Devon Frieder travels from New York to Albuquerque each year for her company’s winter show.
This year was no different.
Despite the pandemic, she found a way for her company, Devon Frieder Productions, to put together a show even if it had to be viewed from the safety of audiences’ homes rather than live in a theater.
“We wanted to do something creative, but of course, still be spaced,” Frieder said. “So what we ended up doing is we picked a collection of numbers from past shows. There’s a couple of new surprises. But it’s mostly, like, favorite numbers from past shows that we did. And we filmed them on location. We followed all safety protocol. We kept, you know, tried to keep social distancing or masks for rehearsing, everything like that. But we did on-location filming, we had full costume, everything like that.”
Frieder’s hobby as a film editor came in handy in bringing the project to life.
“They’re full-out, cinematic numbers, fully edited, kind of feels like you’re watching a musical movie,” she said. “… I’m really excited for people to see that. It feels more like you are watching a full-out show, not just, you know, a bunch of cabaret numbers. There’s lots of dancing, there’s tap. There’s lots of comedy, laughter.”
The production was able to include about 30 performers, ages 18 to 30.
“Some people are only in one or two numbers, but it was a really cool way to involve a lot of our faithful performers,” Frieder said. “You’ll see a lot of familiar faces for the people who’ve seen my shows in the past.”
The production may have taken some performances from prior shows but added a twist to the skits to give them a new approach.
“We took a lot of things out of context, so we have fun with that too,” Frieder said. ” … Like we have new concepts for pieces, new storylines, to really make them stand on their own … We really wanted it to engage people. So we have these little skits. … There’s a lot of really funny, upbeat numbers.”
Frieder directed and choreographed most of the numbers in the show, some of which pay homage to its past productions “Head Over Heels,” “Heathers,” and “Bring It On.” She also has a team that assists in bringing shows to fruition, including production coordinator Julian Griego and sound designer Lando Ruiz.
“We prerecorded all the vocals for this show, because, you know, singing together in person is not super-safe with COVID,” Frieder said. “So we prerecorded all the vocals, so that when we filmed people could just lip-sync. And I mean the sound, Orlando did an amazing job. And I had a couple of guest directors. … So this was really, like, a celebration of our past things and really very collaborative, really letting everyone contribute something special.”
Being part of the project gave the performers and the production crew a sense of purpose at a time when theater performances with a live audience are not possible.
“We just felt this whole year because of COVID, performers kind of felt like we can’t do what we love anymore,” Frieder said. “Like singing a solo at home on Zoom, it’s just not the same, you know. We couldn’t do a theater collaboration, but we just felt so lucky to be able to do this project together and be able to perform and do something totally different and unique.”