AUGUSTA — Cony High School sophomore Spencer Soiett is disappointed there will be no live performance this year of the beloved Chizzle Wizzle variety show due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Soiett is confident, however, the show — in its 129th year — will be a virtual event not to be missed.

With COVID-19 keeping it unsafe for large groups of people to gather, this year’s version of the nation’s longest-running student variety show will be virtual only, with rehearsals by students being recorded and distributed on a DVD and aired on local television channel CTV-7.

While students and staff, who have put in tremendous hours preparing for the production, will not have a live audience to see their show at the Cony High School auditorium, their efforts will still be seen on video.

“Everyone worked very hard to make sure the show was at its best, and to think of the possibility of the show missing a year, that was very depressing,” Soiett said. “I can’t imagine those that were planning to watch the show live would want to miss it.

“I think people should expect this year’s show to be a bit different from past years, but still great nonetheless. It may not be the same, but we can make it as best as possible.”

Part of the production has already been filmed, but finishing the virtual show will require some students, in the Olios section of the production, to come into Cony to perform in a “rehearsal” that will be recorded June 6 at Cony, if they still want to be in the show.

Chizzle Wizzle producer and Olios director Lindsey Morin, left, hands a bag of costumes last Thursday to performer Julia Reny at Cony High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Lindsey Morin, director of the show and ed tech at Cony, said any students who do not feel comfortable taking part in the June 6 rehearsal are under no pressure to do so and may bow out.

She said school staff members have put together a plan for the rehearsal to be done safely and in compliance with social-distancing guidelines from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and other state regulations.

Those plans include limiting the number of people inside the auditorium at the same time, which includes using the fewest number of people for lights, sound and stage crew.

In addition, everyone involved will be wearing masks and disposable gloves; there will be a time-specific schedule so students are only there for their own performances; disinfectant will be used to clean microphones, props and set pieces before and after use; students will arrive in their costumes and makeup; and the stage will be mopped between acts.

Students will be able to remove their masks for their actual performances, then put them back on when they are done.

Some acts, which featured close contact between students, such as dance routines, will be altered with new choreography so performers are not touching one another.

Morin said organizers considered having students record their acts at home rather than having them come in to be filmed, but said they rejected the idea because not everyone has access to the technology needed to do that, they would not have been able to combine all the acts together into one show and they felt they have a safe alternative that will produce better results.

“Most of the music acts, with the exception of the Madrigals, could have tried this, but dance acts would be hard to present efficiently and many of the comedy acts rely on physical timing,” Morin said. “We just weren’t sure if we could get all of that done electronically, efficiently and so on.

“Certainly, if we weren’t able to do the show the way we are, we would have looked into these details more and could have posted an act here or there, but wouldn’t have been able to combine the show together. Also, from the feedback we’ve been receiving, this was a preferred alternative.”

Morin said the safety of everyone involved is paramount.

The dance chorus rehearses March 4 for the Chizzle Wizzle musical variety show as choreographer Kristin Goodwin Sutton watches at Cony High School in Augusta. About 120 students are participating on stage and behind the scenes, according to Lindsey Morin, producer and director of the Chizzle Wizzle. This is the 129th year for the variety show, and performances were scheduled for March 17-20, until schools were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Soiett, a member of the Chizzle Wizzle executive committee who was chosen as an end in the minstrel section of the show, is in one of the Olio acts with seven other people. He said that act will be altered so they have more space between them. They have also had a couple of students drop out, including an exchange student who has gone back to her home country.

Soiett is also involved in running some of the show’s technology, so he will be there the whole day of the June 6 performances as they are recorded. He said he is not concerned for his safety.

“I’m confident we can all follow the guidelines and get this done for the good of the school,” Soiett said.

The minstrel portion of the show was already recorded at a rehearsal just before classrooms were closed and students sent home do to concerns about the coronavirus.

Morin said Chizzle Wizzle will be recorded by CTV-7 and shown on that channel, although she was not sure when it will be broadcast.

Recordings of the show will likely be available for purchase, although those details have yet to be worked out.

Morin said that information will be posted on Chizzle Wizzle News and the schools’ websites and Facebook pages.

Chizzle Wizzle originated in 1892 as a fundraiser for the football team at the high school. The name comes from the cheer: “Chizzle Wizzle, Chizzle Wizzle, sis boom bah! Cony High, Cony High, rah, rah, rah!”

Morin said community members have worried the show, and its long-running streak of annual performances, could come to an end due to fears of COVID-19. She said it is fortunate the show is able to still go on, virtually.

“So many students, parents and community members have been asking and reaching out to me about the show,” Morin said, adding they have said: ‘There must be something you can do,” “Anything would be better than nothing, ” “I’m so sad I am missing my year” or “Please see this through. It means so much to our family.”

“Obviously, this is not the ideal way,” Morin said, “but we are so grateful for the support of (Principal Kim) Silsby to continue with this production that means so much to so many.”

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