It started out as a playful conversation between two Cobequid Educational students in late February.

But in just a few short minutes, Chloee Trites and Abbey Kiley quickly realized the topic of their conversation was resonating with other like-minded students.

“Abbie and I were walking down the hall after drama class and we were talking about how the CEC musical wasn’t going to happen because of the work to rule situation,” said Trites. “We started throwing around the crazy idea that we put on the musical ourselves. We were almost joking around about it but as we were going down the hall, more musical people started to fall in behind us and join the conversation. We all ended up in the lobby talking about putting on a musical.”

Trites was scheduled to be the stage manager for this year’s CEC portrayal of The Little Mermaid. She was also serving as the go-between for teachers and students and had to break the news to those in the musical it wouldn’t be happening.

Then, what started out as an off-the-cuff conversation began to pick up momentum.

“Abbie actually went home and did some research that night and we she showed up the next day, she said it was definitely possible we could pull it off. We had a lot of questions like who was going to do the music, who would direct it, produce it and so much more. Working as a team, we slowly started to check these things off our list. We held planning meetings every Friday and sometimes they could last five or six hours.”

Typically, scripts for the musical are handed out prior to the Christmas break. Then when students return to school, it’s full speed ahead until opening night.

Knowing they were already behind, the group reached out to Lenore Zann to see if she would produce the show. But before she could agree to help, Zann wanted to make sure there wasn’t a conflict of interest. Once she had approval, Zann agreed to produce the show while Trites is sitting in the director’s chair.

“The original plan was for us to do Rent but we learned we couldn’t get the rights for it,” said Zann. “We had to immediately start looking for something else which led us to Rock of Ages. We secured the rights through the Truro Theatre Society and that’s what the students have been learning ever since.”

Jay Mosher has been cast as one of the leads. He will be playing Drew, a typical ‘I want to rock guy’ but he’s not allowed. He will be sharing top billing alongside Shannon Langille, who plays Sherrie in what he calls a rock and roll fairy tale.

“Drew wants to make it big and he can make it big but he’s too afraid of himself,” said Mosher. “He’s very indecisive. He’s this close to making it. He sees rock stars all the time in the bar he works at every night. In the show, he finally gets his shot. But people will have to come to the show to see what happens.”

The show features a lot of great songs from the 1980s. According to Trites, she says the show is essentially based on the story of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey.

“It’s a show about a small town girl meeting a city boy and things get messed up along the way,” said Trites. The narrator, Lonnie, brings you through the musical but what’s different is the fact he knows there’s a musical going on. He’s in the musical but he’s also the narrator so he gets tied up in things.”

The show, which will feature approximately 25 students, will be held at the Dalhousie AC Alumni Theatre June 9, 10 and 11. The students will put on four shows. Each day will have a 7 p.m. show time with a matinee set for June 11 at 2 p.m.

It’s also been a tremendous learning opportunity for the students.

“The CEC play was always a given. It was always there,” said Trites. “When you join a production like that, you know who is building the sets, you know where the costumes are coming from, you know the dates and where it’s going to be held. This year, it’s been completely different. We’re the ones making those decisions. It’s been a demanding few months and we’ve called upon just about every contact we’ve made to help us out.”

Watching the students in action has been nothing short of amazing, adds Zann.

“I’m so proud of this group. They just didn’t stand by and let this go, which we all know would have been much easier,” she said. “They were bummed out because this is something they all look forward to. It becomes a major part of their lives and to not have that this year was hard for them.”

Mosher agrees.

“When the talk of a strike started, no one knew what was going to happen. We kept hearing different things and in the end, there was nothing,” he said. “We weren’t able to do anything. Then, this team of people came together that had one goal on its mind and we were going to work as hard as possible to achieve that goal. It’s such a big thing to students who love the theatre. When you don’t have it, it’s like the passion is gone and you just don’t feel like doing anything.”

Tickets are $15 and they’re available at MacQuarries. Zann pointed out the show is being done in honour of Norman Hines who was the guidance counsellor at CEC when it first opened. Hines was the one who started musicals at the school with West Side Story in 1972.

“I called him personally and told him we were dedicating the show to him,” said Zann. “He’s 85 years old now and lives in Windsor. He said he would crawl here to see this show if he has to. He’s so thrilled and honoured plus he was so proud to hear what the kids were doing.”