The inside scoop on this year’s hit musical

This was written by a student in the Introduction to Journalism class

Jordan Aviles, Introduction to Journalism Writer

Thanks to one particular Rustler staff member, the 1958 musical South Pacific made the tropics of WWII come alive on stage at C.M. Russell High School in early December.

“I scream at everyone equally so no one feels left out,” Steve Olson said. Olson is the C.M. Russell High School orchestra teacher, and the musical director for the drama department’s most recent musical. Olson says that he was there for every single rehearsal, start to finish. This “creates a nice connection between the cast and myself, and it just makes it more fun that way.” He said he worked with the orchestra less than he does with the cast because there’s less time for rehearsals with the orchestra.

“It’s really cool, the show that we have put together, because it’s all students,” he said. The entire cast, crew, and orchestra is made up of Rustler students. Olson thinks the show could be mediocre, but it wasn’t because the students had worked so hard to put it all together.

“I expect the same out of both groups, that they work really hard and that they practice,” Olson said. Olson says he has more trouble dealing with vocal technique than anything else. He is a singer, but he said it’s nice to have Chris Kloker there to help him. Kloker is the band teacher at C. M. Russell High School and also played in the South Pacific orchestra. He’s a trained singer and was at every rehearsal with Olson to help him with the singing aspect of the musical. With the help of Kloker and Chris Evans, the show’s director, Olson taught teenagers how to act, play, sing, and have fun when in a musical. 

Both Olson and members of the cast and orchestra admit that the musical director works differently with the orchestra than he does with the cast. 

Although Olson would know best, David Miller thinks differently about how his musical director treats the different groups.

“A lot of the work on the musical that needs to be done gets done with Olson,” said Miller, a junior and one of the musical’s lead roles. Miller played Emile De Beque in South Pacific. This is his first time working with Olson, and only the second show he’s been in. Miller says he likes working with Olson because he gets things done. 

“The range intended for Emile De Becque is lower than what I typically sing in choir,” Miller said. David likes singing, but he had trouble with it in this musical. He said that they actually had to bump up an entire section of his singing material because he couldn’t go that low.

“I love working with a live orchestra; I think it’s really fun and a cool opportunity and experience,” Miller said. He’s never sung in a musical before, let alone with a live orchestra. He thinks Olson is a lot harsher on the orchestra than he is on the cast. 

Like Miller, Gail Parambi has been enjoying the full South Pacific experience.

“I think it’s been a really positive experience,” said Parambi, a senior and the concertmaster for this show. She played in the Sound of Music last year, which was one of her favorite musicals. Parambi thinks that the hardest part of playing in a musical is the transition between pieces. 

“When you’re practicing at home, you can play with the recording of the pieces or whatever. But playing right next to these live vocalists and they’re just singing or they’re acting or they’re talking and having to play through that is sometimes really hard to concentrate,” Parambi said. She also has trouble focusing in the middle of pieces sometimes. However, she’s really glad to have been chosen to play in this year’s musical again. 

“I think with the vocalists it’s about fitting to them a lot of the times. Keeping them on track but also conforming to what they do. Whereas with the orchestra, we have to follow his lead and conform to the vocalists as well,” she said. Parambi thinks Olson probably has to work differently with each group. 

“I think he knows [the orchestra] better,” she said. Parambi said she doesn’t know exactly how Olson works with the cast and vocalists. She assumes, however, that Olson would probably have to work with them in a different way since he works with most of the students in the orchestra daily. 

While Olson isn’t the only staff member or adult working on this musical, he definitely pulled the musical aspect together really well. Although he works differently with each group, everyone can agree that he teaches each individual attentively so every student knows what they’re doing.