November 10, 2011 at 8:04 a.m.

Opening night one week away Performers aim high with musical

Opening night one week away Performers aim high with musical
Opening night one week away Performers aim high with musical

The cast and crew of Chisago Lakes High School's production of 'Hello, Dolly!' definitely took a cue from Broadway, known for its all-out, take-no-prisoners celebration of flamboyance. The sets for this fall's school musical are larger, the songs more showstopping, the choreography more intense, and the acting tighter than ever before. While the actors onstage are singing 'Hello, Dolly!' the audience members will be saying hello big time.

Before the actors even walk into the spotlights, there is one thing that everyone will notice, and that is the set. Most of the time, it isn't necessary to mention the set in an article like this, but those responsible for the set deserve special notice. In most of Chisago Lakes' previous musicals, there has been one large set that ran constant throughout the entire show. This year, there are three large, moveable set pieces.

Set design doesn't make the show, however. As most know, it takes the hard work of dozens of actors, crew, and musicians for any show to be successful. Every single one of these students is integral to the show.

There is, as director Dave Seaburg says, "only one Dolly," and she is being played by Karen Holt. Karen is a senior at Chisago and has acted in the musicals for four years, also sharpening her acting and singing talents in the school choir and various community plays. Anyone who has seen her knows that she steals any scene she is in, no matter if she is a chorus member or the star.

Karen has a deep passion for theater, saying she enjoys having the opportunity to "get into character" and portray someone else and tell their story.

The cast of each CLHS musical always comes together like a family, Karen adds, "I have met many new friends through being in the Musical."

It's only natural for her to speak for the entire cast; not only is she the lead but Karen also acts as de facto mother for the rest of the cast, aiding in every single dance number, even ones she isn't in. Karen legitimately cares about the musical.

In 'Hello, Dolly!' she plays the matchmaker who is perfectly confident that she can create a happily-ever-after for everyone before the day is done.

Stick in the mud Horace Vandergelder, is played by Charlie Wilcox, an cranky Hay-and-Feed businessman from Yonkers, New York, who only enlists Dolly's matchmaking service in order to find a wife to clean his house for him.

Dolly, has a very special plan in mind for him, as well as everyone else around him, from his whiny niece Ermengarde and her beau, the lovelorn artist Ambrose Kemper (played by Diane Hawkinson and Jake Sells) to his chief clerk and innocent, (if not slightly daft) assistant clerk (played by Chuck Love and Hunter Haas).

Along the way, the cast will travel to New York City for a night on the town and meet a hat shop owner and her assistant (Rebekah Meyer and Haley Gajeski), who are just looking for a good time.

Even though things sometimes appear to get out of hand, Dolly always seems to have something up her sleeve.

One of the first things 'Director Dave' advises in auditions is to be prepared. He warned the cast he is just as hard, if not harder, than football coaches. He expects commitment and energy, and he will tell you when he isn't satisfied. And any actor can tell you how hard it is to satisfy Dave.

Karen says it best (probably because the two have been working together since Karen was six years old), "He wants us to perform to the highest standard and teaches us to never settle for less. Dave's enthusiasm and caring spirit makes this show possible. During practice, it's not always pretty...but we get there!"

This year there's additional incentive to be so good. Chisago Lakes High School is entered in the SpotLight program, an education initiative of the Hennepin Theatre Trust. The school is one of 53 Minnesota high schools included as a SpotLight Musical. What this means is that there are a number of resources open to the cast of this year's production, including clinics and classes with professional actors.

During the five shows at the high school, visitorsfrom the Hennepin Theatre Trust will be watching, offering critiques and judging ensemble and individual work. At the end of the school year, there will be a SpotLight schools showcase at the Orpheum Theatre, where cast members could be invited to perform. There will be awards for categories like 'Best Lead Actor' and 'Best Supporting Performance'.

The Chisago Lakes High School Musical is heading for the big time. Bigger songs, bigger sets, bigger onstage personalities, and a chance at a bigger performance at the Orpheum Theatre. The cast, crew, and orchestra are hard at work perfecting everything, and they are getting down to the line. The curtain opens for the 7 p.m. performances on Nov. 17, 18, and 19, and 2 p.m. shows on the 19th and 20th.

Tickets are on sale online or at the Performing Arts Center Box Office at the west high school entrance.

Be sure to catch one of the shows, or else you might miss out on the performance that wins a statewide award. And, at the very least, you'll enjoy the fruit of weeks of labor and practice in what promises to be a very memorable production for the entire community.


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