Gentry Middle School’s Drama Club is in the final stages of rehearsal for its ninth annual musical theater production.
This year the students will perform Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma.” This year’s production is unique because it will be directors Pam Parker’s and Susan Gentry’s last show as they have announced their retirement from teaching as well as the stage.
“We decided that we were going out with a bang,” joked Parker after Thursday’s dress rehearsal. “We’re hoping to see full houses at all of these shows and then we’re going to catch up on all the things we’ve put off for 30 years.” She explained that both of them felt it was important to provide students an opportunity for theatre. They said much of the work by the drama club is extracurricular and by volunteers.
The two said they decided to make the production special by inviting all former drama club members to attend free as their guests. A special exhibit, named “Memory Lane” will feature videos, pictures and memorabilia from the past nine year’s productions.
“We’re hoping to see several of our former club members here, wearing one of their shot tee shirts,” added Parker. The two said they are happy several former members have continued in drama by performing on stage at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, traveling with the Nonesuch Playmakers and performing at the Mount Airy Public Library with the Dewey Decimal Players. They said others have gone on to pursue musical theater at the college level.
“We are so proud of their accomplishments,” said Gentry. Students cast in lead roles include Hannah Gates as Aunt Eller, Lucas McMillian as Curly McLain, Haley Keck as Laurey Williams, Jonathan Dalton as Jud Fry and Robert Parks as Will Parker. Other leads include Katherine Parsons as Ado Annie Carnes, Seth Hill as The Peddler, Rebecca Bowes as Gertie Cummings and Chris Smith as Andrew Carnes.
Other students named to the cast include Zeke Benge, Blake Smith, Nate Fitzgerald, Sydney Edwards, Brooke Bennett, AJessica Frost, Joelle Hall, Julianna Cooke, Destiny Martin, Emma Haynes, Angel Hicks, Arin Bunker, Anna Beth Flippen, Krystyn Haynes, Karleigh Badgett, Sydney Burcham, Marissa Mabe, Courtney Easter, Kelleigh Overby, Hannah Madel and Niclole McMillian.
Haley Keck, who will play Laurey Williams, has been involved in dramas in her sixth and seventh grade years. She has not always had a lead role.
“I like playing lead roles better,” said Keck. “I wanted to do the part of Laurey because she is just so emotional and really goes through a range of emotions. I really wanted to have a chance to do that. I am really excited about the performances and look forward to it.” Keck said besides enjoying the applause, acting has given her a chance to be someone different. She said she appreciates the opportunities to be so many other persons on stage.
Lucas McMillian, who plays Curly McLain, is also a veteran on the boards and has had other lead roles in plays including “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“I really enjoy acting,” said McMillian. “There’s a lot to memorize but it is great to hear that applause. Sometimes I struggle with the lines or the accent but in the end I get it under control.” He and other cast members interviewed said one of the hardest parts of this production was getting the accents correct and they have spent a lot of time on this.
Seth Hill said he found a lot about his character, The Peddler, that he likes. Hill has also been involved in three productions although he said he seems to have found a comfort zone in playing similar characters. He agreed with Keck and McMillian that it has been really hard to get the accent right for the production. He said he likes the fact the peddler is a traveler and sells so many things.
“He’s a more kind type of person and everyone likes him…except he really doesn’t want to get married,” said Hill as he discussed his character’s motivations. “He really hates Gertie’s (Cummings) laugh but he winds up having to marry her anyway.”
A dessert theater event has been slated for March 26 at 7 p.m. in the school gym. Ticket prices for adults are $6 and $4 for school children. Admission is free for preschool children. Parker and Gentry said the dessert for this event will include peach cobbler and a drink.
The club will also present the musical at Gentry Middle School at 1 p.m. on March 26 and 27. The final shows will be held at the Andy Griffith Playhouse on April 12 for local schools. The times for those shows are set for 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Persons interested in getting more information on the shows may call 786-4155.