify the growth the UMW Theatre department boasts.
You can see Gallini-Burdick, Shaikh and Whicheloe in “Merrily We Roll Along” Nov. 8-10 and November 14-17 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 2 p.m. at Klein Theatre.