By Betsy Tanenbaum
On Oct. 29, 2012, Tommy met Sandy – the storm that ravaged the Great Neck community. Though warnings had echoed through the news, South’s students, teachers, and the cast and crew of The Who’s Tommy had not anticipated that Sandy’s wrath would lead to almost two full weeks of school cancellations.
If Sandy’s impact was not enough, the nor’easter that struck Great Neck the following Wednesday, delayed the clean up process that had just begun. Not only did these two storms interfere with teachers’ lesson plans, but they also disrupted the last two weeks of rehearsals for Tommy. The loss of electricity and travel problems created by fallen trees interfered with the ability of the cast to complete their rehearsals. Whether the show would go on as planned, remained a question.
When Sandy hit, the cast and crew of The Who’s Tommy had already been rehearsing for the better part of two months and had completed learning all of Act 1 and part of Act 2. “They had learned some music, but not all of it; they had learned some of the dances, but not all of it; and they had learned some of the staging, but not all of it,” said the director, Mr. Tommy Marr.
Though Sandy’s destruction made it very difficult to travel the local roads during the first few days, the students took it upon themselves to reach out to local facilities, in the hope that space would be made available to accommodate their rehearsal needs. Little Neck Jewish Center, Temple Beth El, and the Great Neck Community Church opened their arms and welcomed the whole cast, also supplying them with food and water. “Every place was properly equipped with what we needed. We all felt extremely comfortable, and the hosts were so gracious,” said vocal director Dr. Pam Levy.
Even though alternative practicing facilities had been arranged, automobile travel was difficult due to the scarcity of gas. Despite this challenge, the students made it their priority to carpool to and from rehearsals. “The way this cast came together to rehearse and make sure our show would be the best it could be was astounding,” said Anoush Baghdassarian, president of Theatre South.
With rehearsals underway, there was one additional obstacle to overcome. According to Mr. Marr, “Postponement was considered unless we had the approval to practice at South because there is only so much you can do outside of your own space.” Cues needed to be added and perfected, the cast needed to rehearse with the pit, microphones needed to be set up, and set designs needed to be completed and hung up.
As with most theatre productions, the last week of rehearsal is typically chaotic. In Tommy’s case, however, it was even more stressful due to the storm-related circumstances. The students knew that they needed to pull together as a team to make the best out of their show. Dr. Levy said, “The show still would have been great despite any circumstance because the students here at South have created such a tradition of rising to the occasion – no matter what.”
Despite these obstacles, “the show did go on,” in the presence of large crowds who showed their appreciation in the form of rousing applause and standing ovations at the shows completion.