Maddison Behringer / THE GATEPOST
By Emily Rosenberg
Arts & Features Editor
As a plus-sized, nerdy history major, junior Meeghan Bresnahan figured she’d been typecast into older motherly roles for Hilltop productions. That was until she was called back and cast as the ambitious and determined lead Jo in the musical “Little Women” this January.
Finally having remembered all of her lines and lyrics to her songs after weeks of anxious preparation, Bresnahan said she felt heartbroken to learn she would not be performing as Jo in “Little Women.” The news came just the Tuesday before the intended show date, when it was announced Hilltop was not able to obtain the rights to produce a rendition of the musical.
With only two days until the originally planned show dates, April 22 and 23, they quickly arranged plans to showcase an “Impromptu Cabaret,” where cast members were able to sing two songs of their choice for the Framingham State community.
Although the cast was sad not to perform “Little Women,” the structure of the cabaret took away some of the stress of performing a traditional musical, said freshman English major Emma Lyons.
For example, she said the cast only rehearsed the set list a couple times on one night rather than having a week’s worth of tech rehearsals. In addition, some of the cast who were nervous about remembering lines and lyrics no longer had to do so.
Another part of the fun was being able to sing songs from favorite musicals and artists. Lyons sang “Part of That” from “The Last Five Years,” and “Before It’s Over” from the musical “Dogfight.”
Bresnahan sang “All You Wanna Do” from the Musical “Six” which she has always loved, and one of Jo’s main solos from “Little Women,” “Astonishing.”
Sophomore Elementary Education major Mandy Taylor performed “The Winner Takes It All” from “Mamma Mia” and “Anywhere But Here” from the “Pretty Woman” musical because she said they are two songs that fit her range perfectly, and she recently became obsessed with “Pretty Woman.”
Junior English major Elizabeth Walker sung the ABCs backwards and the “Quirky Worky” song from “Phineas and Ferb,” which is a back track consisting of the repetition of made up syllables such as “diddly” and “deedly.”
Walker, who was in love with “Little Women” the novel, had no previous experience performing in musicals and had only performed in plays.
“I’m not a very musical person,” Walker said. “I don't feel comfortable doing solos on the spot and I’m not very competent in my singing abilities. … So I just thought of some silly songs that I could do.”
Director and senior Communication Arts major Ashlyn Kelly said it was “hectic” putting a show together in two days, but her goal was to find a stress-free alternative that would “show off their talents” and display how they “all shine on stage.”
“I’m really proud of them,” Kelly said.
During the rehearsals for the original show, she said her favorite part of directing was seeing the friendships that were born from her casting.
“I had some freshmen in the cast, and now I see them hanging out all the time,” she added.
As Kelly is graduating during the upcoming commencement, she described her last production with Hilltop as “bittersweet.”
“I think I'm ready to go out into the real world. But I've made so many friends through Hilltop. And we had basically two years cut short because of the pandemic, which meant we couldn't really do Hilltop because theater is an in-person type of activity.”
She added, “Framingham State wasn't my first choice. I applied here as a backup school and I'm really glad that I ended up here and ended up in Hilltop because I've met some of my best friends there.”
She encouraged current Hilltop members to “continue doing what they're passionate about. If you have a lot of passion, you're going to create something great.”
It was also senior Food and Nutrition major and producer of the cabaret Melissa Palabyik’s last production with Hilltop and said it felt “unreal.” She said she felt like she was going to show up to rehearsal next week and no one would be there.
Palabyik’s role as producer included administrative work assisting the director and helping call the show from backstage, get props, and write down the blocking.
Palabyik said her favorite memory from the show was how all the members of the cast came up with a nickname for themselves which they used for captions on social media posts, “medium gals.” She said it showed the spirit and creativity of the cast.
Bresnahan said her favorite part of preparing for the show was the confidence she gained because she can “belt like crazy” when she is alone in her house, but tends to feel anxious when trying to do so for an audience. Because the cast made her so comfortable, she’s begun to belt on stage.
She added they had a lot of get-togethers in between rehearsals and got dinner together the night they did not have tech rehearsal due to the show being canceled.
Mandy Taylor also chimed in on the cast’s camaraderie. “I have never had so much fun working on a show before and as a group, we all clicked so quickly.”
She said one of her favorite rehearsals was when they were running a dance break section of one of the numbers and all forgot the steps.
“It was so funny because we were all kind of yelling at each other, while also laughing because the number was suddenly disastrous!”
“Every rehearsal was always full of laughs,” she said. “I love how supportive we all are of one another.”
[Editor’s note: Ashlyn Kelly is a News Editor and Emma Lyons is a Design Editor for the Gatepost.]