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Sherman students perform original musical

November 2, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

SHERMAN - It ain't Shakespeare well, actually it kind of is. And just like many of the Bard's plays, the characters are drawn from real life.

On Oct. 21 and 22, Sherman Central School District students proudly performed the original musical, "Love Letters Are So 2000," written by Sherman's own music teacher Andrew Minton. The musical was directed by Minton and Sherman Elementary choir teacher Sally Berg.

The musical is loosely based on one of Shakespeare's early comedies, "Love's Labour's Lost," Minton said. In that play, the king of Navarre and three companions swear to avoid the company of women for three years. It is largely believed that the four main characters were based on historical figures.

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Photo by David Prenatt
The cast of “Love Letters Are So 2000,” an original musical at Sherman Central School District, receives a standing ovation from the audience at Friday evening’s performance.

Minton's musical follows the same pattern. It relates the story of three junior high friends at Mojito High School who begin the school year by swearing off anything to do with girls. Of course, this causes great frustration and ire among the girls, who wish that the boys would grow up a bit, he said.

It's not long at all, however, before the boys start experiencing strange feelings themselves. Jacob dreams of rescuing the princess from ninjas, just like his video game, only to find that she is his lifetime friend, Faith. George gets knocked out and sees himself being lovingly cared for by Rebekah. And Cory discovers that his online gaming friend is none other than his classmate, Jade.

Independent of each other, the boys write love letters to the intended amours, but the letters get mixed up and go to the wrong girls. When the boys express their affections before the whole school at a Mojito Mosquito pep rally, everyone is thrown into a confusing swirl of emotions.

Minton said he decided to write his own musical largely because he could not find one that would really feature the students. "I wanted a musical that would highlight three senior boys, but I did not like a lot of the content I was finding in a lot of the musicals," Minton said. "I finally said: 'You know what? I'm going to write my own.'"

Minton, who teaches grades 5 12, said he gets to see many levels of maturity and growth. The students, particularly in junior high, are always doing interesting things, he said. "I've got a lot of inspiration in front of me daily," Minton said. "I thought: let our kids play themselves for once."

Minton said he wrote the plot with the students in mind. He did not hold auditions for parts, but rather he determined who would play each part, he said. "I asked them if they were okay with this and they all said yes."

A unique feature of this musical is that nearly all of the characters have the same name as the student playing them. "I didn't like the names I was making up, so I said: Everybody is going to have their own name," Minton said. Only two characters have different names, he said.

Minton said he left room in the plot for the students to interpret and develop their characters. "I wrote the music and script, but a lot of things I left with a question mark. Then I let the kids finish them off. It empowered them," he said. "They've taken it and run with it."

After the opening night performance, Minton said he was thrilled with the production. "The kids were great," he said. "They were unbelievable. They own the show."

Sherman senior George Burkett said he was "exhilarated" after the opening night performance. ""I'm so full of emotion. It was great to work with Mr. Minton all this year such a blessing. You can tell that he really cares about us."

Cory Abata, also a senior, said the thing he liked most about the musical was how the students were actually involved in developing their characters. "Just the fact that we got a lot of input as we worked on the musical," he said. "He (Minton) wanted us to work on it so it was really our musical."

Minton said the most enjoyable thing about writing the musical was

"seeing something I had done actually come to life." He is most appreciative of the feedback from Berg, his family and the students. "Everybody is in this with me," he said.

The most challenging task was writing the script, Minton said. "Songwriting is a passion and hobby of mine, so that was easy," he said. "As far as the script, I had in my head what I wanted, but then you have to fill it in when to put in a joke, when to be serious or where to put this song," he said. "I had to let it flow, and I just kept tying the pieces together."

On Friday evening, the auditorium was full. The audience laughed and enjoyed the musical throughout, showing their appreciation by a standing ovation at the end. Marcy Park, grandmother of Rebekah Lee, summed it up best.

"I thought it was adorable," she said.



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