Emma! A Pop Musical review

I sat in the middle of my empty living room, accompanied by semi-stale chips with salsa, eager to see how the drama department would pull it off with the various forces working against them. To my surprise, the play was great.

“Emma! A Pop-Musical” follows Emma Woodhouse, an intelligent, pretty and overall confident senior attending Highbury Prep who finds enjoyment in meddling with her friend’s love lives. Blinded by her confidence that she is the perfect matchmaker, she pushes away her friends’ and her own feelings.

I, along with most of my peers, originally believed that the play was going to be done in the school’s auditorium and then be broadcasted live on Zoom. However, my expectation couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Instead, all of the cast members were in their homes singing and dancing in front of greenscreens while broadcasting through a Broadway streaming service called “Broadway on Demand.”

Photo courtesy of RUHS Theatre

The play suffered a sea of connectivity issues from beginning to end. The very beginning of the show was delayed about 10 minutes due to technical difficulties and twice in the middle of the show for about a minute and a half each. 

Furthermore, there was continuous lag on the actors’ video, resulting in a plethora of still faces with perfect audio for minutes on end. As the unwanted influence of technical difficulty riddled the play, it was not entirely forgivable due to the expensive cost of a single ticket at $18.95. While understandable, it is not completely fair to their paying audience.

Despite the actors’ lack of ability to physically interact with one another, the crew did an amazing job creating the illusions that the actors were passing around various items and speaking to one another. 

One scene in particular that peaked my amazement was an interaction between Harriet Smith, a shy and reserved sophomore who, deep down, is a hopeless romantic wanting to find love, and Martin, a wholesome cafeteria working student who Harriet finds extremely infatuating. 

Photo courtesy of RUHS Theatre

The scene took place in the cafeteria. My screen, blanketed with the image of a cafeteria with two screens, Harriet’s and Martin’s, as they communicate to each other while Harriet is eating lunch. 

Finished, she picks up her tray and slowly moves it off-screen, just enough time for Martin to pick up an exact copy of Harriet’s tray on his side in order to demonstrate the illusion that they are in the same room. 

The effort doesn’t end there. Since every individual actor was on Zoom calls, the crew was responsible for relocating the actors so that they could be in view and when they were talking and/or looking at one another. The last scene of the play really puts the crew’s effort into perspective.

The background emulated a large, lonely brick wall with shadows of distant light to keep it company. Almost every actor took part in this scene, all with speaking lines. The crew had to smoothly manipulate screens in order to effectively simulate that they were talking to each other. The crew utilized this methodology before, however this time was different because there were an abundance of actors all talking in normal conversation to each other, overall illuminating the crew’s effort.

While the $18.95 ticket price tag is hefty, it’s worth it if you want to support the school and the drama department. The play was amazing despite the multitude of negative forces at play.  The actors were talented; however, the technical difficulties took away from the overall experience, making it somewhat difficult to justify the price tag.