ALBANY — It’s not that they’re the leads in Deerfield-Windsor School’s annual spring musical, “Beauty and the Beast.” That’s old hat to Braydon Armstrong and Bridges Pierce, both veterans of a large number of performances.
It’s that scene where the two waltz.
“I’m really not a very good dancer,” Armstrong, a senior who is closing out his theatrical career at Deerfield with his third lead role in as many years. “That waltz ... I don’t know.”
Then Armstrong and Pierce demonstrate for a visitor, laughing their way through a dance with no music.
Of such moments, high school memories are made.
Under the direction of Lindsey Stewart, who took over as director of the D-W program eight years ago — when her mom, Dianne Giddens retired — the school’s theater department will present the annual spring musical Friday-May 1 at the Albany Municipal Auditorium. Friday’s opening-night performance is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.; a twin-bill — a 2 p.m. matinee and 7:30 evening performance — is scheduled Saturday, and the Sunday finale is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Pierce, a junior, reels off an impressive list of local theater performances on her resume: “Shrek,” “Anything Goes” (“my first lead”), “Sister Act,” “Suessical,” “Little Mermaid,” “Matilda,” “Anastasia” ...
“I’m considering musical theater as a college major, but I’m also thinking about news broadcasting,” she said. “When it comes to a career in theater, you have to be realistic.”
Armstrong, meanwhile, is set to enter Samford University in the fall. The veteran of such local productions as “The Music Man,” “Sister Act,” “Little Mermaid,” “Seussical” and “Anastasia,” is not so sure about an acting career past high school.
“I’ve been doing this a while now,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll really miss it; I don’t think it will hit me until a few days after we do the final show. Of course, a week after we’re done is graduation, so it probably won’t sink in until all of the excitement dies down.”
Stewart, who also is directing the Theatre Albany production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which will open June 3-5, says she has no doubt about her connection to theater. After all, she’s been involved in some form or another since she was a small child. Her mom took her along to play practice when Giddens started assisting at Deerfield in 1995, and Stewart was there when Giddens became director of the theater department in 2005. (Incidentally, the second of the 25 shows Giddens directed? “Beauty and the Beast.”)
“Theater is my passion,” Stewart said. “It hasn’t ever gotten old. The most tiring thing, really, is picking the show, deciding which would be best for us. Once we name the cast and the kids get excited, the excitement always builds for me.”
Giddens said she was happy to hand the reins of the DW theater program over to her daughter. It’s not, after all, like she stepped away.
“When I got ready to retire, I told the folks at the school I wanted Lindsey to take over the program,” Giddens said. “I knew she’d do a great job, plus I knew I would continue to be a part of the program, too.”
Indeed, Giddens is musical director for “Beauty and the Beast,” as she has been in the other productions Stewart has directed.
“It makes it easier on me, knowing mom will be taking care of the music,” Stewart said.
As an added level of comfort, dad Bill Giddens is also actively involved in the family affair, taking care of set design and builds and running sound.
The young actors in “Beauty and the Beast” have been working on the production since February, and Stewart said her cast is “getting there.”
“The show will start to become ‘real’ this week,” the director said. “We have rehearsals at the Municipal Auditorium, and the kids will see the props and the sets for the first time. We’ve been working on blocking and doing our rehearsals on a small stage in a gymnasium. We move to the auditorium this week, though, rehearsing on the stage Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and going through dress rehearsal on Thursday.”
That, Armstrong said, will let him know whether he should be nervous about opening night.
“I don’t usually get nervous,” he said, “unless the dress rehearsal goes bad. If we have good rehearsals this week and dress rehearsals goes well on Thursday, I think I’ll be OK.”
As for Pierce?
“I won’t say I’m nervous about the production ... let’s just say I’m a little anxious,” she said.
And if something does go wrong?
“Kids are resilient,” Stewart said. “There are always going to be things happen that you can’t prepare for. I call theater ‘organized chaos’: It’s that thing about the duck calmly floating across the surface, but underneath the water his feet are churning like crazy.
“We’ve had things happen before. Once a piece of the set did not come up as it was supposed to. The kids improvised their way around it and went on with the show. That’s what you look for. If the audience is not aware that something went wrong, then it’s not even a blip on the radar.”
And is the director nervous — or even “anxious” — about the production.
“This week’s rehearsals will tell the tale,” she said. “I think the kids are ready, but as I said, there’s only so much you can do in a bare gymnasium. When they get under the lights up on that stage, then we’ll know if we’re ready.”