The Butler didn’t Do it


Mystery. Suspense. Murder. That’s only a small glimpse of what was shown through the Nixa theater department’s musical this year.
The fall musical was “Something’s Afoot,” a story based on a small group of people getting an invitation to an island, only to be welcomed with an unexpected surprise.
Allison Fleetwood, the theater director at NHS, said she was excited to choose a different type of musical.
“A small amount of people get an invitation to Lord Rancour’s mansion only to find out he is dead,” Fleetwood said. “They are trapped on the island because of a rainstorm and everyone had ulterior motives to blackmail him or get his money. Now that he’s dead, it unfolds to where people die off left and right by traps left by him.”
A murder mystery was a mysterious choice for the fall musical. Fleetwood said it promoted opportunity and creativity in the cast and crew.
“It’s a funny show. It’s a murder mystery and it was going to go on around Halloween, so it gave our tech crew a time to be creative with the deaths and fun effects,” Fleetwood said. “We’ve got some funny comedians who took the opportunity and the show was useful in growing them as a person.”
The cast didn’t exactly know what the musical was at first and how to react to it, but after they ran through it, they began to enjoy it.
“At first they were like, ‘What is this?’ Because normally when I announce a fall show, it’s big titles that everyone knows,” Fleetwood said. “The kids didn’t know how to react at first but once we did the first go through they reacted well to it.”
Fleetwood said there were only slight changes in the audition process that were different from previous years.
“The audition process was a little different,” Fleetwood said. “We taped off a square on the stage for students to stand in and sing so they kept plenty of distance. We also had kids sign up in advance for auditions and did temperature checks in the hallways.”
A noteworthy part of the cast was that there were two of them instead of just one.
“It was really fun, I loved working and getting the chance to do the show with multiple different people,” senior Rosalyn Schuster said, who played Mrs. Tweed. “There were so many people I loved working with and I could give you a long list of everybody’s names.”
The two casts in “Something’s Afoot” gave more students a chance to be in the musical because of it being a smaller one.
“I would never normally do a show this small because our program is large, but it gave me the opportunity to do something new with my kids,” Fleetwood said. “I only had 10 kids, so I decided to double cast it and have twenty kids in total.”
Fleetwood said the casts were excellent in preparing and creating a great show.
“Being back with the kids was great. We’d been apart for so long and I missed working with the students on stage and creating art,” Fleetwood said.
Despite the cast and crew success in preparing the fall musical, there were still some setbacks because of COVID-19.
“Dancing and singing with a mask on is very difficult,” junior Kade Gaunt said, who played Geoffrey. “We also had a bit of trouble with projection with our voice because we were slightly muffled with the masks.”
Fleetwood said they had to be very flexible and careful regarding the COVID-19 situation, and it seemed each week was a new challenge.
“The stress was wearing because you never knew what would happen next,” Fleetwood said. “One week was a success and then you were like, ‘okay, let’s see what happens next week.’”
Unlike past fall musicals when there was more time, COVID-19 limited the time they would normally spend preparing for the musical.
“We performed the show quicker this year because we didn’t know what would happen with the COVID situation,” Fleetwood said. “Instead of usually having 12 weeks to prepare, we did six weeks.”
Though dealing with COVID-19 is considered the new normal, Schuster said it was odd learning how to perform and act with its setbacks for the musical.
“It was weird in the beginning because at rehearsals we always wore a mask and the biggest problems were hearing and projecting,” Schuster said. “Also, acting with only the top half of your face was a fun experience.”
Schuster said there were times she felt anxious about contracting COVID-19 because of times the cast was unmasked.
“I was nervous about it because we were unmasked for some short periods of time, but everyone was always diligent wearing the masks when they weren’t on stage next to each other,” Schuster said. “I trusted [that everyone] I was performing with were being careful outside of school and not going to parties or anything like that.”
After the actors were done on stage, they were required to immediately remask.
“The stagecraft class made hooks on every single exit of the stage where you could put your mask on and off to better follow COVID safety precautions,” Gaunt said.
Even with COVID-19, the cast had a lot of fun with the show and made memories that they will remember for a long time.
“The last night of the show was by far my favorite part,” Gaunt said. “We went on stage with the mentality that we didn’t have anything to lose and we were going to make it our best night. There was lots of funny improvisation that came from it, and that made it special for me.”
Fleetwood was grateful for the opportunity to perform a fall musical this year.
“I’m thankful that we were able to do this and that everyone was understanding,” Fleetwood said. “[The cast and crew] wanted a performance and they want the program to be successful so they are willing to do everything they can to get it done.”
Gaunt said he formed lots of connections with the different casts and crew throughout the show.
“I grew a big connection with everybody,” Gaunt said. “People I already had connections with grew bigger and there were some people I didn’t even know in the beginning.”
For Schuster, this was an emotional play that will hold a special place in her heart as she moves on with the next chapter of her life.
“Every year we do speeches at the end of every show,” Schuster said. “I really like this quote from Winnie the Pooh because I feel like it reflected my experience with theater and the shows these past four years. ‘I’m lucky to have something that makes it hard to say goodbye.’”