'Singin' in the Rain' is sunny entertainment
"Singin' in the Rain" conjures up some familiar faces and song and dance numbers, but audiences will have a chance to see it all live in the upcoming Hudson High School production of the show, opening Nov. 14.
Director Kari Heisler said she loves every song in the show and all the dancing that goes with it. She is being assisted by her husband, Rico, who serves as the show's choreographer and assistant director. She is also assisted by stage manager Allison Hawthorne, set designer Denise Baker and a whole crew of parent volunteers.
"They have all been such a huge help."
Heisler said she knew the school had the talent to pull off the production. "This is a very talented cast. There are kids who I've worked with before and some talented newcomers. It is going to be a great show."
Playing Don Lockwood, the role made famous by Gene Kelly, is Kyle Featherstone, a senior who was been in three of the school's most recent musicals as well as playing one of the leads in last spring's "Lend Me a Tenor."
Featherstone said the role of Lockwood has special appeal because of all the tap dancing that goes with it. He learned to tap in sixth grade and is glad to have a role that lets him go all out.
As the leading man, Featherstone isn't exactly sure he likes his character's style, especially when it comes to the romance with Kathy, played by Monica DeLoy.
"He's kind of cheesy, even creepy, around Kathy at first but it actually is kind of fun to play someone so arrogant and over the top. Eventually he turns out to be a good guy so he's fun to play."
Featherstone says one of the best things about being in the school musical is the people you meet.
"Before I tried out in my sophomore year, I had nothing to do with stuff like this or choir. But it has been great and given me experiences and friends I wouldn't have had otherwise."
Featherstone isn't sure what he will be doing after graduation but he thinks it will be music-related.
DeLoy as Kathy Seldon is Featherstone's love interest in the show. She played Glinda the Good Witch in last year's "Wizard of Oz," her fifth musical at HHS. She says she thinks audiences will find the live production of "Singin'" an entirely different experience from the familiar movie.
"It is different visually and musically. There are songs in the play that were cut from the movie, and live theater is just something special."
DeLoy, 17 and a senior, says she likes Seldon because she gets to play off Lockwood's arrogance.
"I get to pretend I don't know what a big star he is and how famous he is when I'm really just as star struck as everybody else. But in the end, she's really sweet, even when she's mean."
DeLoy said the musicals require a lot of commitment from the cast and it takes some special effort to juggle rehearsals with school and other activities like the dance team. It's an effort she enjoys making.
DeLoy was just accepted at UW-Stevens Point and she plans on taking a minor in musical theater there.
"I want to continue to act in musicals. You're only young once and you should live the life you want," she said.
Max Malanaphy plays Lockwood's close friend and cohort Cosmo Brown. Malanaphy said he likes being the third wheel to Featherstone and DeLoy and kind of enjoys the character's awkward, upbeat, comedic nature.
His big number, "Make 'Em Laugh," is among the most athletic and difficult in the show and includes lots of pratfalls, even breaking through a wall. "That scene really builds, and it's a good thing because it takes a lot of energy."
Malanaphy is a junior so unlike his cast mates, this is not likely to be his last HHS show, but he will miss the friends he's made while working on school shows.
"Kyle and I didn't know each other very well before the shows we've done together. That's the good thing about this -- you get to know kids in all the grades, people you might not meet or get to know any other way."
Gretchen Hoehn plays Lena Lamont, the show's scene-stealing dumb blonde. Hoehn, also a senior, isn't troubled by her character's shortcomings. "She's actually really, really fun to play. Once I got all the lines down, I could start to develop her and I get to lay it on pretty thick."
Fans of the movie and Hoehn, who has appeared in three other HHS musicals, will enjoy Lena's lament "What's Wrong with Me?" a song that was cut from the movie. Her character's nasal voice has been a fun challenge for Hoehn.
"She kind of screeches, and it has been kind of funny going from that back to my regular voice for choir. It actually hurt to talk like her at first but I've gotten used to it."
The role, her largest to date, is her favorite and likely her last at HHS. Like DeLoy, she said the time required for the show can be daunting, especially since she is also involved as a Raidaire and in dance, but it is worth it.
"The relationships you make with the cast and crew are special. It is like a family and I might have missed some of them if I hadn't been involved. And when you're done, you miss seeing them every day."
Hoehn has also applied to UW-Stevens Point and plans to major in visual arts and stay involved in musical theater.
With the show opening next week, Heisler will take a few days off at the end of this week to have her second child. "But I will be back on Saturday for the technical rehearsal," she said. The Heislers' first son, Silas, was born right around the time of his mother's production of "Crazy For You" two years ago at HHS.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased at the HHS box office adjacent to the auditorium Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. For more information, go online at www.hudson.k12.wi.us and click on Hudson High School.