Stage One shows off their math skills and number off the digits of pi.
Stage One shows off their math skills and number off the digits of pi.
Nick Barajas

Changes add more character to show choir

Beginning in the year 1967, a group with dance moves and four-part harmonies came together at Millard High: swing choir. Today, this activity is commonly known as show choir.

When swing choir first began, typically these groups’ shows centered on an inspiring message or a moving theme such as “finding out who you are” or “rising from adversity.”

But, with a name change and natural progression over the years, show choir began shifting into something more exciting with bedazzled costumes and themes revolving around characters.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time Millard South has ever done a ‘character show’ here,” said Ryan Jansen, co-director of both the varsity group, South on Stage, and the treble group, Stage One.

“A character show is a show choir theme that revolves around a specific character or small group of characters,” explained Jaymie Argotsinger, co-director of South on Stage.

For the 2023-2024 season, South on Stage has the character show theme of “The Dueling Pinballers” in which two pinball players battle it out on a pinball machine to find out who is the true champion. In Stage One’s character show titled “Back to School,” the treble group goes through the different school subjects and the emotional roller coaster of growing up.

In order to come up with show designs, Argotsinger pulls from her own life experiences and interests.

“Last spring, I became obsessed with playing pinball and really wanted to do a show about the game,” recalled Argotsinger.

When planning the show for this year, Ms. Argotsinger and I wanted something that would allow the students to just go out and have fun

— Co-director Ryan Jansen

“With last year’s show, South on Stage sort of had to dig deep emotionally. When planning the show for this year, Ms. Argotsinger and I wanted something that would allow the students to just go out and have fun,” Jansen explained.

This year, Stage One co-director Maddie Pressler chose a character show to stray away from common show themes.

“I make sure to focus on the theme or message of the show. I try to avoid stereotypical treble group themes because they’ve been done for quite a while. I want [my students] to be able to perform other styles and themes beyond what they may have done in the past,” Pressler stated.

However, Pressler agreed with Jansen that at the end of the day, she just wants her group to enjoy their time on stage.

“Our character show is a super fun show to perform. My goal was for all the students to just have fun this year,” Pressler added.

When it comes to designing a show, something that is typically started by directors in January and finished in July, directors have a lot to consider.

“I am definitely inspired by other fantastic shows and directors in our area. However, my inspiration for shows usually comes from one specific song or number,” Pressler began.

“Spotify ‘Discover Weekly’ is my best friend when it comes to show design.”

With all the excitement that the performers have on stage, both groups also face issues that they must work hard to overcome.

“Specifically with both of this year’s groups’ shows, we as a program have to take a lot of set pieces and props everywhere we go. Transporting and managing that has been a learning curve,” Jansen mentioned.

Dancing to a new beat down the character theme path, directors are all extremely excited for both South on Stage and Stage One this competition season.

“I am excited to watch Stage One compete with a show unlike any they have ever had before. They are such a hard working group of singers and I can tell that they are hungry for success this season. We put together a huge production and I’m eager to see how it does on the competition stage,” Pressler remarked.

“Character shows are tricky because they can really go either way. I never want a show choir show to be a one man production with a bunch of background singers and dancers. But with our show this year, I feel that we really showcase the entire choir,” Argotsinger said.

So far into the season, South on Stage has earned a place in the final round in both of the competitions they’ve attended. Stage One did not make it into finals at their first competition, but claimed their spot in finals in their most recent event. Both South on Stage and Stage One have three competitions left in their season, with the next one being “Crystal Cup” on Feb. 10 at Elkhorn South High School.

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