Setting the stage – Oak Bay High gears up for period musical

Cast members Brian Archdekin

Cast members Brian Archdekin

Being the older sister of two younger brothers has helped one Oak Bay High student prepare for her role in the school’s upcoming theatre production.

“Being mean and controlling is quite natural for me,” said Millie O’Brien, 17. She plays the role of a hotel owner turned white slave trader in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie.

O’Brien is part of one of the largest casts in the school’s history, with 45 students hitting the stage. Another 15 are working as stage hands and 15 on costumes and makeup. A 21-piece student orchestra will accompany the musical numbers for the production, which tells the story of a young woman making her way in 1920s New York. 

It’s the first time for teacher Steven Price in the director’s chair. Previously he’s organized set design and the orchestra, but he decided to give directing a try this year.

“As long as I keep one step ahead of everything, I’m good,” he said.

To create a hotel scene, a stairway leading to the stage in the aging theatre was dismantled and a wall altered. A balcony was built three metres up, the better for characters to gaze upon the city.

“We’ve been taking advantage of the old facility by putting a few holes in the wall here and there, doing things we won’t be able to do in the new school,” Price said.

All 21 songs from the 2002 stage adaptation of the original 1967 Universal Pictures film will be performed in the musical.

It’s a classic girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy plot, featuring a foiled abduction attempt, a good-hearted villain and a happy ending. It’s a production the students wanted to perform, Price said. 

“The great thing is, the kids who are here want to be here – there’s no coercion.” 

Students have been rehearsing since October.

“I’m just glad I got to do such a good show in my last year,” said O’Brien, who is set to graduate this spring. 

Thoroughly Modern Millie runs Feb. 28 to March 4, with a matinée on the last day. Tickets are $12 each or $10 for students and seniors and are available at the school. For more information, call 250-598-3361. 

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com