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Virtual Broadway

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The theater doors might be locked and the curtain drawn tight, but for Upper Room Theatre Ministry, the show must go on — or rather, go online.

The award-winning ministry of All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas will livestream its first virtual production July 24 at 7:30 p.m. Appropriately titled "No One is Alone," the free online show is a Broadway tribute celebrating almost 19 years as a ministry as a way to merge faith and theater.

According to Youth Minister Robert Tessier, the production team originally secured the rights to “West Side Story” for this year. When the coronavirus quarantine began in March, he and his team decided to save that musical for another time. After viewing some virtual performances by celebrities during the pandemic’s early days, Tessier and Music Director Chris Zavadowski were encouraged to go virtual with a show  highlighting past productions including “Les Misérables,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Godspell,” “Peter Pan,” “Hello, Dolly!,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Into the Woods.”

The title, “No One is Alone,” is inspired by Scripture, in 1 Corinthians 12, in which St. Paul writes about spiritual gifts and the unity of the members of Christ in one body.

“We thought that in the difficult times that even though we are in separate places no one really is alone. We are all in this,” said Tessier. “All of us have our own ways that we can enhance and improve the lives around us through this project. We can combat the divisiveness out there and focus on unity.”

After auditions and casting, the team met on a Zoom video conference call with 49 performers, 18 musicians and their professional creative team to lay out the plan. Over the following weeks, the pair worked with the different groups and actors online to direct them where and when to look during their parts, so it appeared they were interacting. Each actor was then sent the music and tasked with recording themselves with a smartphone.

“They were instructed to keep the phone on its highest resolution, a certain distance away and to pack their space with as many pillows as possible,” said Tessier.

After more than 1,000 hours of work, all of the performers managed to finalize their videos at the beginning of July. The more than 300 video files were then sent to Dan Martin, an All Saints parishioner and audio professional, to polish the audio. The files were then sent to Holy Trinity parishioner Matt Moore and his video editing team to produce it.

Of course when it comes to any Upper Room Theatre production, the music is just the tip of the iceberg. The July 24 production also will include comedy acts and feature guest speakers such as Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke, who will speak about the ministry’s history and mission. Proceeds from the annual productions usually raise $30,000, which funds more than 290 youth ministry activities, such as mission trips to Bánica, Dominican Republic, and local outreach projects.

While this year’s production will be free to view online, the ministry is hoping the audience will donate to its capital campaign. Prior to opening night, more than $7,000 of the $20,000 goal had been raised.

But no matter how the final video turns out or how much money is donated, the production already has been a blessing to the cast and crew.

“One of the saddest parts of the lockdown for me was my high school theater production being canceled,” said Chloe Davis, a junior at St.  John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores. “The lockdown was three months of not being in any theatrical productions, and it was so strange and surreal to have such a huge part of my life be cut out. Being able to finally perform in something and experience the joy of being in a production again really boosted me out of the ‘quarantine slump.’  And I know that the people watching the show will get to feel the same joy that the cast felt being a part of it.”

Like all live theater productions, “No One is Alone” will be available for only a short time before it takes a final bow. It will remain online until July 26. 


Kassock is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg.


Find out more

Watch “No One is Alone” July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at upperroomtheatreministry.org/livestream. To donate, go to upperroomtheatreministry.org/support/.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020