WATERLOO — A song by East High School’s jazz band will kick off the annual Swing Show on Friday and Saturday followed by a gymnast doing flips across the stage.
Those are the sort of contrasting acts attendees will see next to each other throughout the show, starting at 7 p.m. both nights in the Elizabeth A. Green Auditorium.
“It really keeps the experience fresh,” said Colin Berry, East’s choir director and one of the teachers overseeing the production.
Admission is $6, with proceeds benefiting the school’s music programs. East is located at 214 High St.
Approximately 75 students are participating in the show — which also includes musical solos, skits, flag routines, dance acts, kick line and more. Robotics team Unity4Tech will be involved for the first time with a skit. The show’s theme song is Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” which will be heard at a couple points during the evening.
“It’s the coolest mixed bag, I think, this year,” said Berry.
“The coolest thing about the swing show in general is it’s such a tradition at East High,” added Joelle Smith, the school’s band director, who also is overseeing the production. She noted this will be the 82nd year the show has been held at East.
An anchor of that long tradition is kick line.
Senior Bri Netty, a captain on the team, said the group started working on its routine in November. That performance will start and end with “The Greatest Show” from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”
“It’s just a really fun experience, even though the morning practices are not fun,” she said.
The team practiced two to three days a week starting at 6 a.m. and had a strict attendance policy. It was coached this year by athletic trainer Abbey Johnston.
Netty first made the team as a sophomore. “Freshman year I really wanted to try out, but I was too scared,” she said, noting 20 to 30 people typically compete for the spots.
Other performers get started later. During an initial round of auditions, those trying out need to present only a portion of their act. The final round comes during the second week of February and requires the full performance plus a review of outfits to ensure each act will be ready by the show’s premiere.
“The unique part of swing show is that most of the prep falls on the students,” said Berry, noting he and Smith’s role is restricted to coaching them during rehearsals. “They have to show up ready.”
Rehearsals in the auditorium began Feb. 21. A dress rehearsal was held Tuesday. Afternoon performances showcasing some of the acts also were staged Wednesday for senior citizens and Thursday for eighth-graders.
Stage manager Staci Strader, also a senior, keeps the show on track.
“I’m basically in charge of everything that goes on behind the curtain,” she said. “When the curtains close, you have a few seconds before the next act begins.”
Strader is in her second year with the stage crew and performed in the show for two years prior as part of a string quartet. She likes the behind-the-scenes perspective because those on the other side “don’t see how much work goes into a show.”
The crew does its work in silence so as not to interfere with the acts on stage, except for the pep talks that are sometimes required for those about to perform. “People are always a little nervous,” said Strader.