Murder! Oh, yes. Right on campus. On April 21-23, in the Watertown-Mayer High School Performing Arts Center, resident thespians performed “Curtains: High School Edition.”

The show is a hilarious murder mystery that takes place in a theater in Boston as the characters rehearse a show within the show.

It’s the second musical performed by Watertown-Mayer students this year. “Mamma Mia” was performed in November using a soundtrack. “We wanted to give the orchestra pit an opportunity to perform this year,” said director Joyce Peterson. “This show features a fun and lively score.”

The show also featured a multi-faceted cast. Most of the students also participate in athletics, speech, Business Professionals of America, and mock trial. Four of the cast members – Jadyn Aldrich, Maggi Flynn, Elliana Fritz, and Maddy Tax (choreographer) – competed at the state speech tournament this year. This meant they could not perform in the Saturday matinee show. Maddy Tax, Charlotte Becker, Maris Heun, Anja Gilbert, and Maria Meadower will be competing in the national mock trials on May 6, after taking first place at the state competition. In March, Claire Brandenberg and Eric Costello competed at the state Business Professionals of America convention.

With cast members having so many different interests and activities, getting people together to rehearse was a little tricky. Once they got together, Peterson said the rehearsals were typically light-hearted, “especially with Lonne Gilbert in the cast providing endless laughs.” Peterson added, “At break time, it’s not uncommon to have Jack Peterson playing the piano with students gathered around, singing a Billy Joel song or something about muppets.”

It’s springtime, so that means it’s band and choir concert season at Watertown-Mayer High. The band and choir needed to use the stage in the Performing Arts Center, so the “Curtains” crew had to rehearse in the choir room.

The drama students in the choir room, and the choir students in the drama room? Oh, the horror... Peterson said, “This shortened schedule on stage was definitely a challenge.”

She said, “It’s fun to see the shift in energy when we move out of the choir room and onto the stage. There’s an energy that comes. It progressively builds with each phase... sets and lighting, then costumes, hair and makeup, and once there’s an audience you can feel the energy. It’s amazing to watch it all come together!”

It’s a long process. Auditions were held in February. At that point, the students didn’t know the music from “Curtains,” so they just sang the national anthem as an audition piece. That way, vocal director David Najjar could have an opportunity to hear the student’s vocal range.

Senior students were given priority for most roles, especially if they had previous theatre experience. And the nice thing about Watertown-Mayer’s drama department is this: they don’t cut people. “If a student is interested,” said Peterson, “we want to make sure we give them an opportunity.”

The school is very supportive of theatre. As an institution, it encourages students to explore all of the arts opportunities available. Peterson said, “It’s really great to see the variety of interests the students have. With their varied interests, you would think they would not gel together, but once on stage, they become a big family. They are a really tight knit group.”

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