NEW ALBANY — The first show of New Albany High School’s theater department’s season is the first to break in a new stage, as well as the first for a new director.

Starting Friday night, “The Cabaret Series, Celebrating 55 Years of NAHS Theatre Arts” will tie together musical numbers from several memorable shows on the Tom Weatherston Studio Theatre, the newest stage at the school, named after a beloved former director of the programs at New Albany and Floyd Central high schools.

Amy Harpenau, the program’s director, said there’s only room for about 60 people in the studio, but that gives an opportunity to introduce a new element to the performances for that facility.

“It’s really intimate — the kids are looking at you, they’re using you as the audience members and really reacting with you, which is something totally different [then] when you’re in the big auditorium and you’ve got hundreds of people seeing a show at a time,” Harpenau said. “That’s allowed us more opportunity to play and do things that are less conventional.”

She said in some of the theaters she’s worked for, they put together these shows to really please crowds, but this one is more than songs strung together. She said dialog fills in between numbers and it also gives a preview of the rest of the season.

She said about a month into the school year, the production has come together on the fly, but she’s excited to introduce the stage to new audiences and regulars.

“I feel like it’s been very quick,” Harpenau said. “We haven’t spent less time on this show, but I just wanted to get the kids something they could get excited about at the beginning of the year, as well as some audiences to go out and spread the word.”

Musical performances from “42nd Street,” “Oklahoma!” and other big-name musicals are a part of the show.

Lillie Weber, a junior in the show, said it’s fun for her to celebrate the history of the program, as well as introduce some of the new elements headed its way.

She also said it’s fun to perform several kinds of songs.

“I really like the variety that cabaret has to offer because we have everything from the standard Rodgers and Hammerstein stuff to newer material,” Weber said. “You get to hear all kinds of styles in one show, which doesn’t really happen that much.”

Harpenau said she’ll continue to use the new stage for various productions, but she wants to work on some ideas to really maximize its potential.

“I would love to see an actual full-length musical in the future in this studio,” Harpenau said. “I don’t know if that will happen next year, but it’s in the future. We’ve got improvements that are coming to this space — more lighting, seats, curtains, things that will really make it feel like a theater outside of the normal school day.”

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