Live theater returns with a Brandeis tradition: The 24-Hour Musical

Photo/Mike Lovett

Rehearsals for this year's 24-hour musical, "Camp Rock."

Junior Maddy DuLong will be bringing the student perspective to BrandeisNOW for the 2021-2022 academic year.

It’s just before 8 p.m. on a Saturday, and the Shapiro Campus Center is buzzing.

The members of the Undergraduate Theater Collective and everyone who auditioned for Brandeis' annual 24-Hour Musical are gathered in the SCC theater to anxiously await the announcement of what show they would be performing the very next night.

When the clock strikes 8, the leaders of the Undergraduate Theater Collective will announce this year’s production choice. Then the race against the clock begins.

President of the Undergraduate Theater Collective Emma Johnston ’22 and vice president Kat Lawrence ’22 entertained the crowd and kept the noise at bay in the minutes before the announcement. At 8 on-the-dot, they were joined by other senior members of the collective to perform a skit featuring snippets from various musicals like “Legally Blonde,” “Annie,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

In a grand finale, they ripped their sweatshirts off to reveal t-shirts with unmistakable bold black lettering against a bright orange background: “CAMP ROCK.” The audience erupted into cheers, clapping, and laughter. Almost immediately after, the side discussions begin. The cast and crew of more than 100 Brandeis students has an incredibly busy 24 hours ahead of them.

The 24-Hour Musical is a fall semester tradition at Brandeis organized by the Undergraduate Theater Collective. The premise is simple: The musical is announced one night, the cast and crew rehearse, build, design, and assemble everything within 24 hours, and then perform the musical the very next night. 

It may sound easy enough to just throw a bunch of ideas together and call it a day, but seeing the time, energy and effort put into this show firsthand, I now understand why it takes weeks or even months to put on a regular theater performance.

I wasn’t there for the entire 24 hours (for good reason!) but I was poking around for long enough to see how much effort and energy is put in by every single cast and crew member during that day. 

Photo/Mike Lovett

Crew members build the set leading up to Sunday night's performance.

Walking past the SCC on Sunday afternoon, I could see cast members dancing in various rooms through the windows. The ensemble in the atrium practiced group numbers, the crew in the theater wenyt over lighting and sound cues, and put together the sets and costumes. Up close, the cast and crew looked exhausted, yet still somehow pulsing with lively energy. 

Finally, the time came for the show to begin. Everyone in the audience could tell that the cast was having a great time, despite their lack of sleep. Of course, there the show had its fair share of technical difficulties, missed lines and cues, and wrong dance moves, but that’s part of the fun, and the cast took it all in stride. Knowing they only had one day to get everything together, it was fantastic.

The audience was full of laughter and loud reactions. Singing could be heard throughout the theater at any given time. I’ll admit, I even sang along a little during my personal favorite song (“Introducing Me,” for anyone wondering). 

Laya Fridman ’25 was incredible playing Mitchie, as well as Sam Newman ’23, Diego Robles ’24, and Nico Miller ‘24 as the band Connect 3, played originally by the Jonas Brothers. With such a huge ensemble cast, the choreography and singing was incredibly impressive. It was hard to believe it all came together in in a day. 

After the show, President Emma Johnston took the stage to say how proud she was of the cast and the record breaking number of auditions they had, as well as how this was her dream for her senior year and she couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out. 

Seeing Emma tear up in front of everyone, and hearing the sincerity in her voice, it became clear how close this group is, how much she truly cares about every member there, and how proud she was of what they created together. 

Esther Daube-Valois ’23, vice president of the musical and communications director of the UTC could not have been more proud of what they had put together.

“After months of planning and hours of meetings, the production staff did not know what to expect from our return to live theater. From the moment the cast and crew walked into the theater, the energy was amazing,” she said. 

“Camp Rock” was the UTC’s first live production in almost 2 years and the largest 24-hour production ever, with more than 100 people involved. The show offered an energy and positive spirit that was a refreshing change from the past year of Zoom performances (although this performance was available on zoom as well.) Every single person in that theater Sunday night was unquestionably having a great time. 

“We were awed by the cast and crew's resilience to push through the chaos of the night and continuously respect our COVID protocols,” Daube-Valois said. “We are so happy with the turnout - a full SCC Theater with almost 250 audience members, a lively group in the atrium and MPR (Multi-Purpose Room) and a great zoom outcome.”

Theater is back at Brandeis and with this energetic start to the season, I can only imagine what the rest of the live productions we will see in the coming months will look like.

Categories: Arts, Student Life

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