Strength in numbers: the importance of an ensemble


Grace Mennerick

A show-stopping group number closes act 1 of the KH Players’ spring musical: “The Drowsy Chaperone”

Molly Higgins, writer

The lights come up, the music swells and the audience leans forward in anticipation as the stage fills with actors. A show-stopping group number closes act 1 of the KH Players’ spring musical: “The Drowsy Chaperone. Mary Cleary, junior, stands proudly with the ensemble.

“[The ensemble] brings the energy to the story,” Cleary said. “If they are not giving 100 percent, the whole scene is kind of dead.”

According to Cleary, strong ensembles create amazing performances as well as friendships within a cast. She has been a part of many musicals and plays in the past, both in the ensemble and as a main character.

“When [leads] have other people who are there to back them up, I think it makes them feel more secure in what they’re doing,” Cleary said.

Through playing both main characters and being in the chorus, she has learned how the ensemble helps leads feel safer in exploring their character. Cleary also noted how well the ensemble worked together during the rehearsal process.

“Everyone has such different skill sets, you have dancers, singers, and everyone [is] collaborating,” Cleary said. “[The Drowsy Chaperone was] amazing, one of the most talented, diverse ensembles.”

“The ensemble definitely affects how the show as a whole turns out. [A musical] is more than just the main parts, it’s a bunch of small roles that keep the whole thing together” Fiona Martin, freshman and “Drowsy Chaperone” chorus member said. This was her first show with KH Players, and she loved being a part of the cast.

Martin has participated in over 15 shows with other companies, and has played both lead and chorus roles.  Through her experience, she has seen the influence an ensemble has on a performance..

All of a sudden you’re singing or dancing together, [and] you bond over that. It helps you gain a friend you can talk to around school.”

— Fiona Martin

“Maybe they don’t have names in the show, but all the small things the ensemble does help make the story happen,” Martin said. “Without the small [details], it could fall apart.”

The ensemble also helps develop friendships within a cast. Martin enjoyed getting to know other members of the chorus, especially since some of them double as her classmates.

“You go to school with these people, you have classes with them, you may know them but not well,” Martin said. “All of a sudden you’re singing or dancing together, [and] you bond over that. It helps you gain a friend you can talk to around school.”

Martin said she grew closer to several of her cast mates, and enjoys getting to see them around school even after the show has ended. She also found it helpful to have several people who were playing a similar role in the chorus. Martin said when a cast reaches the week before a performance, stress levels are high, but the ensemble members are always there to help each other.

“If we didn’t know parts of songs, [it was easy to ask] someone who had the same part as you,” Martin said. “When we got to dress rehearsals, people were always there to help with hair, or makeup. We grew into a family.”

Kaleigh Bendoff, freshman and chorus member, said she also sees the importance of a powerful ensemble. She has grown up watching musicals, and has been a part of several shows herself.

“No matter what part you are, you have a big impact on the show,” Bendoff said. “[Leads] are very important, but without the ensemble, there’s nothing to back them up.”

Bendoff said leading roles are important as well, and one of the most important values in theatre is the collaboration between lead characters and ensemble. According to Bendoff, most actors have spent a majority of their career within the chorus, and she knows there are no small parts.

According to Cleary, the ensemble of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is one to remember. She said it was definitely a difficult production, but she felt everyone went into it with determination and a positive mindset.

“[The ensemble’s performance] was just very humbling,” Cleary said. “Everyone was so talented and committed. Having all of them work together made for a really great show.”