Behind the Scenes of SING!

In reflection of this year’s SING! season, the Features Department dives into the different crews that bring the show to life.

Reading Time: 16 minutes

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By Stacey Chen

SING! this year returned in-person, off the back ends of last year’s green screen shows. Even with less time on their hands—and for most crews, fewer people—each grade was still able to create fantastic spectacle. Dive into the behind-the-scenes stories that made these shows possible.

By Josephine Buruma

This year’s soph-frosh band was able to pull off remarkable performances, despite not having any in-person SING! experience. This lack of experience did not faze soph-frosh band director sophomore Kyle H. Chan, who explained that the unique circumstances actually eliminated some of the pressure typically associated with SING!. “I think one of the best parts of soph-frosh SING! is that there really isn’t that much pressure when it comes to winning. We’re all just here to learn and have fun,” Chan wrote in an e-mail interview.

Another divergence from SING! in previous years was the change in the music requirements for each band. As opposed to playing every piece of music live, the band was only required to perform five pieces throughout the show. This change was especially helpful given this year’s time constraints and the relatively small size of the soph-frosh band. “One example is our opening number, Belle, which turned out to be really hard for the band to play. We were able to use an mp3 for that song instead, and that really saved us,” Chan wrote.

Even with the changed music requirements, however, the time constraints posed a nearly insurmountable challenge. “If we[‘d] had a week or so of more time, our band would’ve been exponentially better; we just needed some extra time to clean up some of the songs together, especially on integration with the cast,” Chan explained. In spite of Soph-Frosh SING!’s lack of in-person SING! experience, as well as the standard challenges associated with student-run productions, the band’s impressive performances were a testament to their hard work throughout the SING! season.

By Juni Park

Many members of the audience were awestruck by the striking performance of this year’s soph-frosh flow crew. With the pitch black setting, flow’s glow-in-the-dark props stood out more than ever, twirls of multicolored lights flying across the stage. However, this performance was not executed without struggles.

Flow director sophomore Freda Dong faced many obstacles while managing her team. The flow performers had little time to learn and practice their choreography in the days leading up to the show. “It wasn’t a typical show season,” she said. “We only had three weeks for everyone to prepare for their choreo, which isn’t a lot of time.” During these three weeks, Soph-Frosh performers spent many hours, many right after the end of their school day, vigorously drilling choreography and practicing the same dances hundreds and hundreds of times. To add to the weight of balancing flow practice and schoolwork, many flow performers were struggling with burnout from StuySquad. “The month before, StuySquad immediately ended, and then SING! began, so a lot of the members who just came back from StuySquad were pretty tired of dancing and doing shows back-to-back,” Dong explained.

Despite this, the performers found the flow experience worthwhile. “One of my favorite memories ever was probably drilling tosses in the dark before the show began,” Dong recalled. “I realized after we saw the stage: it’s too dark to see the stage when doing tosses. So I made everyone go into the band room in the dark to practice there, and one of my members found a really dark room next to it, and I thought, ‘This is perfect for drilling tosses!’” Little moments like these helped bring the team closer as not just as members of the same club, but as a group of friends having fun together. "While we were drilling tosses, we were doing karaoke night. A lot of my members were singing the songs [that] other SING! members were performing, like classic Disney songs, and we were singing during drilling practice,” Dong elaborated.

While struggles and hurdles came along the way, getting through with a team turned the pain and exhaustion into a more enjoyable experience. Dong has high hopes for next year’s Flow team. “I think you guys are pretty solid,” she said to this year’s performers. “I’m sure you guys will do great next year and we look forward to helping you out as juniors next year.”

By Andrew Oh

While the actors, chorus, and stage crews were hard at work down on the SING! stage in this year’s soph-frosh performance, the lights and sound crew made their contribution from the booth in the balcony overlooking the theater. Each change in lighting, every use of the microphone, and each turn of the spotlight was the product of the lights and sound crew’s skillful control over the auditory and visual landscape of the stage. It was the well-coordinated efforts of lights and sound that ensured that the actors could shine. “I mean, if SING! wasn’t well lit, and the actors couldn’t be heard, then the quality of the show wouldn’t be that great,” sophomore and soph-frosh lights and sound director Dorothy Ha stated. “I think that’s why we are so important.”

As a Soph-Frosh director, Ha spoke about some of her responsibilities within her leadership position. “I just introduced my crew to the sound equipment, such as the sound board and the light board, and I taught them how to use it and deal with problems regarding it,” Ha said. “They all picked it up really well and I’m really grateful for that.” On top of the crew’s aptitude for working the booth, Ha attributes a lot of this year’s SING!’s success to not just one crew, but the amicable effort of all of the SING! members at once. “I think it was generally the cooperation between people [that made the show special]. Everyone this year was really sweet and willing to put in the time to make the show great,” Ha elaborated. The crews’ appreciation for one another did not go unnoticed, either. “There were a lot of people that came to the booth and said ‘thank you,’ and it made me really happy,” Ha added, reaffirming the SING! family’s stellar cooperation.

Despite the jubilation of seeing dedication coming to fruition in a performance like SING!, the production is notorious for its high commitment. It is up to the members to juggle long rehearsal hours on top of other responsibilities. While lights and sound’s commitment was lower than that of other SING! crews due to the limited time they had in the booth, Ha still had to put thought into how they could efficiently divide the workload among the team while providing a meaningful experience for each individual. “I tried to split the time between members in the booth evenly so that they wouldn’t be overwhelmed, but they [still] got experience [operating the booth],” Ha said. The impressive collaboration within SING! crews shined especially in this year’s return to in-person SING!.

Ultimately, Ha feels like the dedication of lights and sound paid off in Soph-Frosh’s three performances. “I think we did really well and we deserved more points, but it’s the experience that really matters,” she reflected, fulfilled by a successful SING! season.

By Soobin Choi

A panel of four carnival posters graced the stage on all three nights of Junior SING!. A fierce tiger roars into one frame while the uncanny faces of two clowns stare at one another in the next; from its supreme precision and stunning use of color, it quickly became the crowning jewel of the stage set. The same sentiment is mirrored by Junior SING!’s assistant art director Natalie Soler. “I’m super proud of the canvas; the process for that took ages. But we had a very good initial sketch and collaborative little painting piece that we did.” Soler remembered the perseverance for all the unexpected difficulty of the piece, and the subsequent pride afterwards. “We figured out the general concept pretty quickly. But then the actual execution was much harder than expected, as it was a lot of complex shapes and finding the correct paints. Mixing them properly was always a struggle, but it looks super good,” she said. In addition, there were problems with money and having to manage it. “We had to go through a new vendor for our paints this year, and we had to actually be in charge of buying everything. That was a new experience for us. But we got through it, and everybody had a good time.”

Like many other crews in Junior SING! this year, there was a shortage of members, but art was able to finish on time with a relatively relaxed environment. “The vibe was very chill, because nobody was super stressed at all. We had finished everything ahead of time, which is [very] different [from the] performances we had in the past, where it [had] been very down to the wire. This one, we only had to finish two posters before show day, which was very fine,” Soler elaborated.

But for all the efforts of the Junior SING! department, there was still disappointment at the loss. “I feel crushed, absolutely obliterated. I wish we had won because I feel like we put so much work into this. And it turned out so good,” Soler said. Even with the terrible feeling of a close race, Soler is looking forward to next year’s SING!. “I will learn to accept this defeat with time. [...] Go Senior SING! class of 2023!”

By Soobin Choi

The billowing white fabric of a ball gown detailed with dark green accents was just one of the numerous costumes created for the Senior SING! performance. Costumes director Cynthia Li has been a long veteran in this area. “I’ve been directing it since junior year. [...] It’s always a fun time, it’s a lot of work.” With her three years of experience, Li noticed the decline in SING! participation this year. “Not as many people participated in SING! as in freshman and sophomore year. We were pretty much just dragging in all our friends and trying to get as much interest as possible.” Nevertheless, the effective management by the directors helped the department work in a collaborative and organized manner. “We would allocate jobs to everyone and split up the group within crews and other costume genres. It was definitely hard knowing every day what you had to do, who had to do what, and getting all of that organized,” Li elaborated.

Perhaps this efficiency helped them clinch the win, or perhaps it was the precedent of Senior SING!’s victory. “Everybody expects seniors to win no matter what—it’s kind of how it works,” Li said. Regardless of the actual win, she respects the friendships formed between the grades and the quality of costumes they produced. “All the grades got close with each other while trying to get back into the swing of things and there [were] a lot of friendship[s] [...]. While I’m happy we won, I also really admire all the work that the other grades did because their costumes looked amazing.”

Between doling out congratulations and the final judging on Saturday night, this year marked the end of an era—the very last SING! for seniors. “You’re not gonna have this sort of experience again where you [get] to make costumes by yourself for such an important show,” Li said. “We wanted to make as [few] mistakes as possible, and to make sure that everything ran as smoothly as it could.” With the pressure on to leave SING! with a bang, Li felt higher hopes for this show compared to previous years. “My expectations for this year were higher. But also, I feel like we reached those expectations. I'm very happy with how everything turned out.”

By Sabrina Chen

In the moments leading up their entrance, a group of adrenaline-filled seniors hide under the staircase, waiting for their cue. Moments pass, nerves settle, and the music of “No Lie” by Dua Lipa fills the theater. Latin’s electrifying performance, despite the little rehearsal time, is a testament to the crew’s hard work and dedication.

Vincent Zheng, a director of senior latin, feels pride in the crew’s work. “I feel like a lot of them put in a lot of effort […] a lot of people showed up [for practice] even during the break.” Being both his first time performing in SING! and directing it, Zheng also pointed out the newness of it all. “I feel like we spent so much time and effort into putting on a show and I’ve never done something like that before, so it was a new experience for me,” he said.

One of the most notable parts of directing senior latin for him was being able to both learn and grow alongside his fellow crew members. “Getting better at dancing with my crew […], learning along with them, and helping them out with the choreo was amazing to do, and then especially the pride we had after putting on a good show—it was rewarding to see everybody was happy we did well,” he reflected.

The crew’s dedication to practicing and putting in the hours solidified their friendships. “During break, the practices there were really, really fun because we came to school and instead of doing work, we hung out with our friends,” Zheng said. All the hours spent learning choreography, dancing, and getting to know one another helped create a tight-knit community. “I really liked working with people that I was just acquaintances with and then we got closer as a group,” Zheng explained, “The stunts especially, since stunts require so much coordination and trust in your partner. I feel like that really highlighted how close we’ve gotten with each other.”

While this will be the last SING! for seniors, the memories and performances left a lasting impression on everyone who was involved. “I realized how fun it was, especially the three show days where everybody comes together and puts on this show together […] It’s definitely a highlight of my Stuy experience,” Zheng concluded.

By Shivani Manimaran

Dressed as Cupids in flowing pink skirts and holding bows and arrows, the senior bollywood crew released love into the air through their performance. They danced to instrumental versions of Hindi songs “Nainowale Ne” and “Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye,” which translate to “the one with beautiful eyes” and “the one who appears in my dreams” respectively.

It may have come as a surprise for some to see them, as Bollywood isn’t often included in the lineup for SING! out of concern that it would be too rooted in Indian culture and language to fit the theme. However this isn’t necessarily always the case, as director Etiha Ahmed explained. “When I was a sophomore, the seniors also had bolly because their theme was Hollywood and they were able to incorporate it really well,” she said. She also described the role of Avni Garg in adding bolly to the lineup this year. As one of the producers of Senior SING!, as well as a director of Bollywood herself for the Stuysquad ‘21 and ‘22 performances, Garg aimed to give her crew a moment in the spotlight. “I really just have to thank Avni. She is the main person who was able to include bolly and let bolly be a crew this year,” Ahmed said.

Being usually excluded from the crew lineup created added expectation for Ahmed. “I also had the pressure to make bolly perform really really well so that they would want a bolly for the next senior SING! and so we wouldn’t get cut,” she said. Ahmed spent hours with her crew choosing songs, scrutinizing the choreography, and most of all, drilling and drilling their set. On the flip side, the hours spent together with friends solidified the bonds within senior bolly’s dancers. “It’s a really stressful part of the whole experience, but nonetheless I think it was really worth it,” she said. “The best part was my crew and being with my friends. That’s just the main thing for Sing, being with your friends.”

Bolly also collaborated with another crew not often expected in a SING! show: belly. “Over break, bolly and belly would have practices together because half of our group was in both crews,” Ahmed explained. “It was really fun having both crews there together, especially since we were all friends. I loved it.” She went on to detail the meticulous planning, scheduling and spreadsheet-ing that went into dividing the members and practice time between crews to perfect both sets by opening night.

Bolly’s commitment certainly shone through in their performance, and has created great expectations for the future. “I’m just really glad the show went well and that they were able to incorporate us. I really hope that there’s a bolly for next year’s Senior SING!,” Ahmed said.

By Tiffany Liang

Working alongside the other tech crews, the soph-frosh props crew displayed their craftiness through their creatively-designed props, which were displayed as part of their set. For soph-frosh props director Ryhanna Shanneilia, this year’s SING! was the first she’d both participated and directed in. Despite participating as a member of STC’s previous two shows, she remarks it was not as stressful as directing for SING!. With little experience directing a crew and having to do so in such a short time frame, Shanneilia and her co-director had to pick up things quickly. “I think the hardest thing was learning,” Shanneilia said. “Learning how to compromise, learning how to anticipate, and learning everything that was needed to be a director.” She emphasized the responsibility included in ensuring good communication between props and the other tech crews.

According to Shanneilia, Soph-Frosh made the decision to keep their set simpler in order to make their performers stand out. Most of their props were incorporated into the background, bringing the setting to life. The props matched the character and their personality, such as Hephaestus and his tools and Aphrodite and her vanity, which was adorned with a sizable number of flowers—Shanneilia’s favorite prop—crafted out of paper and pipe cleaners. “There were flowers on those bushes that you could actually pick out and remove. It was nice to pick them out for fun,” she said. Additionally, soph-frosh props collaborated with the tech and art crews to build the tree trunks featured in the set.

Their most impressive prop was the small furnace fire featured in Hephaestus’s scene, its red glow emitting a warm and comforting vibe. Shanneilia reveals how they created a realistic-looking fire: “We had to tie the streamers onto the shell of a fan.” Even more impressive was that the prop was made the day of the dress rehearsal. “I honestly expected it to break at some point because it was paper streamers along with the fire, but it worked! I [was] actually really happy as it was created,” she said.

Overall, Shanneilia enjoyed her SING! experience, despite it being so high-commitment. “Even though I am so glad that I can avoid the blisters I got from walking around in my heeled boots, I am super glad I did it!”

By Momoca Mairaj

It sort of looks like the ballet you’ve seen before, but at the same time more expressive and, well, modern: welcome to the modern dance crew of SING!. Led by juniors Brisa Lin and Elizabeth Paperno, this year’s modern dance crew only had seven members. However, they were still able to pull off a lovely performance with impressive stunts, which are common in contemporary dance routines. The stunts were taken both from knowledge from prior SING! shows as well as from online, and were practiced regularly. “We had one of our crew members, Natalia, who had never stunted before, fly for most of our stunts, so we made sure to get in a lot of practice,” Paperno said in an e-mail interview. “Also shoutout to Ryan, Justin, and Giridhar for helping us stunt.”

Like the other crews, junior modern struggled with the time constraints of the SING! schedule. “It was really stressful because we lost like two weeks because there was StuySquad before. So the first two weeks of SING! were very divided,” Lin said. “I took a lot of time to make the choreo and teach it to them and clean it with them, and it turned out pretty good, but if we had more time it would have been better.” Lin has been a part of the SING! modern crew and was a director for the crew during her sophomore year as well. This year, Lin noticed a general decrease in enthusiasm for SING! through her difficulty finding dancers. “This year, because of COVID, many people didn’t want to join and many people didn’t want to dedicate time to SING! this year. I feel like our grade, we don’t really have the spirit any more. We ended up having our friends join and it worked out,” she said.

Ultimately, however, Lin is satisfied with her crew’s performances and is looking forward to participating in Senior SING!. “Modern doesn’t need that many people so it was fine. We pulled through [...]. I’m definitely going to try and do it next year too because I won’t have much work to do,” she said. “I love everyone in my crew; they are all amazing.”

By Momoca Mairaj

Dressed in plaid and marching to the stage, junior step put the audience to silence with their powerful aura, despite only having seven members in total. Step is a type of dance with African origins. Unlike most dance crews, step doesn’t use music: it creates its own beats with rhythmic clapping and stomping, so synchronization and volume are especially important. One of the directors, junior Raymond Zou, has participated in SING! step since freshman year and was assistant director in his sophomore year. He shared that his sources of inspiration to create the choreography come from both research and experimenting “I would take inspiration from past choreographies I’ve done and also professional step teams’ choreographies that are on YouTube. To make the beats I would sometimes think about songs or just keep moving around until I hear[d] something I like[d],” he stated in an e-mail interview.

The crew had some challenges deciding whether they wanted to follow through with directing the junior step crew due to a lack of participants. “Honestly, directing Junior Step was a difficult journey as my co-director, Raymond Yang, [and I] weren’t even sure if we wanted to have one, seeing [that] there were only five people, and as mentioned, loudness is a major part of step,” Zou said. Ultimately, though, they pursued showcasing their work and plan to direct step in Senior SING! next year as well. He acknowledges that his crew did well, but hopes that next year there will be more dancers. “I know we were in sync because I was on stage but tons of people complimented us on our loudness,” Zou said. “Yes [I will participate again], and hopefully with a bigger crew because although our small crew did great, there [are] limit[s] in [the] formations we can do with them.”

Overall, both the directors and crew had a good time despite their small numbers. “We decided to go through with it because we thought it wouldn’t be fair for those who wanted to learn, and I’m so grateful that we did,” Zou shared. “It was really fun directing for the first time in-person and even if there was a major time crunch I feel that our crew was in-sync and really loud.”