McALISTERVILLE - When Juniata Mennonite School drama students asked to perform their first musical, they had no idea they'd be acting in a brand-new production.
Classics like "The Sound of Music" were ruled out because they either required too large of a cast or another local school had already picked the production.
After examining the options, Principal Andy Meiser and school parent Skip Kline came up with a new idea - to write their own musical.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Juniata Mennonite School students, from left, Beth Mayes, Natalie Sander, Jerome Kerchner, Scott Meiser, Sarah Rosner and Aaro Felker, rehearse for the school’s first musical, ‘Opposite.’ The story centers on a young man who has made a series of bad choices and has fallen on hard times and ends up in a homeless shelter where a couple of vagrants take him under their wing. The musical will be performed at 6:30 p.m. May 15 and 16 at Cedar Grove Brethren in Christ Church, on Deerville Road, in Mifflintown.
Meiser, who already wrote several plays for JMS, and Kline, a musician who owns and operates a recording studio in Beavertown, put their heads together and, in less than seven months, wrote an original musical named "Opposite."
The story centers on a young man who has made a series of bad choices and has fallen on hard times, Kline said. He ends up in a homeless shelter where a couple of vagrants take him under their wing; then they try to help him turn his life around by doing the opposite of what comes naturally to him, he said.
The musical will be performed at 6:30 p.m. May 15 and 16 at Cedar Grove Brethren in Christ Church, on Deerville Road, Mifflintown. There is no cost for tickets, but an offering will be taken to benefit the school Drama Club.
Like most musicals, "Opposite" has elements of romance, comedy, intrigue and action, Meiser said. "It'll keep you guessing until the end."
"Opposite" includes nine original compositions sung live to a pre-recorded, fully orchestrated track, Kline said. The local musician wrote 10 songs for the musical, but one was cut for time, he said.
The preliminary ideas for the musical were planned out in November, Meiser said.
However, Kline said he had two songs written before the musical was even conceived. Although they did not structure the musical around the songs, they seemed to fit with the theme of the drama, he said.
Much of Christmas break was spent writing and editing the script, Meiser said.
The writers admit the task of writing the musical was impossible - without God, that is.
"When you feel God working and moving to communicate a message through this medium, it's timeless," Meiser said. "We really can't take the credit for that - to write a whole musical from November to May."
In Kline's business, the amount of "bleeding" it takes to write a song - let alone nine songs - is painful, he said. However, Kline credits his ability to "painlessly" write the original compositions to God.
"It fell into place musically, lyrically," Kline said. "And we tried to keep everything in the bounds of what JMS really stands for. God just really provided it."
The equations for a musical includes more than just three, though. Students, parents, grandparents, teachers and many others have contributed to the musical in some way.
"I really appreciate the kids for having faith in us, because we've never done this before," Meiser said. "(The students) have been great putting in their time. Some of the lead roles have a lot of lines."
The students also have offered constructive criticism to the two writers, Meiser said.
More importantly, the student actors also formed a prayer group for the musical, Kline added.
The group identified these key issues to pray for: energy and excitement, excellence and selflessness.
Kline said he was amazed by the maturity and humility of the students. Rather than saying, "Here's my chance to shine on stage," the students chose a focus of selflessness, Kline said.
"They understand the much bigger picture. That's where the focus is. I don't see anyone doing it for their glory. They're doing it to glorify God."
The writers gave the rights to the musical to the school, Kline said. If it should be sold and performed by others, any proceeds from the sale will be given to JMS "to future God's kingdom," he said.