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This year’s District 91 musical was canceled, but you can still watch it

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IDAHO FALLS — In March, local students in a “Beauty and the Beast” musical were told they wouldn’t be able to perform the day before opening night due to COVID-19 concerns. Now, family, friends and the public finally get to see it, but on YouTube.

Performing an annual musical is a 39-year-old tradition for Idaho Falls School District 91 students. But what was supposed to be one of the most successful shows in district history ended up taking an unexpected turn.

“It’s been a bad year for us. It’s been awful.” Music Office and Records Department Manager Sharon Cole said. “There were just tears, tears, tears. The show that had over 100 students involved was canceled the day before opening night. … It was kind of like a punch in the gut because we were one day away from opening.”

The cast was shocked.

‘Anger beyond belief’

“I was sitting in my science class. (When I got the news), I had to step out of the room, it was so hard to believe,” Alex Nottestad, a Skyline student, said.

Carter Bird, an Idaho Falls senior, had a similar reaction.

“I had to go out to my car and think about it. (My sister, who was also in the musical) got in, and we both just lost it,” he said.

Carter, who played Lumiere, was already having a rough senior year. Before the musical, he was excited to play soccer, only to find out he couldn’t due to hip surgeries. After finding out the musical wasn’t happening either, he was just mad.

“I felt anger beyond belief,” he said. “‘They can’t cancel it,’ I thought. ‘We have tried so hard. They just can’t cancel it.'”

Carter went home and started a petition to allow for one show for parents of the cast. In hours he had received hundreds of signatures. Still, the district stayed firm on its decision. Sharon said administrators were concerned for the safety of those at risk and about relatives who would come from out of state.

They had decided, however, that they would record a show for everyone to have. The district paid the fees to allow the recording to take place.

Making the best of the situation

Erin Kristina, the choreographer for the musical, said the timing was significant.

“Had we waited one more day, we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” she said.

The day they filmed their performance was the day it was announced that school buildings were being closed off.

Alex, who played LeFou, recalled the situation. “We got so lucky. I was all in my costume, makeup, everything, and I got the email that school was canceled for the rest of the week.”

The day of filming wasn’t filled with the same excitement and energy the cast would get from seeing a live audience, but director Sue Parrett was still glad they could do it.

“It was so much fun to see it all come together. What we got was the best representation of what we did. Things weren’t perfect, but they were as good as they could be at that point,” Parrett said. “Overall, I was super happy with it — not thrilled with the situation, but with the work everyone put into it.”

Parrett said she wanted to have something for her seniors.

“There has been a lot of loss, and they didn’t get to perform on their last time on the stage. At least they have something to remember the experience by,” she said.

Students like Carter, however, said that the typical show excitement just wasn’t there during that recording.

“We had done this a million times better … but that’s not what people get to see. The complications of filming alone was enough to dampen spirits,” he said. “It felt like everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.”

‘A stronger impact’

But despite all the hard times, the support the cast and crew received gave hope and comfort.

“The district has been absolutely wonderful about this,” Cole said. “I am so grateful for how supportive the public has been. … With all the bad that has happened, there has been a lot of good too, with the support of our district, community, parents, everybody.”

She said even though refund options were available to those who bought tickets, many people personally chose to donate the ticket money to help cover costs.

“It’s been amazing, all of the support that we have had from the community,” Parrett said. “Businesses to help sponsor this activity, the support of the parents, and the hard work and dedication of the kids was phenomenal. I am grateful for all the people who are supportive of it and for theater in the community. Some kids will never be a star on the field but can be on the stage.”

As for students like Carter and Alex, they won’t let disappointments like this stop them.

“I still have a love and a passion (for musical theater). This just made a stronger impact,” Alex said.

Carter said this experience taught him to live in the moment and appreciate the good times while he is in them.

“Corona has helped me realize that there is more to life than high school,” Carter said. “If you are always looking for the future to make you happy, you never will find it.”

You can watch their recorded performance here.

Top photo courtesy Erin Kristina.

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