Showbiz, Baby!

By Haley Rey, Associate Editor

Photos from:,, and

This weekend, McKendree’s music and theatre departments will present the musical comedy First Date. This show is just under two months in the making, showcasing the talent of several Bearcats. It’s about two single people meeting for a blind date set up by their friends and family. The two are haunted by both past and current anxieties, which are playfully shown in musical numbers performed by the other patrons in the restaurant. 

Onstage, you will find JD Lindley, Elizabeth Coady, Bradley Eston, Jade Heuer, Samantha Elling, Lilia De Oliveira Palaez, Elizabeth Birkner, Amanda Morgan, and Kelly Damann. In the band you will find Jessica Anderson, Jason Weaver, Guy Cantonwine, Andre Sonner, and Cameron Nollman.

Each actor has prepared in many ways; this isn’t an easy show. There are many musical numbers, so on top of late-night rehearsals, the actors have had to prepare solos and group performances with Dr. John McDonald and Jessica Anderson from the music department. They have also had to learn the lines and vibes of several different characters, with the exception of the actors playing the two main characters (who have just as many lines to learn). In addition to this, the actors that play more than one character have several onstage costume changes to pull off. They each have a base costume, adding props and clothing articles to become their new characters. Getting into the mindset of one character sounds hard enough, but to play two or more characters and seamlessly switch between them is incredible. 

Classes, work, sports, social life, rehearsals—these actors are dedicated. They have to be able to sing, act, subtly change costumes on stage, memorize countless lines in just a few weeks, and balance their schedules. Could you do it?

The work for a show doesn’t stop there! Other preparations made are seldom thought about by the average audience member. The Hett Tech crew, led fearlessly by Doug Magnussen and Julia Hunt, put together the glamorous set and lighting plot, which you can see this very weekend! The lighting plot, which is often overlooked because of how flawless it is for most Hett shows, pulls together the perfect energy for the story on the stage. The set required a large bar, a restaurant setting, and a place for the onstage band to play. That’s right—the music is LIVE! The band has worked very hard to perfect the numbers they perform alongside the actors. Clearly, this musical is a team effort. 

Other background preparations and responsibilities include those of the show’s crew members, who step into the picture a mere week before the show debuts. They have to learn their show cues—whether they be sound, lighting, or backstage cues—in a very small window of time. It’s very impressive to see everything come together in the end. 

On my own, I have seen this show assemble in a beautiful way. Although I’m not in it, I was given many opportunities to help out. My graphic design class, taught by Kevin Kao, put together posters for the show that you may have seen around campus by now. My Costume & Makeup class helped a bit with ideas for costumes in the show, taught by show director and costumer Michelle Magnussen. I’ve been able to help build and paint parts of the set since I work at the Hett. My theatre practicum responsibility was to hunt for props, so I was also able to learn more about that rather fun process. The closer we’ve gotten to opening night, the more this has felt like the last episode of Stranger Things season one; everyone did their own thing for a while, but then they came together as a team and kicked some serious ass. 

This ass-kicking would not be possible if not for the tireless efforts of our director, Michelle Magnussen. She has worked for McKendree since 2006 and has put together many shows for students, faculty, and Lebanon residents to enjoy. The art that comes from McKendree should be celebrated by our students, staff, family, and friends. Much of that celebration should regard the Magnussens and their dedication to this university for the last 15 years. 

The work that goes into show production is hardly ever completely understood by the audience that watches the final product. Nevertheless, without an audience, there is no one to give the gift of art to. So, come and see the show this weekend. Performances will be held on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are free, and you can reserve them here. 

See you there!

3 thoughts on “Showbiz, Baby!

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  1. This sounds like fun! They should stream the last show for family, friends and alumni to watch. Great article!!!

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