February 9, 2012 at 10:58 a.m.
Sometimes people struggle for years for just one crack at stepping onto a professional stage. Meanwhile two Chisago Lakes High School kids recently had roles in the cast of a musical production, put on by the largest dinner theatre company in the United States.
Jake Sells, of Chisago City and Lindstrom resident Karen Holt are two of just 100 super lucky students in Minnesota who got to take part in the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre StarKids program. Star Kids contacts music-theatre educators in schools throughout the state for nominees, who are considered for walk-on roles in the dinner theatre show.
The Chanhassen Dinner Theatre production of Hairspray is running through May 26. Holt and Sells were featured recently, in the first act, about midway through.
Holt was glad her part was during the early portion of the show so she could enjoy the rest of the play anxiety-free.
Hairspray is a pop culture movie classic from 1988. There’s a couple dozen songs with a 1960’s flavor that move the story along. The hairstyles are big, the costumes are retro and the mood is sassy. The live Broadway version has taken eight Tony awards.
Holt is a high school senior and recently had the role of Dolly in Chisago Lakes high school’s fall musical Hello Dolly! She said she has watched the John Waters’ movie a few times-- so she was comfortable with the visuals and the musical style, and knows some of the tunes.
Holt and Sells were nominated for StarKids by teacher Karen Moldenhauer. This is the second year the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre has offered this. The Footloose show was the first time Chanhassen Dinner Theatre offered the opportunity for high schoolers to get a taste of professional musicals. CDT President and Artistic Director Michael Brindisi said Footloose was an incredible event. “Not just for the students but for all of us on the staff and our audiences. After our first go at this we learned what was most important to the students and have made it into an event that will be both energizing and a valuable learning tool, without making it too stressful.”
Sells said one of the best parts was the environment behind the scenes, backstage. He said he and Holt were actually on-stage only briefly, delivering one line, a few dance steps; but the experience in total was “very cool.” Working with professional
dancers was his favorite part.
Sells said the Hairspray cast members took time to go over things with, and get to know, him and Karen and everybody was surprisingly nice.
Holt added that it was a whirlwind deal. Between putting together her own costume pieces, learning her walk-on part and staying out of the way during the dizzying set changes-- it all happened pretty fast.
Holt graduates this spring and does not plan on pursuing theatre as a college major, but hopes she’ll stay involved somehow in acting. She’s the daughter of Ron and Bonita Holt. (Karen was also in this paper in December, as an award winner of an Honorable Mention, a recognition of student actors by the SpotLight Series, an outreach program of the Hennepin Theatre Trust.)
Sells is a junior, his parents are Rick and Bobbi Sells. He’s a little less definitive about post secondary plans but he also hopes to continue to have musicals and the stage in his life as a hobby for a long time.