Marquette Wire

Ivy + Bean The Musical

Cast members encouraged to channel inner-child

%22Ivy+%2B+Bean%22+revolves+around+the+unexpected+friendship+between+the+two+title+characters.+

"Ivy + Bean" revolves around the unexpected friendship between the two title characters.

"Ivy + Bean" revolves around the unexpected friendship between the two title characters.

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Under the bright lights on the stage, Marissa Ellison’s character Bean opens the performance in “Ivy + Bean The Musical.” Since the main characters are supposed to be around six years old, Ellison, a sophomore in the College of Communication, said “pump(ing) yourself up” and bringing back the childlike energy is key when preparing to walk on stage.

“Ivy + Bean The Musical” opened last weekend and will continue performances Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m at Helfaer Theatre. The script, music and lyrics by Scott Elmegreen are based off Annie Barrows’ New York Times bestselling series “Ivy and Bean.” The show revolves around two titular characters and their journey through an unexpected friendship. Bean is a mischievous troublemaker and the center of attention among the kids who live in Pancake Court, while Ivy, played by Maddison Underberg, a freshman in the College of Communication, is the quiet new girl on the cul-de-sac who dreams of performing magical spells. The cast and crew has spent the past four months working to bring this show to life.

For the actors, acting as a child and giving a convincing performance was not as easy as it seemed. They found it a challenge to cast off adult concerns and responsibilities.

The musical’s director Niffer Clarke said she once told the cast members during a rehearsal to just “go play.” This simple command helped the actors obtain a firm grasp of their parts.

For Ellison, the stage is a chance to communicate with the audience. She said actor-audience dynamic is a little different in this case, since the audience is almost exclusively children.

“You have to engage the audience a little more,” Ellison said.  “They can laugh and talk at weird times. You have to keep the energy.”

Another challenge Ellison said is to focus.

“It’s a challenge not to go overboard,” Ellison said. “You have to keep in mind what’s your motivation and keep your performance honest.”

Clarke is aware of the pitfall as well.

“I try to make sure not to condescend or underestimate (the) kids and know that it’s important to keep them engaged in the story,” Clarke said.

A.J. Magoon, assistant to the artistic director, house manager and a junior in the College of Communication, agreed that working for a children’s musical requires a different frame of mind. He said “Ivy + Bean” is a lot shorter than a standard show and school matinees take the place of evening performances. The show is only an hour in length with no intermission. Magoon coordinates the bus arrivals and seating arrangements since most of the children seeing the afternoon shows come from nearby schools.

The cast took a pause from practicing during winter break and went back to rehearsals when break ended. Ellison said she knew that this could impede some of the progress they had made, but believes the cast did well in remembering the things they practiced before break.

Rehearsals started in October and Ellison and the cast have rehearsed the play over 20 times since then. Starting months in advance allows for the show to reach its highest potential, but it also brings a chance for a stale performance due to repetition. With the risk of a boring show, the actors’ ability to bring energy to each performance is even more impressive.

Theatre, with its long hours and endless performances, is a difficult job to complete but Ellison and Magoon both agree that the reward lies in the audience’s reaction.

“The reactions of the kids to the show are fantastic,” Magoon said.

Ellison and Clarke added that the close-knit theatre community is what makes the job worthwhile as well.

So much work and love is put into every production this department puts on, and this is no different,” Magoon said. “I think that’s why people come back time after time.”

 

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