How Will School Musicals Adjust to COVID-19 Safety Regulations?


Amelia Pollicino

An illustration of a playbill with a mask on it

A school musical is an activity that many look forward to. Putting performances together takes hard work and, in the end, is very rewarding. People learn a lot from their experiences as part of a school show. However, like many other extracurricular programs and activities, school musicals will be handled differently this year. What does COVID-19 mean to school musicals? 

With COVID-19 spreading, and certain health precautions taken in public places, it is not wise to gather a cast, crew, orchestra, and audience together in one room. According to Joseph Pallotta, Lynbrook’s director of fine and performing arts, “Musicals are currently being postponed until further notice.” However, despite the risks of holding a normal school musical, alternate options may be available.

Usually, when a school puts on a show, it must legally be given a license. Those who are in possession of a show’s rights give this license to the school; however, this year, licenses are available in a different format: online streaming. Pallotta went on to explain, “Streaming licenses have never been offered before, but in this environment are being allowed for a select number of show titles. Schools would pay for the rights and appropriate license(s), and then charge a ‘ticket price’ for those who wish to purchase and view the show online.” An online streaming of a school musical would have its pros and cons, but one major obstacle to overcome is the technological aspect: Music is a very important element in these shows, and making music sound as beautiful online as it sounds in real life would prove fairly difficult.

If a musical were to take place, according to Pallotta, singers would need to be at least twelve feet apart, and they would also have to wear masks. Rachel Edelstein, a junior who has previously participated in school musicals, believes “The logistics of running a musical with these conditions would be difficult.” Sophomore Andrew Schiller, who has been in both the cast and crew of musicals, expresses that though precautions would pose a problem, “Masks might be able to be incorporated into the performance.” When asked about what precautions they think would be necessary to safely run a school musical, students expressed ideas such as decreasing the number of people in the audience, or on the stage, at a time. Sophomore and past cast member Grace Benedict said, “Overall, there would just be an endless amount of things to go over, but I think, and hope, it can be done.”

Unsurprisingly, the simple fact that school musicals will not be running as they previously have is disappointing for many. In particular, many seniors are devastated at the prospect of school musicals being different this year. Seniors Zoe Mevorah and Tess Rechtweg both say that they have been excited for their senior year musical, and that it is disheartening not to be able to have one. Even so, it is understood that this year’s situation is quite contrasting with past years, and the actions taken are to keep people safe and healthy.

Previous participants in school musicals seem to agree that streaming or recording a show would be a nice alternative but might lessen the show’s authenticity. Mevorah commented that a streaming or recording “wouldn’t be the same.” Schiller added that he believes “A recording might take away from the whole experience.” Some students have referenced last year’s Class Night, and how this event was successfully recorded. What are possible benefits of a streamed or recorded musical? “In addition to being safe, more family members that live farther away can see the performance,” said Rechtweg. Some students expressed confidence that recording or streaming a musical would be successful. Megan Coogan, a junior and previous cast member, points out, “Hamilton, and other plays and musicals were made available for viewers to watch without leaving the comforts of their homes”

There are many performers, musicians, and crew members that are saddened at the lack of a proper school musical this year; however, there are also some benefits of this year’s rare situation. Benedict expressed that extra time can be filled with singing, dancing, and other talents that would usually be practiced at a rehearsal. In addition, new opportunities could be explored. For example, as Edelstein pointed out, “We might also be able to perform outside, which would be a new and exciting experience!” If one feels crestfallen without the familiar school musicals to view or take part in, have hope and optimism; look to the future, which is as bright as a thousand spotlights!