‘Ernest in Love': Spring musical is a community effort

Jack Worthing (Jason Shipps) and Gwendolen Fairfax (Haley Roberts) have a conversation in "Ernest in Love."

Jack Worthing (Jason Shipps) and Gwendolen Fairfax (Haley Roberts) have a conversation in "Ernest in Love." Image by Shelby Stephens.

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Jack (Jason Shipps) and Algernon (Noah Hastings) talk about living double lives during final rehearsals for the musical "Ernest in Love."

The cast and crew of Baker University’s spring musical production have been busy rehearsing the witty antics of Ernest in Love for the Rice Auditorium stage. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“The show is a great comedy and has plenty of humor, romance and antics to please everyone,” sophomore Jason Shipps, who has a lead role, said. “The story is timeless, and the music is beautiful.”

Ernest in Love is a musical version of Oscar Wilde’s 1895 play The Importance of Being Earnest. The musical title is not misspelled. It is a verbal irony based on the name Ernest and the irony of the characters not being earnest.

Similar to past BU theater productions, like Boeing-Boeing, What the Butler Saw and Don’t Dress for Dinner, Ernest in Love is full of misunderstandings, secret identities, tongue-in-cheek humor and countless shenanigans.

Ernest in Love follows the antics of John, nicknamed Jack, and his friend Algernon as they try to live double lives.

“You’ve got Jack and Algernon. Jack is really respectable. Algernon is more of a jerk that you love,” Stage Director Tom Heiman said. “Jack runs off to the country to see his ‘unfortunate brother’ (Ernest) who is always ill or getting into trouble, and Algie always runs off to see Bunbury, his ‘sick friend,’ so they have reasons to run off and do crazy things.”

Heiman said the production process of Ernest in Love has been rocky – complications in actors’ schedules, dialog and score issues along with members of the cast and crew battling the flu – but he has faith in the participants to deliver a high-quality performance.

“After all of the trouble we’ve had, I am surprisingly calm,” Heiman said. “The guys that we have, that are carrying the most water in this thing, have been working so hard. I have faith and confidence in their ability to pull this off. I should be absolutely climbing the walls, but it’s going to come together.”

The set will be on a smaller scale than past productions – intending to give the “suggestion of each scene” instead of displaying a whole set. The minimalist set is largely due to lack of equipment and facilities, which many hope will be improved in upcoming Rice Auditorium renovations.

“Rice [Auditorium] doesn’t have a fly system, so renting backdrops isn’t an option,” Heiman said. “Since it is such a small cast, we have reduced the size of the stage so the actors are not lost in the vastness of the stage.”

Director of Choral Ensembles Cathy Crispino is acting as musical director, handling the conducting of the musical aspects of the show – working with pit orchestra members, guest accompanist Joyce Jordan and choreographer Barbara Wasson. Assistant Professor of Music Marci Ziegler is helping with performers with their vocals.

“One of the things that is always challenging about a musical is putting together music that coordinates with dialog,” Crispino said. “Sometimes we have dialog underscoring, which is just trying to time out exactly what is going to happen on stage – even if they are not singing – with the pit orchestra.”

The pit orchestra is comprised of three freshman women: Hannah Greer on flute, Brianna Morris on clarinet and Sarah Price on cello. Crispino’s husband, Ron Hathorn, is a professional woodwind player and will be joining the pit on bass clarinet.

“[The music has] a happy, fun, bright sound,” Crispino said. “Because Ernest in Love is really light-hearted, full of laughter and the music is bright and happy. It should bring everybody out of the winter doldrums.”

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