Marquees over Austin; Austin High School, Ellis open plays on Thursday
Published 10:56 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Austin Public School students are getting ready for some real drama this weekend as two theater productions open Thursday.
Austin High School will present “White Christmas” at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and Ellis Middle School will present “Annie Jr.” at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
Austin High School
AHS students have practiced for “White Christmas,” directed by Gordy Handeland, since late September. The show is based off the movie, and Handeland hopes audiences already familiar with the story will find new things to love with this production.
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The show starts off with two friends in the Army in the 1940s having an important Christmas concert performance. Years later, the two men become well-known performers and decide to hold a special performance.
“There’s love interests and it’s pretty much a musical comedy,” Handeland said. “There’s some pretty fun stuff in it. A lot of singing and dancing.”
Handeland said the students are excited for the show and have been working hard. He noted different challenges the actors have overcome, such as time commitments students have with other activities and difficulties getting all the actors together each practice. Since the show is older, many of the students also had difficulty catching some of the references. About 20 students are performing in the cast, along with seven students in the orchestra providing music for the performance.
“It’s got a lot of great parts for all the students,” Handeland said. “There’s seven really big, principal roles in it.”
Handeland said the show is a comedy, and many parents and grandparents will catch jokes students in the audience may not understand since it is set in the 1950s. Yet he said the show is very family friendly.
“Everybody knows the song ‘A White Christmas,’ so at the end it gives them a chance to sing along with the cast,” he said. “We hope they sing with the cast.”
Handeland hopes the audience members will leave with a smile and recommend the show to neighbors and friends, or even come back again.
“I think they’re going to have an enjoyable night,” he said.
Tickets for “White Christmas” cost $5 for students and $10 for adults and can be bought at the door.
Maria Wilson and Nikky Tolde will direct Ellis Middle School’s production of “Annie, Jr.” Wilson said the show has been fun to rehearse, and the students are excited to perform Thursday and Friday. The show is based off the book “Little Orphan Annie,” and it tells the story of Annie, who was orphaned when she was a baby. She was left with a note that said her parents would come back for her, but after years of waiting they don’t return. She then moves in with a wealthy man looking to host a child for awhile.
“From there you get a sense of Annie’s journey of not feeling like she belongs anywhere to feeling like she has a family,” Wilson said.
Though this is the junior version of the play, Wilson said it still features the well-known storyline and music. She said the students, who have also been practicing since the end of September, are excited to perform for friends and family.
“They’ve been working hard since September, so they’re very excited to perform,” she said.
She hopes the students walk away with many lessons learned about working with theater.
“I guess that with hard work and hard effort comes success,” she said. “I think that’s for me always why I love musicals and drama, is that kids have to not only work hard as individuals but work hard together as a team.”
She hopes the audience will feel close to the story of a girl who feels like she doesn’t belong. She said most people can relate to feeling that they don’t necessarily belong, and finding a place where they do fit.
“I hope the audience recognizes, first off the efforts and the talents of the cast,” she said. “And second that they walk off with just some heart warming fuzzes that remind them of why they too love ‘Annie.’”
Tickets for the show are $3 for students and $5 for adults, and children ages 5 and under are free. Tickets can be bought at the door.