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Brandywine Minstrels’s show “Bon Voyage” takes the audience on the maiden cruise of the Toptanic, not to be confused with the Titanic.
The show, starting Nov. 2,“portrays the individual shenanigans of the Minstrel’s five Endmen and how they disguise themselves finagle their way as not to be caught as stow a-ways on the voyage,” said Director StevenSchwoyer.
In January, Schwoyer began writing notes about the show and song titles which he thought would be a possibility for this year’s Minstrel Show, “Minstrels on Safari.” He was certain this year’s show would be the adventures of the Minstrel Endmen and Cast throughout the Serengeti and the Jungle. Obviously, it was not meant to be, Schwoyer said.
January through March, Schwoyer was the pit accompanist for Muhlenberg High School’s musical, “Anything Goes.” Also, on Jan. 13, the cruise liner, Costa Concordia ran aground on the Tuscan island of Giglio. There was all of the hype about April 14, 2012 being the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Around the same time, he was contacted by Genesius Theater in Reading to be rehearsal and pit accompanist for their concert production of the Broadway Musical, “Titanic.”
“I felt all of these items to be too coincidental to ignore. Therefore, I abandoned the safari idea and decided to take the Minstrel cast and crew on a cruise,” he said.“Don’t worry, we don’t encounter any icebergs or sand barges. There is enough excitement on board ship to grab everyone’s attention.”
Schwoyer explained that their cruise is nondescript. They set sail from any harbor, the time period of the cruise takes place from 1912 to current day. The ports they visit are undetermined as well as the antics of the five Endmen, Porkchop, Kapper, DJ, Mikey and Terry Bollinger, alias, Shorts.
“The Endmen’s creative and conniving skills are remarkable,” said Schwoyer. “All done so they can cruise on the Toptonia. Hopefully they don’t go overboard, no pun intended, with their schemes.”
The show still retains the Minstrel format which is an interlocutor whom serves as the show’s host, Endmen delivering jokes and singing solos, a chorus of singers who remain on stage throughout the entire show, featured vocalists and ensembles, live music provided by pianos, drum set, sting bass and other accompanying instruments and segments of the show centered around God and the USA, said Schwoyer.
“This format has been the basis of Minstrel shows since the 1800s. It is refreshing to see a community and surrounding area continue to unite presenting a production which is such a tradition within the Brandywine Heights School District,” said Schwoyer. “Furthermore, it is admirable for the group of performers you see in the show and those behind the scenes who volunteer their valuable time and talent to make a show like this possible.”
Asalltheshowsdo, Schwoyer believes this Minstrel show provides the audience with a varietyofmusic, amateur individualandensemblemusicaltalent, jokestoldbyfivelocalguysknownasEndmen, dancingbystudentsandadults, and performancesbysomeofthestudentorganizationswithintheBrandywineHeightsSchoolDistrict. He said 95 percentoftheshowispeoplevolunteeringtheirtimeandtalentonanannualbasis.Cast has 112 peopleincludingstudents. Crew,includingstudents, has more than 50 people sewingcostumes, designingscenery, constructingandpaintingscenery, designing, constructingandpaintingprops, sellingtickets, designingposters/graphicarts, sellingadvertisements, to name a few tasks, said Schwoyer.
“Thelistofwhomallisinvolvedtouchesmanypeople’slives,” he said.
Sameaseveryyear, Schwoyer likes the cast and crews’enthusiasmtopresentanothershow.
“Intoday’sagewherepeople arebecomingmoreisolatedthroughtechnology, theMinstrelshowrequirespeopletoworktogethersociallyasacommunity,” said Schwoyer. “Furthermore, they’vebeenabletosustainthatkindofinteractionforover30years. And,ofcourse,thedrivingforcebehinditallisraisingmoneyfortheprogramsatBrandywineHeightswhicharebeingeliminatedfromsomanyotherschooldistricts.”
Schwoyer asks people to imaginelifewithoutart, music, drama and theater, otherformsofentertainmentlike The Jugglersofthe Cascade Brigade.
“I challengethepubliceverytimetheyhearmusictoturnoffthedevisewhichisprovidingitforthem, noTV, video, noparticipationorrecognitionofanyathletics. Everytimeyouseeanadvertisement, lookaway, becauseitisartworkofsomeform. Manyjobswouldbenonexistentandourculturewouldbelackanidentity.”
The Minstrels shows offer to the community,“Thesameasanyotherformofentertainment, abriefmomentofescape,” said Schwoyer. “A timetolaugh, maybeevenatthemselvesalittleifthey’veexperiencedsomeofthescenariosweuseforskits.”
His message to the community is“don’tallowcommunityeventstofadeaway. Commityourselftosomethinginyour owncommunityforwhichyouhaveapassion. Ifeachpersonfollowsthatadvice, peoplecontinuetosocialize, supporteachotherandmaintaineventswhichareuniquetoone’scommunityliketheBrandywineMinstrelsaretotheBrandywineHeights SchoolDistrict.”
“However, itdoesrequireavillage/community. Onepersoncan’tmakeithappenalone. TheMinstrelshowreads, directedbyStevenJSchwoyer. ThetruthisI’mveryblessedtohavethemanypeoplewhosupporttheshowandwhatIdo. Therewouldbenoshowdirectedbymeiftherewasn’taschooldistrictandcommunitywhichdidn’tvolunteerwhattheycan,” said Schwoyer.
The show runs Nov. 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 4 and 11 at 2 p.m. at Brandywine Heights High School in the auditorium. All seats are reserved. To purchase a ticket, call 610-944-0797. Tickets can be purchased at the door per availability. Proceeds benefit the BHHS art, athletic and music programs.
“We hope you are entertained by the talent and work which went into this performance and we appreciate and continue to look forward to financially helping to support the students in the athletic, art and music programs here at BHHS. With the proceeds from all of this year’s past year’s and future year’s shows,” said Schwoyer.
“I would like to thank this awesome cast and crew for their time and talents dedicated to making “Bon Voyage” a reality. Many hours of brainstorming, manual labor, individual and group practice was volunteered to create what you see and hear on stage,” said Schwoyer. “My sincere gratitude to the Brandywime Minstrels committee for your trust in me and my wild ideas.... Finally, thank you to our audiences for attending the show and helping to support student programs here at Brandywine Heights High School. You inspire us to perform.”