'My Favorite Year' debuts at BHS

"It's hell week at Bainbridge High School for the seniors working on the musical My Favorite Year. One can find cast and crew in the LGI nearly nonstop for these last rehearsals before the play opens April 27.With 40 actors, 20 techies and five adults, the show is much larger than the Broadway production. Doing the play is a lot of work, Justin Maurer (Alan Swann), said, but I enjoy the general sense of urgency and chaos.In My Favorite Year, protagonist Benjy Stone (Adam Granato) narrates the story of the year during which he is transformed from deli clerk to comedy writer on The King Kaiser Comedy Cavalcade. My Favorite Year is a play within a play, chronicling life on the set of The King Kaiser Comedy Cavalcade, a take-off on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows.The relationships among the King Kaiser cast and crew mirror the real-life friendships of the BHS players.A lot of the strength of the play comes from those friendships, said Emily Kroman, who plays a coffee cup for her Maxford Girl part. As an actor, you can work 'off' the people onstage because you're comfortable with them.The team orientation has to do with Mac, and the magic he puts into it.The team is made up of actors, musicians and production crew working together under director Bob Mac McAllister, choreographer Diane Frauenholz, musicians Matt Pelandini and Danny Figgins and technical director Erik Van Beuzekom. Alice Hunting and Christen Gregorgy, the student directors for My Favorite Year, are an unofficial link between students and adults.You're the person people can go to to talk about things they may not want to say to Mac, Gregory said.The two also take notes at rehearsals, keeping track of such problems as missed lines. Maurer has a lot of lines to remember; he plays lead Alan Swann, a washed-up actor with a mighty thirst, an Errol-Flynn-like character. Maurer, who learned American Sign Language from his mother before he learned to speak, notes that the expressiveness of ASL may have helped his acting. Maurer also attributes his realistic portrayal of an alcoholic to a wealth of real-life role models.The costuming component of the team is crucial to the Favorite Year production, because there are, according to designer Marie Elena Baker, more than 150 costumes for the 42 actors. Baker, who made a decade's worth of costumes for Bainbridge Performing Arts, has costumed some of the My Favorite Year cast since second grade. They were my 'Wizard of Oz' kids, my 'Puss in Boots' kids and my 'Never-Ending Story' kids, Baker said, but they are the last of the kids I will have followed all the way through. If I'm here next year, I won't know those seniors the same way. Sewing for My Favorite Year is a bitter-sweet experience for Baker, whose classified position as library assistant is slated to be cut.This is the hardest show I've ever worked on, Baker said, matter-of-factly feeding another swatch of cloth into the machine. But it's been a treat to work with Mac again. He pulls stuff from the kids that even they don't think they can do. My Favorite Year is the last BHS production for these seniors - one more chance to make magic before they graduate and scatter in June. Until the show closes, Baker, Maurer, McAllister, Kroman, Gregory, Hunting and the rest of the My Favorite Year team are a sort of family.As this rehearsal winds down, McAllister is alone on the dark stage, his baggy pants and too-long jacket an echo of another actor, the Little Tramp. Suddenly, a spot is turned on him and he flinches, shielding his eyes reflexively from the brilliant light. He issues instruction to the crew. Then, with a neat side-step, McAllister slips into the dark and the light falls on an empty stage.My Favorite Year plays 7:30 p.m. April 27-28, May 4-5 and 11-12 at Bainbridge High School LGI. Tickets are $10/adults $9/seniors and students, at 780-1653. "

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