The Student News Site of Carl Sandburg High School



The Vocal Program Welcomes You to The Upside Down

On May 14th, 2024, the Performing Arts Center (PAC) is going to be transformed into a circus. The journey through “The Upside Down” will span just under an hour and a half, with a fifteen-minute intermission. People will be wearing costumes while singing, dancing, playing instruments, and flying flags, all in the hopes of putting on spectacular show. 

Program sketch for “The Upside Down” musical variety show – Photo courtesy of Nicole Denofrio

Ms. Nicole Denofrio, the choir director and show producer, says, “Originally we were talking to the choirs about who has crazy abilities? Like, can anybody walk on their hands or ride a unicycle? And it was originally going to be a variety show, like an old school variety show, and then somehow I started researching what they might look like, and I literally stumbled upon looking at variety shows, old circus acts. And all of a sudden it skewed into a circus.” 

The set for the musical show is going to be simple, but is planned to draw in the audience. Ms. Denofrio states, “The plan for the set is going really well. It’s going to be a simple set. The show is set in a circus, so we are going to have a circus ring and seating so that there is an audience on stage that appears to be watching the circus, but they are actually the choirs that come on and off the stage. They perform while each of the acts are going on. So it’s a simple set but very circus-like.”

“The Upside Down” will consist of an eleven-person cast of characters, including clowns, fortune tellers, and a Ringmaster. The cast includes the following students: Sarah Matchen, Kyle Puhr, Allison Belair, Grace Pierson, Andrea Karlovics, Mofe Odusola, Kiera Sullivan, Caleb Arrigoni, Camryn Leibfried, Cayla Evans, and Olivia Wasilewski. 

Ms. Denofrio states, “My favorite part of the storyline is actually our Alice. Her name is Ally, when she goes to the Upside Down, which is the equivalent of falling down the rabbit hole in the Alice in Wonderland story. Every character that she meets is basically part of who she is and who she’s becoming. So all the characters in the Upside Down represent parts of Allie.”

Sarah Matchen, a Sandburg senior, who plays Ally, says “My favorite part about being Ally is knowing how crazy she is and getting to act out the process of her becoming crazy.” Matchen has been in choir for four years and is currently in Chorale.

Kyle Puhr, another Chorale senior, describes his role in the show. “During the majority of the show, I’m playing [the] Ringmaster. This character starts as a barista in The Golden Afternoon before transporting to The Upside Down. There, as Ringmaster, he runs the show of freaks and geeks. Additionally, as in many musicals, leads often become swings and will show up in other numbers as alternative performers. One of the tunes, not as Ringmaster, I will be a swing and play a different part within the storyline.”

Puhr continues, “My favorite thing about playing Ringmaster is that he is a complex character. Throughout the show, he experiences a wave of highs and lows. His moments of confidence and vulnerability mash together to create a lovable character.”

During the show, students will perform various songs from different movies, plays, and musicals. Matchen says, “My favorite tune from the show is Mad Hatter because it is super catchy and [comes] at a turning point in the show.” 

Puhr adds, “Surprisingly, my favorite tune in the whole show isn’t even one that I’m in. It’s called “No One Else,” and it is from a musical called “The Great Comet of 1812”. In our show, it is a duet performed by Wolfie (played by Mofe Odusola) and Beardie G (played by Kiera Sullivan). This ballad is one of the most heartfelt moments in the show. It’s a beautiful tune that has been on repeat since I first heard it.”

Puhr describes how this show has allowed him to expand his horizons as a performer and student of music. “Honestly, I’m looking most forward to being on stage. I’ve always loved performing and doing musical theater, but my busy schedule never really gave me a chance to commit time to a whole production. With this being a curricular, not extracurricular experience, I’m able to explore this passion of mine without having to stress about work or academic conflicts.”

The process of creating a musical variety show is bound to have its complexities, but Ms. Denofrio is looking forward to the payoff that is going to come after the team works through the challenges. Ms. Denofrio says that the hardest thing to accomplish in preparing for the show is “Putting everything together! We have over 130 people in the vocal program, and we have an 11-person cast. So it’s just going to be having a couple of dress rehearsals and putting everything together.”

The whole cast invites you to come and enjoy the show on May 14th. The Upside Down is set to be a unique new show that showcases the diverse talents and personalities of the students in this year’s vocal program. Fall down the rabbit hole with Alice and friends into a new world of surprises sure to enchant!

More to Discover