“Schoolhouse Rock” shakes up St. Kate’s auditorium

St. Thomas junior Lindy Fischer felt a song coming on. Actually, make that 21 songs.

The University of St. Catherine’s O’Shaughnessy Auditorium was filled with knee-high socks, high-waisted bell-bottoms, bright flannel and the familiar songs of “Schoolhouse Rock Live” last weekend during the annual joint St. Thomas/St. Kate’s spring musical.

The musical is based on the 1970s Emmy award-winning cartoons that taught lessons about history, math and grammar with songs such as “Just a Bill,” “Conjunction Junction” and a powerful, all-female number, “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage.”

“What’s unique about this show is that it’s an ensemble cast in that everyone is on stage a lot, and everyone contributes so much,” Fischer said. “No one is sitting in the greenroom relaxing. It’s a really tight-knit, fun and supportive cast, which is needed in every show.”

Fischer played Tess, the distressed school teacher who was nervous for her first day of class. Throughout the show, characters from “Schoolhouse Rock” appear as figments of her imagination.

Director Pamyla Stiehl said the number of songs in the play is above average.

“It is highly unusual to have this many songs in a musical, but we decided to go with it,” Stiehl said.

Junior Willie Hustead, who played a schoolhouse rocker, said that despite the high number of songs, the music wasn’t too challenging.

“It was easy to remember, and it was easy to learn the lines,” Hustead said.

The live band, which played on center stage, featured St. Thomas students Mike Green, Steve Sauro and Zach Daniel along with Ginger Larson from St. Kate’s.

Hustead said the musical was a big success and the cast performed to a full house each night. While the show was open to public all weekend, a special performance debuted Friday for 1,400 schoolchildren.

“I think children enjoyed the show because it’s fun, colorful and energetic,” Fischer said. “Adults liked it, too, because they grew up watching it. I remember watching it growing up. We all know ‘Conjunction Junction.’”

Fischer said the cast started rehearsing the Monday after J-Term and spent up to 25 hours per week rehearsing. She said she faced an unusual challenge in this show.

“There aren’t as many plot lines or deep characters, so it was hard to find meaning in a place where there isn’t much meaning,” Fischer said.

Senior Ryan Nolan, who played Joe, said that Steihl stressed practicing outside of rehearsal to the cast.

“(She said) that this wasn’t a show where we could come in, rehearse and then go home without thinking about the music. We had to practice on our own free time as well,” Nolan said.

Nolan said that the musical provided a good opportunity for students from both schools to get to know each other.

“I really enjoyed getting to know the people in the show, as well as getting to perform in one more show while I am in college,” Nolan said. “Just how corny and goofy the show was made it a lot of fun to play with.”

Michelle Doeden can be reached at doed1842@stthomas.edu.