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High School fall musical 'Hello Dolly' opens this weekend

Sarah Monette, left, plays Mrs. Malloy and Sam Johnson takes on the role of Horace VanderGelder in the classic musical "Hello Dolly." The production, being staged at Hudson High School, opens Friday. Tickets are on sale at the box office outside the high school auditorium. See page 6A-7A of the print edition and the attached Photo Gallery for more photos. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl1 / 2
Among the cast members are, front from left, Meredith Howard, Anna Egeberg, Shemaina Miller, Amber Hargesheimer, Meghan Olson and Bjorn Saterbak; back, Tucker Millett, Andy Leines and Andy Klanderman. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl2 / 2

The annual Hudson High School fall musical is a familiar one that promises big production numbers, great songs and an enthusiastic cast. "Hello Dolly" has something for everyone.

The story of the meddlesome but amazing matchmaker Dolly Levi was made famous on Broadway by Carol Channing and in the movie by Barbra Streisand but the HHS cast is working hard to make the show their own.

This show makes about the tenth time senior Sam Johnson has taken the stage. He plays Dolly's reluctant love interest Horace VanderGelder. Johnson has a reputation for his great character portrayals and Horace is promising to be more of the same.

"He's a lot of fun to do because he's frankly just kind of a grumpy old man -- loveable -- but grumpy. It kind of depends on what side of the bed he got up on," said Johnson.

Johnson's previous roles have included the egomaniacal Gaston in last year's "Beauty and the Beast" and the nervous producer in "Lend Me a Tenor," both favorites of his. He says "Dolly's" music is the most difficult he's tackled but there is a difference. "This is the first time I have done an accent like this and singing with it is kind of a challenge." He says his favorite song in the show is "It Takes a Woman."

"It's kind of sexist but it is a blast doing it," said Johnson.

This may be his last show at HHS depending on whether he participates in the spring play. "But I am going to miss this. It is such a great way to get to know people I might not otherwise connect with. That's the best part of doing a show."

Johnson is the son of JoMarie and Dan Johnson.

Lauren Palm is Dolly Levi. Also a senior, Palm played the wardrobe in last year's "Beauty and the Beast" and has appeared in several other HHS productions. This is her first leading role.

She likes Dolly. "Even though she is really nosey, like to get her own way and is kind of manipulative, she's pretty loveable. That's fun to play."

Palm wasn't familiar with the show or movie but has since watched it. It has been a lot of work as the lead in such a big show but Palm says "I'm getting there."

Along with her character, Palm loves the costumes she gets to wear in her role. The school is renting the costumes from the Chanhassen Theater in the Twin Cities. "I get to wear some pretty amazing things and the hats -- well, Dolly is all about the hats."

Palm feels the same way Johnson does about performing at the school. "There are a ton of people in the cast and a lot of them are underclassmen I wouldn't get to know otherwise. Being in these shows is what I am going to really remember about high school. Everybody kind of becomes like family," said Palm.

She is the daughter of Don and Kay Palm.

Emma Smith, another senior, plays Minnie, her first featured role after participating in several other HHS shows as well as at The Phipps Center. She describes her character as the lighthearted sidekick and employee of Mrs. Malloy. "She's a little ditsy and kind of an airhead but that makes her fun to play.

She says her favorite number in the show is "Elegance." "It is kind of a challenge learning all the lines and then the songs and the dancing but it is so much fun." And she has worked hard to perfect her "Minnie voice." She is also a fan of the costumes she gets to wear for that number and others.

Smith says her favorite part of working on a show is when it all comes together on opening night. "That's the best -- when you see all the hard work pay off -- that and all the good friends you make while doing it. It's just the greatest experience."

Smith is the daughter of Elizabeth and Adam Smith.

Senior Bjorn Saterbak plays Barnaby, another featured role and the first for Saterbak. He has had plenty of experience performing with the HHS chorus but is enjoying his role as the male sidekick of Cornelius, another featured part.

"He's fun because he's kind of naïve and innocent -- bright-eyed and clueless really," said Saterbak. He wasn't too familiar with the show before landing the part but has watched scenes on YouTube.

While he agrees the show entails a lot of time and work, he says the experience is worth it. "It is fun being around people who love performing as much as I do. And there is nothing like that moment when everything just clicks."

Saterbak says he will miss not only performing once he graduates but also the friendships he has made along the way. "It has been a big part of my life here and it's been great."

Saterbak is the son of Paul and DeeDee Saterbak.

Elijah Baumgartner is the only freshman among the leads in "Hello Dolly" in his first HHS production but he doesn't appear intimidated. As a choir member and musician he has some experience on stage but this is his first time as a song and dance man.

His character is Cornelius who he describes as a little quirky, smart in a way, foolish but fun most of the time. His biggest challenge with the role is dancing "I kind of have two left feet but I keep practicing." His favorite number in the show is "Elegance" that includes some great harmony and choreography he describes as "clean cut and cool."

Baumgartner agrees that participating in the show has been a fun and memorable way to meet a lot of new people and he plans on doing more shows as he moves through the school.

He is the son of Dan and Ronda Baumgartner.

Sarah Monette, also a senior, plays the love interest of Cornelius, Mrs. Malloy. This is Monette's biggest role and she is loving it. She likes her character because she is independent yet very prim and proper and she owns her own business. "She's just very likeable and vulnerable in a good way but she also has a kind of rebellious and spunky side.

Monette's favorite production number in the show is one she gets to watch along with the audience -- the waiters' scene in the restaurant where she also gets to wear her favorite costume. But she loves everything about "Hello Dolly," admitting the show has been a favorite of hers since she was 7 years old.

Monette who plans to attend UW-Madison and major in international business thinks this show will probably be her last and she will miss it. "I like the people who go out for musicals. They're outgoing. There is so much excitement associated with a show like this and it is just fun to be somebody else."

Monette is the daughter of Bob and Cheri Monette.

The show is directed by Kari Heisler of the HHS choral department. Her husband Rico, a professional actor and dancer, is the show's choreographer.


Tickets for "Hello Dolly" are on sale at the box office outside the high school auditorium. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 12, 13, 19 and 20, at 7 p.m. and Sundays, Nov. 14 and 21 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. Box office hours are 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, e-mail Kari Heisler at or call the box office at (715) 377-3808.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604