When the cast of Music Theatre for Young People’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” arrived for rehearsal Feb. 4, everything was different.
Cast members took a seat in a large circle of chairs, most of them already aware of the somber news:
Two days before, 17-year-old Isabella “Bella” Baumgartel had been killed in an accident on K-254.
Bella had the role of Judah, one of the title character’s brothers, in the show.
Tears were shed as the cast remembered the girl who “had such a great love for theater, had a good energy and was so positive,” said Matthew Hanne, director of the show.
Together, the cast sang the words of a classic song from the musical “Carousel”:
“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark. ... Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.”
“One of the younger kids came up to me and said, ‘I just didn’t know we had so much love for each other,’” said MTYP executive director Kim Gee Vines. “It wasn’t like she was trying to be sweet. It just sort of hit her.”
Once the initial shock dulled, the artistic staff at MTYP was left with an uncomfortable reality: How does the show go on?
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” will go on as scheduled this weekend — that’s what Bella would have wanted, the artistic staff decided.
14-year-old Alyssa Linhardt, a close friend of Bella’s, will play the part of Judah.
The cast will dedicate this weekend’s performances to her memory, and a full page of the program will serve as a memorial, Vines said.
Alyssa said she considered Bella her closest friend at MTYP, as the two had bonded at the company’s recent production of “High School Musical.”
“That may have been one of the reasons Kim asked me to be Judah,” she said. “It’s going to be hard, obviously, but I think we can get through it. Just one more scene at a time.”
The cast has formed a strong bond, Hanne said, leaning on each other through the difficult times.
“I feel like there’s a kind of deeper strength, that we’re working together as a team,” he said. “Part of that is what we’ve gone through and knowing what we want to do with the show in terms of honoring her.”
Vines said Bella’s parents plan to attend the show this weekend.
A text from her mother — shared through Vines — described Bella as “a loving, compassionate young lady who saw the best in everyone and wanted to help make their lives better.”
“She loved the arts and especially loved listening to Broadway music, and hoped to one day see a show in New York,” the text read. “She was so very excited to be a part of MTYP.”
The show runs through Sunday at the Mary Jane Teall Theater at Century II.