Behind the Scenes of SING!

In reflection of this year’s SING! season, the Features Department dives into the process of bringing the show to life.

Reading Time: 13 minutes

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By Jenny Chen

Weeks of preparation for three nights of spectacular performances: each student in the SING! crews worked together to bring these shows to life. It is an ultimate competition between the grades and a celebration of school spirit preceded by the commitment of the students involved. Dive into the behind-the-scenes stories that made these shows possible.


By Sammi Yang

SING! is filled with captivating performances accompanied by beautiful music. In step performances, the students themselves are the music as they create unique rhythms with their bodies. Like any other crew, choreographing and pulling off a performance in just one month is exhausting and stressful, but this year’s Junior SING! step directors, Samantha Siew, Michelle Thaung, Lisa Chen, and Yuvan Das, are very enthusiastic and motivated in their fun-filled practices and supportive crew. When Thaung assumed the position as one of this year’s directors, she found out that the experiences as a director and as a member were more different than she had thought. She explained, “As a director, [there are] so many responsibilities besides just showing [up] to practice and learning the choreography. For example, there’s the logistical stuff and creating choreography and formations.” That didn’t stop her, however, from enjoying SING! step crew for her third year. “It was all cool because I loved step, so I was going to be in the crew anyway,” she expressed. Siew expressed that their goal this year was just to impress the seniors and have fun during this month of preparation regardless of the end results. “[What’re] three minutes of performance going to do with a month of preparation?” Siew reasoned. Instead of stressing themselves out over the fast-approaching show and high expectations, the crew tries to make great memories and build strong bonds, whether it’s over the pain that comes with learning their choreography, the unique traditions that they’ve developed as a crew, or their combined love for lotion.

The junior directors showed a lot of pride in their tight-knit crew. Aside from the intense practices filled with repetitive stomping, slapping, and clapping, the crew made time for bonding, or in Thuang’s words, “clowning time.” Siew shared, “We always have a potluck, and we all bring in a little bit of food to share with each other. It's a really big thing, and most of the other crews would come in and steal some of our food.” They also enjoy festive songs—or chants. “We change the lyrics of a song and end up making fun of the song,” Chen explained. Thaung recalled her first year doing the chant: “During my freshman experience as part of the Soph-Frosh SING! step crew, we created a chant to the tune of ‘Anaconda’ by Nicki Minaj. Our lyrics were a way for us to show our pride as a step crew and as a part of our entire grade. For example, one of our lines was: ‘Oh my gosh, l-l-look at our step, keep up!’” Lastly, they boast their step pride and team spirit a few days before the show by updating their cover photos with unique collages. Thuang explained, “We make a collage using Snapchat filters based on our theme and what we’re supposed to be in the show, and we make it our cover photo [on Facebook].”

By Sammi Yang

Junior SING! would not have been complete without tap’s jump ropes, the queen’s throne, and the glittering chandelier. Junior SING! props directors Cindy Zheng, Anita Liu, and Karen Liu are enthusiastic about the props they have created this season. “We want to get things done on time and meet [Junior SING! coordinator Liam Kronman]’s expectations and possibly even surpass them,” Anita Liu explained. Zheng added, “Our workload has definitely upped from last year, so we really just want to get everything done and do it better than we did last year.” The crew’s tasks require a lot of thought and creativity. Starting with nothing but cardboard and leftover materials, their job is to find a way to create a usable prop and apply their skills to carry out their plans. “We’re like a mixture of tech, art, and costumes all at once,” Zheng summarized. This year, to match their theme of Revolution, they were tasked with making full-sized statues, chandeliers, crowns, scepters, signs, and the like using almost anything they can find.

Their critical part of the performance kept them motivated to work hard and develop an efficient system. “We start off the crew by splitting everyone into three groups because we have three directors this year. Then, we pick the tasks based on the amount of material we have, and we split the work between everybody,” Zheng explained. However, trying to balance SING! with school and other commitments has not always been smooth sailing. “Our meetings are organized chaos,” Karen Liu described. Despite the pressure from the fast-approaching deadlines and high expectations, the crew members were able to rely on each other for laughter and support, making their gatherings more enjoyable. Karen Liu reminisced her first year on the crew and recalled that the bonding and fun memories she made was what motivated her to continue participating in the crew. Zheng also expressed her gratitude for her two co-directors for sharing the burden with her.

By Sammi Yang

In order for the actors and actresses to fully embrace their characters, they have to look the part. Making costumes is not easy, especially within a one month time span and on a small budget. Junior director Julia Panas expressed her long-held interest in fashion and recalled her journey to becoming the director of this year’s junior costumes crew: “I took sewing lessons two years ago, and I took more classes for cohesion,” she recounted. “I started [participating in] costumes [crews] at Stuyvesant, and then I became the director of Soph-Frosh SING! 2019 and director of [the Stuyvesant Theater Community] Costumes for Midsummer Night’s Dream, Legally Blonde, and Blue Stockings. I love it; it’s great.” This year, Panas, along with Jess Zhang and Bushra Islam, hoped to inspire and guide their crew members to become great costume makers themselves. “We definitely try to instill a sense of ownership into our members. We want them to feel proud of their work. We try to guide them in the process, and we’re like a big family,” Zhang conveyed.

Participating in the costumes crew is a rewarding experience. The crew started their meetings at the very beginning of SING! season and immediately began sketching designs. “Costumes is actually a very high committed crew, and many people don’t expect that coming into it because notoriously costumes has been more laid-back,” Panas explained. “But since Zhang, Islam, and I have started directing, we have definitely made it a bigger commitment because we really want the products to be incredible, so we’re usually the last people out of the building.” Islam added, “We definitely always need the maximum number of people because costumes [are] a team effort. I think it’s a lot more demanding because you really have to [work not only] here, but [also] at home doing sketches and measurements.” With the hard work and aspirations shown by the directors and the crew members alike, the costumes of this year’s Junior SING! were able to come to life.


By Judy Chen

Though the audience does not see the stage crew, they are the gears that ensure that the entire show runs smoothly. Often seen shuffling in the darkness of the stage, they perform a variety of tasks from taking performers on stage to bringing props to and from the stage. Because many of their members do not have prior experience with stage crew work, Soph-Frosh stage director Emma Buller said, “We spend the first few meetings explaining to them what stage crew does and the possible roles they can have.” In between the singing, dancing, and acting on stage, a lot can go wrong that the audience doesn’t see, but the stage crew works to resolve these problems, even under the stressful environment of putting on a successful show. To build a general idea of what goes on backstage, Buller described the process of preparing for the final show: “After adding cues to the script, we call in our crew to practice reading them, so when the show actually happens, they have enough experience reading them to know when to make the cues. That way, the show can go as smoothly as possible, which is important since the show has to be an hour long.”

In addition to her role in stage crew, Buller described her passion for the stage and the experiences she had prior to this year’s SING! production. Buller participated in numerous productions in the past, including shows with the Stuyvesant Theater Community (STC), which puts on three shows a year. She explained, “I’ve done STC stage crew for last year’s winter drama, Wait Until Dark, and the two STC shows of this year, Legally Blonde and Blue Stockings. Before Stuy, I didn’t do stage crew, but I did act in a few school productions in my elementary and middle schools.” Despite her passion for theater, she faces stress that comes with the common hardships of a Stuyvesant student mixed with the responsibilities that come with directing. Buller mentioned, “During the school day, I try to do as much work as possible, so I have more time at home to study for any possible tests or quizzes.” With the combination of experience, dedication, stress management, and unity, the stage crew is one of many that helps to piece together the show.


By Judy Chen

Creating live music not only complements the wonderful voices and charisma of the performers, but it also displays the ability of more behind-the-scenes talent. This group of performers is generally found in the pit of the stage with small dim stand lights, all working together to play a musical number alongside vocals. Under the direction of Soph-Frosh music director sophomore Ava Yap, the band aims to connect with the other performing crews by executing many different genres of music. However, Yap stated, “[Though] we try to accommodate all of the different visions of the dance directors, there are just certain genres, such as rap or electronic music, that the band is not able to replicate accurately.” Despite these restrictions, Yap aims to always work well with the other crews and perform the live music requests. Besides working with other crews, Yap, of course, works with multiple crews to teach the music. She said, “[Though] I work a bit with cast and chorus teaching them their music, most of my time is spent teaching and conducting the band. After we set up instruments, we spend considerable time working through each piece, getting them up to tempo and making sure that all of the band members have their parts down.”


By Christina Pan

Every stage show has a distinctive opening scene; whether it be the virtuosic arpeggios of a soprano singer or the dramatic reveal of the set, each production has its own specialty. Most introductions, however, only occur after hours of preparation and practice. Before any dance, music, or act, every actor has final touches applied to their character through the use of makeup. Soph-Frosh SING! makeup director sophomore Jessica Dong states that a large part of the makeup crew’s responsibility is to coordinate with other crews’ needs. “Each crew needs different colors, different products,” she stated. “Each queen—hearts, clubs, diamonds, etc.—needs a different design. Even the Cheshire Cat needs its own look.”

The process in which these different looks are designed is complex. The directors and members brainstorm designs, and both the coordinators and producers, along with other crews, must approve the brainstormed ideas. Afterward, it is up to the crew to execute them in a timely fashion. Though typical meetings normally do not run for an extended period of time, the week leading up to the performance is particularly stressful. Dong states that the success of the looks comes through continuous practice as the rehearsal reenacts the show night, and all members of the crew help to apply the looks under tight time constraints in order for the rest of the members to see where they need to pick up the pace or where they can rest instead.

Through countless rehearsals and designs, Dong states that her favorite part of the process is to see the show come together. Makeup has the ability to transform, transfix, and tantalize; once on the stage, it is almost magical to see the design on paper translated into real life. Dong stated, “Watching the looks come together is amazing; just to see how different it looks on paper and on the actors, it really comes to life with the rest of the show.”

By Christina Pan

The human body is analogous to a fine-tuned instrument; with every movement, a unique sound can be generated. Under the supervision of Soph-Frosh SING! tap directors Amanda Brucculeri and Rachel Vildman, the crew seeks to create harmony between audio and visual elements. In tap dance, every piece of choreography must match the music; it is far from a silent genre. Brucculeri stated, “Every single movement has a noise. Every step has a pitch and a certain loudness, and each poise lasts for a specific length of time. In a way, your feet act as another instrument.”

Combining these dual elements creates pathways for creativity and challenge. Unlike other dance or music-focused crews, the tap crew is faced with the two factors combined. According to Brucculeri, perhaps one of the most overlooked difficulties about directing a crew is the application of choreography as an entire unit. With tap choreography, the possibilities seem endless. While the choreography could be successful for a small handful of individuals, it is difficult to make it so on a larger scale. Because of these factors, creating the right choreography can often be stressful, yet incredibly rewarding. Brucculeri stated, “Tap has a lot of room for creativity. It's really fun to be able to dance however you want because the choreography can be so flexible.”

On a personal level, Brucculeri stated that directing has since drastically changed her as an individual. “I realized how important bonding is; after our crew bonded, we danced better. Being close with one another is reflected in your performances,” she said. This is a familiar sentiment that has been reiterated throughout nearly all of the SING! crews, which has since been a driving factor in the production’s success.

The tap crew is one of the smallest out of all Soph-Frosh crews. “I think a lot of people are intimidated by tap because it looks like it requires a lot of skill and prior knowledge,” Brucculeri stated. “Those skills are easily learned, however, and the experience from it is most certainly invaluable.”


By Christina Pan

All forms of the performing arts have roots in different cultures, locations, and times. Few performing arts, however, are as distinctive as belly. Unlike many dance forms, belly dance isolates the torso muscles rather than concentrating on the movements of the limbs through space. Belly dance offers a fusion between cultural and modern dance, allowing expression in a way “American communities aren’t really used to,” Soph-Frosh SING! belly director Katelan Balkissoon described.

Most belly rehearsals consist of practicing and running through different dances or learning new choreography. “So far we’ve been running our dances, cleaning, taking around a one-hour snack break, and then learning new choreography,” Balkissoon stated. The after-school rehearsals, however, have [manifested not only] choreography, but also deep interpersonal relationships. “What I love about directing belly is that I can kind of control the environment and make it more like a family and boost people’s confidence,” Balkissoon said. Much like other SING! crews, bonding not only strengthens relationships, but also leads to a deeper understanding of dancing together and performing together. Increased connections lead to increased trust and confidence and overall a stronger and more comprehensive performance.

Throughout her 10-year long dancing career as both a director and a dancer, Balkissoon has noticed a severe gender disparity within the performing arts. Balkissoon explained, “There’s a gender difference for sure. I’d love to see guys in belly; it’s not only for girls, you know.” From a fusion of cultures combined with deepened interpersonal relationships through performance and choreography, the belly crew is perhaps one of the most unique and close-knit crews of SING!.


By Nicholas Martin

No matter the theme of each performance, one similarity all the SING! teams share is the need for a set. This need is fulfilled by the tech crew, or “the backbone to the show” as described by Junior SING! tech director Julianna Yu. By building the set and moving pieces around during each grade’s performance, tech crew is responsible for providing a setting and flow to every production. The crew is unique in that it has the most cross-grade cooperation out of any other crew, with members of the various grades working together to create set pieces that might not even belong to their show. The reason behind this cooperation is the sheer amount of work that each grade must do in the limited time they have, as numerous deadlines must be met and safety precautions be taken.

Tech crew is also one of the largest crews in SING!, which might make it seem as if the members are more distant from each other. This, however, cannot be further from the truth: “Crew dynamics are all over the place, but we try our best to include everyone and get to know all of the other crew members,” Yu, who has been participating in the tech crew ever since her freshman year, said. By consistently working in both SING! and STC productions, Yu was able to rise from her position as a crew member to a director through hard work and dedication, which is the core of what the tech crew is really about. Yu formed connections with previous directors and learned the technical, critical thinking, and leadership skills required to be a successful tech crew director. Now, she is currently reaping the fruits of her labor, enjoying the design and coordination aspects of being a director. “The fact that I have such a large impact on the show is amazing, and it is an unforgettable experience that I would never give up,” Yu described.


By Nicholas Martin

What do you get when you take a classical dance and give it an exciting twist? The SING! modern crew! “Modern is a more expressive and wild version of ballet,” Junior SING! modern director Athena Lam described. When holding auditions for crew members, Lam looks more for emotion and expression rather than “how flexible a person is or how many turns they can do.” In this way, modern is vastly different from the standard form of ballet and allows for more personal expression and creativity, helping to create a storyline that better fits the themes of SING!. Lam also attempts to take crew dynamics to the next level by choreographing to music that “highlights everyone’s flair,” she said.

Lam has been dancing for eight years, four of which were spent practicing modern, helping to give her a firm foundation for directing this year’s modern crew. She also has cherished memories of dancing for previous SING! and StuySquad performances. In fact, she remembers her first team SING! performance: “In that moment, we were able to see how much progress we've made. All the moving parts came together, and it showed that we all worked well together,” she explained. By encouraging trust among crewmates and developing a fun, supportive environment, Lam has managed to weave vastly different personalities into a single choreography that lends immense, powerful emotion to every production her crew is in. There is no doubt that she plans for this year’s performance to be a “modern marvel.”