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Gus Nobles (left) as Frederick Frankenstein and Gabrielle Sowell (right) as his fiancée Elizabeth Benning practice one of the production’s early numbers.

A sleeping giant has awakened.

Or maybe “an inanimate laboratory experiment has been brought to life,” would be a more appropriate choice of words given GMC Prep’s entry for this year’s Georgia High School Association (GHSA) one-act play competition.

After a longer-than-usual layoff from bringing home some hardware, GMC Prep’s powerhouse one-act team made a contribution to the school’s trophy case Tuesday. The cast and crew of 62 students wowed judges with their production of the musical “Young Frankenstein,” and secured the program’s seventh region championship since 2013. 

“It’s just really exciting, and it makes us ready to take on state,” said Isaiah Wilson, a senior who plays dual roles in the show.

Winning a region championship was the main goal, but it wasn’t the only thing that had the young showstoppers riding high. 

“It was really exciting just to be able to perform again after not being able to since last November,” said Gabrielle Sowell, another senior and four-year one-act participant. 

“It felt like I was back at home,” added Wilson.

The GHSA’s one-act play competitions are usually held in October and November each year. COVID-19, of course, caused a change in plans, pushing the performing arts event all the way to this month. That gave the already very strong GMC Prep one-act cast and crew, directed by Mark Weaver and Jenny Morris, even more time to prepare for their turn under the lights. The extra time was needed, though, so theatre directors could figure out creative ways to rehearse safely through a pandemic.

“It did create challenges for us because many other activities were not moved, and one-act students who normally have no problem participating in winter and spring sports suddenly had to balance rehearsal with practices for sports and other competition events,” Weaver said. “Thankfully, the entire GMC faculty understood the challenges, and we worked with each other to make sure students didn’t have to choose one activity over another. With a lot of flexibility, we were able to pull it off.”

Rehearsals began at the start of the school year as students were grouped together based on their roles to keep things from getting too crowded. Masks were worn, and performers did not swap microphones during rehearsals or the show as would normally be the case. The region competition, held in Eatonton, was also smaller this year since two schools had to withdraw due to COVID. The Plaza Arts Center housed a smaller-than-normal crowd for the competition, but that didn’t stop every school from putting its best foot forward.

“This year’s shows were excellent and all the students from each school enjoyed watching each other on stage,” Morris said. “They all supported each other and lifted each other up.”

“Getting back on stage been great,” said senior Carson Knowles, who quite literally plays a very large role in the show. “Just having an audience the other day at region, that was the best feeling I’ve had in a while. We’ve been practicing since August with no audience, so it was nice to have some feedback.”

On top of the team honor at region, several GMC performers came away with individual recognitions. Wyatt Baugh won Best Actor for his portrayal of Igor while Alexis Waldroup was named Best Supporting Actress in her role as Frau Blucher. Wilson, Sowell, Knowles and the show’s entire dance ensemble all received All-Star Cast nods.

The stage musical “Young Frankenstein” is based on the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy film of the same name. Many make the mistake of attributing the name Frankenstein to the patchwork monster with large bolts coming out of his neck. Frankenstein is actually the name of the scientist, Dr. Victor von Frankenstein, who created the monster. Dr. Frankenstein’s funeral is where the musical is set, and it’s a much happier occasion than most funerals as the townspeople of Transylvania Heights are overjoyed they will no longer be terrorized by the mad scientist’s creations — at least that’s what they think.

Across the Atlantic Ocean in New York lies the departed doctor’s last living relative, his grandson Frederick Frankenstein. As a professor of anatomy, the younger Frankenstein has done everything he could to separate himself from the horrors his grandfather created, even insisting that his last name is pronounced differently. Frederick receives word about his grandfather’s passing and must answer a summons to settle the doctor’s affairs in Transylvania. Once there, Dr. Frankenstein’s former lab assistants urge Frederick to “Join the Family Business,” in a GMC Prep cast-favorite number.

GMC Prep will soon try to earn more hardware along with a fifth GHSA state championship in the last seven years on Feb. 13, at Crisp County High School. The “Young Frankenstein” production will get a few more warm-up opportunities this coming week with the home shows inside the Goldstein Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets will not be available to the general public due to COVID. Cast family members have been offered seating to attend one of the three local performances, and everyone will be required to wear masks. 

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