Star Follies 2009: a look behind the scenes

25 Mar 2009 - 6:19am

North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, by Kyle Magin

Keli Maiocco, Star Follies assistant director Kathie Goldberg, Mindy Wegener and student cast coordinator Karen Osborne are four of the people responsible for the success of Star Follies. Maiocco works with middle school students to teach them the dances, Wegener and Osborne work with high school and elementary school students, and Goldberg’s many responsibilities include contacting the entire cast, scheduling rehearsals and helping to cast the show, among others.

Keli Maiocco, Star Follies assistant director Kathie Goldberg, Mindy Wegener and student cast coordinator Karen Osborne are four of the people responsible for the success of Star Follies. Maiocco works with middle school students to teach them the dances, Wegener and Osborne work with high school and elementary school students, and Goldberg’s many responsibilities include contacting the entire cast, scheduling rehearsals and helping to cast the show, among others.
Bonanza Photo - Jen Schmidt

Star Follies founder and director Don Hertel teaches the full cast some cane choreography during “Puttin’ on the Ritz” earlier this month.

Star Follies founder and director Don Hertel teaches the full cast some cane choreography during “Puttin’ on the Ritz” earlier this month.
Bonanza Photo - Jen Schmidt

While the full student cast rehearses “Footloose,” student choreographers Mindy Wegener, Keli Maiocco and Karen Osborne discuss technical details during practice March 18.

While the full student cast rehearses “Footloose,” student choreographers Mindy Wegener, Keli Maiocco and Karen Osborne discuss technical details during practice March 18.
Bonanza Photo - Jen Schmidt

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The few hours of Star Follies performances April 3 and 4 don’t compare to the months of work put in ahead of the yearly lip synch show.

Costumes which have been well-thought out, picked up from Linda Offerdahl at Dress the Part(y) or ordered online to find that perfect rock and roll ensemble or glittery top.

The dance moves are practiced by the adults (if nothing else) and perfected by the students.

Lights, music and cast come together to provide an entertaining live show.

But, it doesn’t just happen.

The costumes are decided and purchased well ahead of time, Asst. Director Kathie Goldberg keeps a running cast list throughout the year and the show’s board of directors is constantly raising money for the show.

Show director Don Hertel crafts choreography for the adults — a feat in itself, given the abundance of left feet in the cast — while a trio of ladies — Karen Osborne, Mindy Wegener and Keli Maiocco — choreograph for the students.

Maiocco works with the middle school while Osborne and Wegener work with the elementary and high school students.

The choreography process starts in November — five months before the opening night — when the three get the music from Hertel for the upcoming show.

“We try to challenge the students as much as possible,” said Osborne, a 6-year Follies veteran with previous stage experience. “When we first get the music in November we’ll listen to it over and over again, then I’ll work it through with Mindy to figure out the dance moves.”

To keep it fresh, Osborne said, she’s turned to the Internet’s YouTube for dance ideas.

“After doing it for so many years I was running out of ideas and didn’t want the kids to get bored,” Osborne said.

Maiocco said she’s working on the choreography constantly, listening to the songs in her car for a solid month and putting them together piece by piece.

“Once we get the music I listen to it over and over again,” Maiocco said. “First I’ll do the choruses and go step by step from there. I’m a very visual thinking so I’m imagining how it will look constantly.”


 

Wegener said working through the choreography from scratch is the toughest part of the process.

“Generally Karen is our idea person,” Wegener said. “When we first get the music she’ll start to brainstorm what some of the props could be and we go on from there.”

Wegener said the routine varies from the elementary school’s fifth graders, who are performing for the first time, to the high school’s students, some of who are on shows no. 4 or 5.

“For the elementary kids we try to tell a story, and the high school is more centered around the dancing,” Wegener said.

Osborne said the moves for the elementary have gotten much more complex over her years of participation with the show.

“At first I was a little soft on them, especially with the elementary kids,” Osborne said. “They get so much better every year that now I’ve made it nearly impossible for the next show to top the last one, they’re that good.”

Wegener said the elementary students have a remarkable ability to handle the choreography and rarely have major problems with it.

Each of the three takes the completed choreography back to their respective groups and teaches the dance moves — sometimes to surprising results.

“My favorite part is watching the kids blossom, I’m in tears backstage at the end of the show every year just from watching how far they’ve come,” Osborne said. “Sometimes we’ll take a very shy kid and give them a lead. After the show the parents will come up to me and ask me how we got them out of their shell.”

Some of the most shy end up with leads in the show, and choreographing a lead is something that requires a little give and take, Maiocco said.

“I’ll usually work with them a little, but they go up their with their free spirit and add some of their own stuff,” Maiocco said.

The final step, Osborne said, are for the three sets of students to come together and work on the all-cast numbers.

Then, it’s off to the show, the crowning event of months of work.

“When I see them up there, I’m just full of pride,” Maiocco said.

 

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