NHS Teacher Finds Fun In Directing ‘Cinderella’ Musical

By: Betsy Reason

Photo courtesy of NHS Choir parent volunteer Stacy McIntyre
Noblesville High School seniors Savannah McClure as Ella (Cinderella) and Sarah Rolinson as Marie (the fairy godmother) rehearse for Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” musical, which will be onstage Nov 16-18 at NHS.
Photo courtesy of NHS Choir parent volunteer Stacy McIntyre
Noblesville High School students rehearse for Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” musical, which will be onstage Nov 16-18 at NHS.
Photo courtesy of NHS senior Sean Wood
Connor Buhl (right), Noblesville High School teacher and director of the upcoming Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” musical at NHS, dresses as Doc Ock, a fictional character from Marvel Comics, and poses with NHS students who dressed up for DC Comics vs. Marvel Comics  Spirit Day, before a “Cinderella” rehearsal last Saturday.
Connor Buhl

More than 100 Noblesville High School students have come together as cast, crew and orchestra for NHS Choral Department’s annual fall musical, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”

Cast has been rehearsing since late August, while crew members have been creating costumes, doing hair, building sets and gathering props, while musicians have been practicing their music.

Opening night is only eight days away.

It all comes together for the community during four performances Nov. 16-18 at NHS Auditorium. Tickets are now available.

“The last two weeks, we have been piecing the show together into a cohesive product,” said Connor Buhl, the musical’s director.

“We have finished the last of the blocking, music, and choreography and are beginning to see what the whole show looks like,” he said on Monday. “Having the orchestra along has been breathing a new life into the show, not just for us (directors), but for the students, too.

The musical features about 60 orchestra members directed by David Hartman, NHS orchestra teacher.

The cast features more than 40 NHS students singing, acting and dancing.

“We had 76 students audition for the show, so casting immediately became more difficult, in my opinion, than a professional production,” Buhl said.”We narrowed down our cast to 48 students in a long and grueling process that took us late into the evening.”

He said, “Let’s just say restaurants in Noblesville don’t give you a pass to stay all night long casting a show, but they have no such rules about confirming details in the parking lot.”

Buhl added, “Another thing we have to keep in mind while casting is that our cast members are students first and performing artists second. Of course, we want to push them to grow as actors, singers and dancers, but we understand that they have priorities. I know if a student is academically responsible or irresponsible, I keep it in mind during the process. Thankfully, a lot of the variables that go into casting are remedied by having an amazing and efficient production team who all have valuable insight and visions for the show.”

The cast rehearses after school every day on school days. The hours get longer as the show gets closer to opening. For instance, this week, practice, which includes cast, crew and orchestra, goes until after 9 p.m., and tech rehearsal was all day last Saturday.

Costuming is important in every show but especially “Cinderella.”

“We knew we wanted something inspired by the late Renaissance and early Baroque period,” Buhl said. “We also knew we wanted to be as opulent as possible with the ball gowns and dresses. But, of course, with musical theater, we don’t always have to or want to make the costumes as historically accurate as possible.”

Buhl, who is also a costumed interpreter at Conner Prairie, a living history museum in Fishers, loves history. “As many people know, I have a hyper-fixation with daily life in various periods of history, and I have to turn my brain off to historic accuracy.” For instance, he said, “If you have a show (set) in the 19th century, the audience expects costumes similar to ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and not necessarily waistcoats and sleeve puffs.”

He said, “A directing team has a vision, but audiences have a vision as well as to what the world should look like. With ‘Cinderella,’ being in an uncertain time period and location (Buhl jokes that the setting is Northern California for reasons that a clever eye will catch a minor detail during the show), we can play to audience expectations of what a fairytale setting looks like.”

His directing team also includes NHS choral director John Neubauer as the show’s music director, assistant choral director Julianne Fowler as the show’s assistant director and choreographer and Shantel Morris as the show’s producer. Plus, technical director Greg Richards, orchestra director David Hartman, sound and effects director Jason Jasper, student director Sean Wood. Kerin Meyer is costume designer, and Abby McGrew of ABC Ballroom & Country is assistant choreographer.

“Kerin Meyer is the most talented and efficient costume director I have ever worked with,” Buhl said of the NHS teacher who was a costume mom when her own kids were at NHS. “Kerin has worked countless hours to create costumes that will transport audiences into that fantasy world.”

Buhl, who was born and raised in Fishers and a 2016 Fishers High School grad, teaches English 9 at NHS. “Cinderella” is his first show to direct at NHS, he comes here after teaching Theatre Arts at Emmerich Manual High School. “Cinderella” is his fifth production as a director.

Buhl is a graduate of Ball State University’s Teachers College with a degree in Theatre Education. After graduating from BSU, he had every intention of teaching theater arts. “But, as many theater teachers will tell you, the job market for strictly theater teachers often means leaving the state … But I love Indiana, and I found that I loved teaching English just as much as theater during my student teaching at Wes-Del High School and Middle School.” He’s directed “Zombie Prom,” “Wizard of Oz” twice and “Music Man” and assistant directed “Mrs. Packard,” NHS spring play, with NHS Theatre director and teacher Susan Nieten.

Buhl, who also is the coach of the ComedySportz High School League NHS team, loves having having fun at school. During rehearsals, he has spirit days, and the students dress for a chosen theme. Last Saturday was DC Comics vs. Marvel Comics dress-up day, and Buhl showed his creativity dressed from head to toe as “Doc Ock,” Doctor Octopus, a fictional character from Marvel Comics.

“As a performer, I can’t say I’m too good as a dancer or a singer. But I’ve acted on the side since high school and never really stopped,” Buhl said. “These days, most of my acting is for shows and programs at Conner Prairie, which is usually just enough to satisfy my urge to perform.”

-Betsy Reason writes about people, places and things in Hamilton County. Contact The Times Editor Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Read more about teaching ballroom dance to the “Cinderella” cast in the Betsy Reason column in an upcoming edition of The Times.