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Shugart takes up baton for Northwood's spring musical

By Gina Harrison
Posted Thursday, March 26, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - Unlike the characters they portray, the Northwood actors traveling Into the Woods are not required to make the trip completely on their own. One of the members of the production team along for the journey is Music Director Marilyn Shugart. She is there not only to keep them on pitch but to teach them the complicated musical path they must travel in this complex work by Stephen Sondheim.

Before joining the NHS Faculty last fall as Northwood’s new Choral Instructor, Shugart taught at both the elementary school and college level in Pensacola, Florida. In addition she served on the Board of Directors of the Choral Society of Pensacola. She has extensive experience not only as a soloist, but as a music director, chorus mistress and conductor in musical theatre and classical concert repertoire with the University of West Florida, the Pensacola Little Theater, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, and the Pensacola Opera. In addition to teaching choral classes and serving as Music Director and Conductor for the spring musical, she also teaches Intro to Theatre classes and Guitar, a new NHS offering this year.

Q: After joining the NHS Arts Ed department in July, you hit the ground running with this ambitious production. Is it true that Dr. Carlin’s choice of this work was one of the things that attracted you to Northwood?

Shugart: Yes, it is true! In addition to this musical being my second favorite EVER (West Side Story is first), I also thought that to choose such a difficult piece, Northwood High School must have a strong theatre department and tradition, with students who were both capable, and willing, to take on such a challenge.

Q: What is the rehearsal schedule like for a production of this size?

Shugart: I started working with the cast on the music at the beginning of December 2008. It is very complicated music, both musically and linguistically; translation: lots of words and lots of notes.

Q: This is a completely different kind of production than last year’s Grease!, not only for the singers, but for the musicians in the pit as well. I’ve heard you say this work is much closer to operetta than traditional musical theatre. What is the most challenging part of teaching this work to high school performers? And performing it?

Shugart: The most challenging part of teaching the music, to any level performer, is that the intervals between the notes in this music are hard to hear, especially with the underlying accompaniment not supporting the actor/singer(s) ability to HEAR the notes anywhere. The music is very dissonant....Sondheim at his best. It is more like operetta in that there are really very few speaking lines that are not set to music, and the music is much more sophisticated than middle of the road musical theatre. If a performer can “nail” this show, they can perform anything else that is in the musical theatre repertoire.

Make plans now to join the cast and crew on their adventure. The NHS Production of Into the Woods runs March 26-28 at 7 o'clock in the evening in the Benjamin J. Lee Auditorium on the Northwood High School campus in Pittsboro. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and children under 5.

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Shugart takes up baton for Northwood's spring musical
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