The Making of a Miracle

“I could use a little help,” the woman cries. “I could use a little hope,” she whispers. “I could use a miracle,” she pleads, as her eyes well up with tears and her knees tremble under the weight of her desperation. In the audience, some wipe away tears while others sit in an awestruck silence. The fallen woman, played by Ellie Shepley ’08, captivated the entire audience with her prayer for a miracle during last Friday’s Drama Lab musical, “Glory Day.” Just a week earlier, despite having rehearsed the show for a month, we were nowhere near ready to perform. “Glory Day,” written by Michael John La Chiusa, was nearly impossible to learn and perform. It wasn’t that the lines were convoluted; there were only a handful. It wasn’t that the blocking was difficult; most of it was sitting, standing, and walking. It was the music. Our director, Abby Colella ’08, warned me of the challenges of the show when she first recruited me as the musical director. When I first received a copy of the music, I knew that we were in trouble. I passed on the score to our accompanying pianist Andi Zhou ’09, who, after perusing the music, exclaimed, “You need twenty fingers to play this stuff!” And this was no exaggeration. The score we received was an orchestral reduction that made no considerations for the playability when printed. “Glory Day” is a fascinating musical – one contained to a brief forty minutes. It follows a priest who loses his faith after September 11th and, in a fit of rage, leaves a bulletin in Central Park declaring that Christ will rise from the pond in three weeks. Afterwards, he uses his priesthood to advocate this “Glory Day.” Throughout the show, he meets a series of people searching for their own miracles. This forces the priest to realize that it was wrong to tempt these people, especially because he is instilling hope into people who desperately need a miracle. Yet it is too late to reverse his scheme since the media and crowds have already set this “Glory Day” into motion. Charles Francis ’07 was cast in the role of the priest. Although we initially typecasted him for his infamous cynicism, his experience with singing and theater made him a strong candidate. Unfortunately, some of the high tenor parts were difficult for Francis to perform. The rest of the cast featured the priest’s cynical aunt, played by Britney Achin ’08, a CPA that’s lost his mind, played by Alex Gottfried ’09, a reporter stationed at the “Glory Day” fiasco, played by Brooks Canaday ’07, and a strung-out actress, played by Shepley. While these roles featured extremely different people, their desire for a miracle brings them together. With only one week left to rehearse, we had to resort to drastic measures. Much of the accompaniment was simplified in order to render it playable. There was also the matter of polishing all of the singing and acting before the show. During our second-to-last rehearsal, Producer Lucas McMahon ’08 came to observe the show and said, “All of you are desperate for a miracle. You need to show us why and make us care.” And so we began to pursue the miracle. The actual show was not technically perfect, yet each actor stayed in character despite having to sing parts too high or too hard. The desperation shone through, and the need for this miracle and the show’s transformation were perfectly clear. And so we got our miracle.