SPHS Rock 'N' Roll Revival XXII Gets The Motors Running
By Ellen Kinsella
For three weekends in March, Route 66 ran right through Severna Park right up onto the stage of Severna Park High Schools auditorium - and there was no speed limit on the road to stardom! The eagerly anticipated 22nd annual Rock N Roll Revival production was, as they say every year, the best one yet. And magically, like always, this proved true.
This show has grown so successful it attracts audiences well beyond Severna Parks borders. Made possible due to the toil of tireless volunteers, the production boasted 100 singing and dancing cast members and an amazingly talented 13-piece band, which was perched on a decorated balcony so the audience could enjoy them during the show. The expert tech crew, led by alumnus Gary Tawes, assembled a stage that featured a Chicago cityscape, the mountain with the Hollywood sign, and miles of highway in-between and up the aisles. Show Director and alumna Angela Germanos came through again with an eclectic lineup of songs, all 20 years or older, per tradition.
One of the 37 songs that stood out as a favorite was In The Navy, the 1979 hit from the Village People. Senior Tommy Minter, in the lead in a white Naval uniform, danced, pranced and bellowed out the words to the song, while leading Ian Gilbert (Indian), Jake Fisher (cowboy), Justin Binnix (construction worker), Henry Pazaryna (biker) and Fred Fletcher-Jackson (police officer) shimmying across the stage and frolicking up and down the aisles.
Another equally energetic number was Vehicle, the 1970 hit by the Ides of March. Opening the second act, senior Zack Buckon sang the lead in this fast-paced song as colorful dancers backed him up wearing road-striped skirts and checker-flag-like tops. One could hardly keep track of all the activity on the stage, never mind the dancing in the aisles. Zach stole the hearts of every mother in the audience when he serenaded his own mother during the song.
Another show-stopping performance was Bad Case of Lovin You, the 1979 hit by Robert Palmer. With Maggie Kelly belting out the lead, a dozen of the most highly skilled dancers in the school, wearing doctor jackets and not much else, danced their hearts out. At one point in the song they did eight turns in unison without stopping, while the audience cheered wildly.
Sir Duke, the 1977 Stevie Wonder hit, was the traditional all-male dancing number. Austin Heemstra sang beautifully, while the crew of striped-vest-clad dancers shimmied, jumped and raised their top hats to the expert trumpet-playing of Ryan Eskalis. Dancer/gymnast Sam LeBlanc performed his signature handspring to the cheers of the crowd.
Not every song in the show was fast, however. One outstanding act that had audience members stunned with admiration was Colleen Flannerys rendition of Neither One Of Us, by Gladys Knight and the Pips (1973). Colleen demonstrated powerful vocals and looked stunning in her turquoise gown, while the Pips, Taylor Brown, Austin Heemstra and Harry Slattery, skillfully crooned backup in white tuxedos.
Two talented Rock N Rollers were selected to be in both the band and the cast: Tyler Wilkinson, sax player (and student band director) and Solon Snider, keyboardist, kept busy alternating between the band stage and the show stage throughout the production. Solon had a solo, Billy Prestons Nothin From Nothin, during which he donned a huge afro wig and sang, amazingly.
Adding a bit of comic relief, a group of faculty members took the stage dressed as bikers and performed Hit The Road Jack, the 1961 Ray Charles song. Clad in black leather and tattoos, they proved to the students in the audience they should not be messed with!
Space prohibits mentioning all the talent in the show, but to highlight a few, Rachel Truffers Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Julia McGinns You Dont Have To Say You Love Me, Jillian Grifos Oh Darlin, Carly Snyders Livin In The USA, Justin Binnixs Ring of Fire, and Jenny Judds Xanadu, complete with roller skating dancers, kept the crowd applauding and wondering at how much talent could be contained within the walls of this one school!
The grand finale of the show was Mikey Powers singing Steppenwolfs 1968 Born To Be Wild. The Pandomonia lead singer and front man didnt even break a sweat as he danced and gyrated on stage and even ran upstairs to the ledge where the band was located.
By the time the three-weekend run had ended, participants were exhausted, but pleased. Student director Tommy Minter declared, The show was very successful, and I was happy to be able to put my own stamp on it.
Minter noted there were quite a few first-timers this year who had to get accustomed to the spotlight, but said they had it down pat.
One major roadblock was an outbreak of stomach flu that affected some of the leads, but substitutions were made and it didnt affect the integrity of the show.
Now, Director Germanos will turn her full attention to the upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet, a joint venture between Severna Park High School and Broadneck High School that will be staged April 29 to May 1.
Be sure to check out our Rock n Roll Revival photo galleries by clicking here.
Behind the Scenes: Gary Tawes Talks Tech
By Ellen Kinsella
Every year for 22 years, the talented singers, dancers, and band members of Severna Park High Schools blockbuster production, Rock N Roll Revival, have enjoyed celebrity status in the community. However, some of the most critical elements of the production are executed by a less-visible group of workers: the tech crew, or techies.
Gary Tawes, an alumnus of SPHS, is the technical director of RNR, and has been involved in the production of the show for the entire 22 years it has existed. He has watched it grow from a seniors-only fundraiser in 1990, to the wildly popular 8-sold-out-shows production it is today.
When Tawes first got involved, the production was led by Tom McGown, the SPHS drama teacher at the time. They started planning and plotting in late 1989, with the first production hitting the spotlights in March of 1990. Tawes graduated from SPHS in 1982, but came back to help out with RNR and other plays during and after college.
Tawes explained that alumni play a very large role in the shows success. I have been fortunate to have many SPHS tech alumni come back each year and help with the show, he said. They work with the students, passing on what they learned in the past and help to shape the shows of today and tomorrow.
Tawes brother Brett is the lighting director for the show. Brett has also been involved with Rock N Roll since the beginning, said Tawes, first as a student; then he took over lighting director duties in the late 90s.
Since Tawes is an engineer by trade, he felt the need to add a creative person to his crew. We added Jenn White Zahirsky (SPHS and RNR alum) a few years ago as our set designer to give an artistic flair to the sets, he stated, so the added artistic vision has expanded the impact of the sets and the overall production.
Tawes wife, Mary, an SPHS alumna, works with Jenn for ideas. It helps to have a second set of eyes, and her 20-plus years of experience with Rock N Roll adds expertise also, he said. Proving beyond a doubt that RNR is a Tawes family affair, he told of his childrens involvement in the show. My kids have been part of RNR since they were born: first in playpens in the back of the auditorium; next my daughter dancing on stage in poodle skirt with the director's young kids; to running sound boards and spotlights, he said. (Tawes son is currently a sophomore at SPHS and his daughter is a sophomore at Frostburg State University.)
The technical production side of this show uses lighting, sound equipment, and techniques only found on the road and with professional venues, Tawes explained. Each year I am impressed by the students interest and ability to learn/contribute to the show, he stated. The tech-crew students work real hard for two months prior to rehearsal designing, building, and decorating the sets. Then we load-in the lighting and sound rigs from rental companies. We all install, check out, and test the systems for weeks - both during and around rehearsal - with the band and cast, he added.
Tawes summed up his impression of this years Rock N Roll Revival, Route 66 in one word: WOW! Each year we have put on a great show for the school and the community. Each year the students talent is further developed and showcased and each year, it just seems to get better and better, he complimented. Tawes loves his work with RNR, and feels it is a unique experience for students to get exposure and experience to the professional technical theatre/concert industry. We never had anything like this when I was a student in the stage crew, he admitted.
Perhaps the most wonderful phenomenon about this incredible show is how it brings students from all different interests together and gives them an opportunity to bridge the clique gap that is so predominant in high schools. After working closely hour after hour and week after week, kids from all social corners of the school become one big family jocks, geeks, artists, science types, and more.
The SPHS students - from tech, to band, to dancers, to singers - come together as a unified group to show the community that when high school students put their minds and energy to something, they can really produce. I know there is hope for our future, - concluded Tawes happily.