JUNEAU — About 30 Dodgeland middle and high school students are getting a chance to do something out of the ordinary this weekend, perform a brand new musical.
The original show “Weird” was written by its director, Bryce Muenchow, a fourth-year chorus teacher in the district.
When looking for a musical to do this fall, Muenchow said he couldn’t find anything to inspire him so he decided to create his own.
“It’s something I wrote for these students. One of the challenges we face is a lack of guys in the fine arts, I think you see that in many schools. When looking for shows it’s really hard to find a musical without a solid male lead,” he said.
Not only is Muenchow the author of the script and show’s director, he also handles the duties of vocal director, choreographer and played all the instrumentals on the jukebox show’s backing track.
“The music already existed, it’s the music of the band Hanson, but they’re not popular enough as a band nowadays that I could just go out and get a karaoke track and use that, so I had to learn how to play 15 songs on varying instruments,” Muenchow said.
Those instruments included piano, guitar, bass guitar, drums, egg shaker and conga.
The show’s title changed from Muenchow’s first thought.
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“It was going to be ‘The Others.’ When you look at a high school you see cliques — the jocks, the preps, the nerds — and then there’s the others who don’t fit in anywhere, they feel different or excluded based on something,” he said. “I thought that my first title maybe would need explaining immediately to someone who didn’t know the show. Everyone can understand the idea of weird.”
The premise of the show is that the four central characters have some aspect of themselves that excludes them from being part of the crowd. Each struggle with feeling outcast or different due to a certain aspect of their lives including mental health issues, poverty and homelessness, a single-parent household, and identifying as LGBTQ.
Muenchow said the lyrics that best describe the show come from the song that gave the musical its title: “So you don’t stand out, but you don’t fit in.”
“In our community in rural Dodge County the LGBTQ character may be controversial, but I didn’t want to shy away from it. I think I would be doing a disservice to our students if I ignored that because we have students who identify that way. I had to find a way to address it without preaching or taking a stance on whether it’s right or wrong.
“Music and theater aren’t just for entertainment. We can use it to really start a dialogue or discussion about bigger topics and shine a light on some tough issues,” said Muenchow.
Audiences should be advised that the show does address sensitive issues that could be triggering for some and might not be suitable for everyone. Information and resources will be available to those in need of assistance.
“My administration has been wonderfully supportive. I’ve done my job in crafting the show. I feel so strongly that we need to represent our students’ voices and the administration agrees. I had kids excited in auditions because it’s their voice; the students get it. It’s been a challenging and rewarding process and a nerve-wracking one. I hope that it’s well received,” he said.