A ‘fruitful’ return to live theater


Cast does the cha-cha with Dylan Terhrani (11) as Earth-Worm during the song “Plump and Juicy”

Live theater is back! VHHS’s Backlight Theater Company is kicking off the year with this fall’s musical, “James and the Giant Peach.” This classic story follows a boy’s whimsical adventures traveling across the ocean in a giant peach. Whether playing an instrument in the pit orchestra, working behind the scenes for the crew, or singing on stage, students of all grades and backgrounds came together and did their part to prepare for opening night. 

Meghan Brockway

Meghan Brockway (she/her, 9) was a swing (understudy) for the roles of Ladybug and Spider, and was part of the ensemble as well.

“I was kind of nervous at first as a freshman, but everyone has been so supportive and they’ve been there to help me, and the age gap kind of disappears during rehearsals in a way. It’s really nice because I know that they all have my back in it,” said Brockway.

She had a really positive experience getting to know the cast and bringing their performance together as a team. 

“Honestly, the thing that I’m most excited about for the year is just to show people the hard work we put into it, because we’ve had a lot of hard work and there’s a ton of new obstacles,” Brockway said.

She noticed one of the significant obstacles was wearing masks while performing. She tends to use facial expressions when acting, but had to adapt and include more physical acting techniques instead.

Despite these challenges, Brockway was overjoyed to be back on stage. According to her, “James and the Giant Peach” was unlike any production she’s seen at VHHS.

Sammy Arribas

Sammy Arribas (she/her, 12) worked as puppet master for this show. “James and the Giant Peach” used puppets of all sorts as a unique element throughout performances, and Arribas was tasked with bringing these figures to life.

“When I heard that there were going to be puppets, I was really excited because I could blend two of my favorite things: theater, as well as art,” said Arribas.

Arribas has acted in earlier theatrical productions at VHHS, and has previous puppeteer experience from “The Old Man and the Old Moon” in spring of 2019. 

“I had such a good time during ‘The Old Man and the Old Moon’ doing all the shadow puppets, that I thought it’d be a good idea to try it again, and I was right,” Arribas said. 

There are definitely some tricky aspects about what she did that people may not realize. According to Arribas, timing out puppet scenes with the music was always difficult for her.

Even so, the struggles didn’t stop her from working hard and having fun while helping bring the show together. Arribas said that she loved forming relationships with everyone involved and seeing their excitement about what they created together.

Deylan Recepcion

Deylan Recepcion (he/him, 12) played alto saxophone for the pit this year. 

“Senior year, I wanted to be involved in more things, and I’ve never really been involved with the pit before, so this a great first experience with it,” Recepcion said.

Recepcion has enjoyed working with a diverse group of people and getting to know students who he otherwise would not have the chance to interact with.

   “You have seniors like me who are collaborating with freshmen and sophomores who maybe aren’t doing the pit, but are doing the [acting], and everyone has to come together and do their role so that [we] can create something really cool,” said Recepcion.

Recepcion also appreciates the wide variety of instruments that compose the pit for this production. According to him, orchestral strings, guitars, horns, woodwinds, and percussion instruments all blended together to shape a lively score. 

This show was a “fun challenge” for Recepcion. When he signed up to be a part of the show, he knew it would involve a lot of hard work and commitment, but he said it really paid off and was rewarding.

Laila Rahmy

Laila Rahmy (she/her, 9) was on set-construction crew and running crew. Although this was her first time working on a musical production at VHHS, she had previous crew experience from middle school.

“[Crew is] different because in middle school, you only have three pieces that are on wheels that switch every scene… But in high school, you get to actually drill stuff and use big tools that we didn’t use in middle school,” said Rahmy. 

One of her best memories from this production was when she was first learning how to use the panel saw. Little moments like those are what stood out to Rahmy about her experiences from crew.

Rahmy has loved being involved in Backlight so far, and plans to continue being in crew throughout all of high school.

“It’s fun and useful. If I wasn’t in crew right now, I would be at home on my phone,” Rahmy said.

Evan Zurow

Evan Zurow (he/him, 12) was cast as Ladahlord in this fall’s production. Zurow’s character was responsible for narrating and advancing the story to keep things running smoothly. 

“[Ladahlord] is really a part of transitions, and also to introduce and exit the show. And he’s sort of pulling all the strings, technically, behind the show,” said Zurow.

Zurrow was delighted to be taking on this role and to be working with others to “make something happen.” He said putting on a good show for the public is what their efforts were all about. 

Zurow also highlighted how welcoming the atmosphere was during rehearsals. According to him, being a part of the musical gave him a place to be himself and let go of any worries. To him, this sense of belonging is really important. 

Leading up to the performances, Zurow expressed his eagerness to be back on stage in front of a live audience.

“I’m excited for opening night, because that’s when energy is high and morale is high… and just experiencing that ‘buzz’ [I] get before,” Zurow said.

Marcello Gaus Ehning

Marcello Gaus Ehning (he/him, 11) played Billy Bobby-Cop and was part of the ensemble for this show. He has participated in theater since middle school, and has been in multiple Backlight productions at VHHS. 

“[I love] being with all the other awesome theater kids and contributing to make a special show,” said Gaus Ehning.

Last year, he was involved in Backlight’s original movie, “The Institute”, which was filmed socially distant as a result of COVID restrictions. One of his favorite parts about being in the musical is collaborating with groups, so he is enjoying being back in person.

 “Obviously, [this show] is a lot different than last year… I feel like the energy levels of everyone involved is higher because we really are excited to make a show and actually be on stage again,” Gaus Ehning said.

Gaus Ehning emphasized the sense of community he felt in this production. According to him, his role in the ensemble was just one of many important people that came together to make the show better. He enjoyed singing and dancing with them to put on an energetic show for audiences.