Conservatory brings “The Hello Girls” to the stage


Brittany Bara standing on the set of “The Hello Girls”

Anna Vande Krol, Arts and Entertainment Editor

“The Hello Girls,” produced by the Conservatory of the Performing Arts, had their performances March 31-April 2. The play is set during WW1 and features five young bilingual ladies who apply to be the first women telephone operators in the war. However, they don’t get treated fairly and equally in comparison with the men in the army. 

A show with elements of comedy and some drama, it was directed by Brittany Bara, a faculty member in the Conservatory. Since this show had a cast of only 10 people, it was very ensemble-driven. This is one of the reasons why Bara decided to direct this show. “I didn’t find it. It found me,” Bara states as she talks about her journey as the director. “The season was picked before I was hired. Erin [Jerozal] emailed me, over the summer I think and asked if I was interested in this. I read it and listened to it and was like ‘Oh yeah, absolutely.’” The “season” Bara is referencing here is a term for the list of shows that are chosen by the Season Selection Committee before the school year begins. 

Something that was challenging as a director for Bara was trying to figure out how to communicate the locations in the script to the audience. “The actors are moving all of the set pieces and props [onstage], so we suggest locations. We are asking the audience to really use their imagination so that the things that you see on stage are representing maybe things that we can’t actually bring into the space,” Bara says.  

Bara shares how she learned a lot about her process as a director, even with the challenges that arose involving the set pieces. “It forced me to kind of look at my process a little bit differently. I’m a super collaborative director and I think especially in educational settings I want to empower the students to feel like they’re really bringing choices into the room. [I had] to be a little bit more specific earlier in the process in terms of the staging and the movement of all the pieces so that it feels seamless.”  

Music theatre juniors Emma Philips and Gabby Moten had much to share on their experiences of being a part of “The Hello Girls” cast. Philips, who played Louise LeBreton, said her character brought a “liveliness to the bunch.” Louise is described by Philips as someone who taught the ladies that “we can still be women and still be human” even while being in the army among men. Moten, who portrayed Suzanne Prevot, said her character was “the least fearful one” out of the women. “I think she is a catalyst for a lot of the things that happen [in the show.]” 

Philips and Moten found the pronunciation of French words and “crunchy” harmonies challenging. When speaking about the harmonies, Philips says that it “took us a few rehearsals to really lock it in.” Moten then shared that “There’s a lot of individual pressure because with only having 5 girls and 3 boys, it’s pretty much one person on every vocal part.” 

Philips recalled being glad to be able to see her friends get to really shine throughout this whole process. Moten says it was exciting to get to work with such a small cast and have conversations with everybody. For a lot of the juniors in this show, it was, as Moten says, “a long time coming,” as they didn’t have shows freshman year due to Covid and some of them didn’t get cast in shows last year. Everyone in “The Hello Girls” put so much effort, time, and consideration into telling these impactful stories from these real people living in WW1 history.