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“Grapevine, turn and clap,” instructs choreographer Chesney Murphy as Crystal Lake Central High School students rehearse “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”
It’s weeks before their first performance on March 14, but the energy’s high. Perhaps a little too high sometimes.
“Ok, no need to talk,” choir director Justin Hubly tells the cast, on stage learning how to do their final song and dance number as well as their bows.
Through their laughs and voices, you can tell they’re excited, relishing in the company around them, and confident.
“I think we’ve got it down,” said 16-year-old Giovanna Doty, a junior who plays Paulette in the musical. In her second musical, Doty wasn’t sure she’d be able to take part this spring because of soccer.
But those who’ve heard her sing - something she loves to do - are glad she’s there.
Students passing by the auditorium can’t help but peak in. It’s a similar scene at high schools throughout the area as they prepare to perform their spring musicals.
For many of the students, being part of the show likely will become one of their cherished high school memories. And those they work alongside often become their closest friends.
“Theater kids are like the coolest people around,” said 16-year-old Will Olsen, a sophomore who plays Emmett in the musical.
“I just love to perform in front of everyone,” he said.
For all nvolved, it’s not something that’s taken lightly. Hours, days, weeks of preparation and practice go into every performance.
“I think you will be blown away by the amount of talent,” Hubly said.
Other high school directors share his sentiment.
They often choose shows based on the known talent they have in the school. For Hubly, if he can think of at least three students that can handle the lead roles for a certain musical, he’ll pick it.
Yet, every year, he said, “There’s a kid that comes out of nowhere.”
Showcasing that talent is what those involved in high school theater thrive on.
Whether it’s through “Legally Blonde” or classics, such as “Beauty and the Beast” being portrayed at Prairie Ridge and Harvard high schools this year or “The Odyssey” at Woodstock North High School, the goal is always to put on the best show possible.
In doing so, the community gets to enjoy some inexpensive entertainment, while the students learn skills that will last a lifetime, whether they pursue theater or not.
“People are just always amazed with the level of talent at the high school,” said Michelle Gassensmith, the publicity chair for the spring musical, “Into the Woods,” at Crystal Lake South High School.
“Into the Woods” features two acts, the first about fairy tales, the second featuring “some of the darker possibilities in life.” To appease those who like happy endings, the school is offering a single Act 1 only showing, along with the full musical, which is scheduled Feb. 22 through March 2.
“Everyone should come out,” Gassensmith said. “They’ll be pleasantly surprised by what the high school puts together.”
With 150 students and the help of a flying company that trained some of them how to fly themselves and objects through the air, Prairie Ridge will put on one of its most elaborate shows to date with “Beauty and Beast,” which begins March 1.
They’ve even rented costumes from Broadway Costumes, Inc., in Chicago, parent volunteer Valeri Brachmann said.
“They’re working it all out, and they’re having a great time,” she said.
THE SPRING PRODUCTIONS
The following theater productions are taking place this spring in McHenry County.
“INTO THE WOODS,” through March 2, Crystal Lake South High School, 1200 S. McHenry Ave., Crystal Lake. Musical presented by Crystal Lake South High School. The two-act play weaves several fairytale stories together via music/lyrics composed by Stephen Sondheim. Schedule: 7 p.m. Feb. 22-23; 7 p.m. March 1; 2 p.m. March 2 (Act I only); and 7 p.m. March 2. Tickets: $10 adults, $5 seniors and students. Tickets and information: 815-455-3860 or www.d155.org/cls.
“SOUTH PACIFIC,” through March 2, Marian Central Catholic High School, 1001 McHenry Ave., Woodstock. Musical by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II adapted by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Tales of South Pacific,” by James A. Michener. Schedule: 7 p.m. Feb. 22-23; 2 p.m. Feb. 24; and 7 p.m. March 1-2. Tickets: $10 adults, $5 seniors and students at 815-338-4220, ext. 100.
“CAROUSEL,” March 1-2, Jacobs High School, 2601 Bunker Hill Drive, Algonquin. Schedule: 7 p.m. Feb. 23; 2 p.m. Feb. 24; 7 p.m. March 1 &2. Tickets and information: jhs.d300.org
"CLAY JENKINSON: RUSHMORE SPEAKS," 7:30 p.m. March 2, Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake. Clay Jenkinson will perform as the faces of Mount Rushmore in a special 10th anniversary show. Tickets: $45 or $55. Tickets and information: 815-356-9212 or www.rauecenter.org.
“BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,” March 1-2 and March 8-9, Prairie Ridge High School, 6000 Dvorak Drive, Crystal Lake. Disney’s hit musical transports audiences to a French provincial town. Schedule: 7 p.m. March 1 & 8; 1 and 7 p.m. March 2 & 9. Tickets: $10 adults, $5 seniors and students. Free senior citizens’ performance and dinner at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28. Call 815-893-5888 for reservations. Brunches with Belle at 9 and 10:30 a.m. March 2 & 9 with story, craft and picture with Belle and brunch. Cost is $20 a child, $15 each additional child. Call 815-893-5688 for reservations. Tickets and information: www.showtix4u.com.
"LAW & ORDER: FAIRY TALE UNIT," 7:30 p.m. March 1-2, Heineman Middle School auditorium, 725 Academic Drive, Algonquin. Comedic play performed by the school students. This is a delightful play combining the popular television series and many beloved but fractured fairy tales. Tickets: $5 available at the door. Information: 847-659-6107 or LWoods@District158.org.
“THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE,” March 8-24, Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock. Tony Award-winning story of six quirky competitors and three oddball adults in search of spelling-bee glory. The musical production is presented by TownSquare Players. Schedule: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $23 adults, $20 seniors and students at 815-338-5300 or www.woodstockoperahouse.com.
“NOTHIN’ UP MY SLEEVE,” 11th annual, 7 p.m. March 9, Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake. An annual magic show returning to Raue Center. Performance features the Midwest’s finest magicians and entertainers. Proceeds benefit the Raue Center. Tickets: $17, $20, $23. Tickets and information: 815-356-9212 or www.rauecenter.org.
“LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL,” March 14-17, Crystal Lake Central High School, 45 W. Franklin Ave., Crystal Lake. Elle Woods appears to have it all, but her life is turned upside-down when her boyfriend dumps her so he can start getting serious about his life and attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle uses her charm to get into Harvard Law. Rated PG for infrequent coarse language and some suggestive dialogue. Schedule: 7 p.m. March 14-16; 2 p.m. March 17. Tickets: $9 adults, $7 students and seniors. Tickets and information: www.d155.org/clc
"ANNIE," March 14-16, Marengo Community High School Auditorium, 110 Franks Road, Marengo. Spring musical production of the Broadway classic presented by Marengo Community High School Theatre Department. Cast includes more than 40 high school and elementary school students. Schedule: 7 p.m. March 14-15; 2 & 7 p.m. March 16. Tickets: $8 adults, $6 seniors and students. Come Friday for a reception including a silent auction, raffle items, food and more. Tickets and information: 815-568-6511, ext. 1301.
“KISS ME KATE,” March 8-10 & 15-16, McHenry High School West Campus, 4724 W. Crystal Lake Road, McHenry. Takes place during a very hot Baltimore summer in the 1940s where a theatrical troupe is preparing to open a musical production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” as an out-of-town Broadway tryout. Schedule: 7 p.m. March 8-9 & 15-16; 2 p.m. March 10. Tickets: $8 adults, $6 students and seniors. Pre-sale preferred seating is available for an extra $1 per ticket. Tickets and information: 815-385-7077 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"FIDDLER ON THE ROOF," March 8-16, Cary-Grove High School, 2208 Three Oaks Road, Cary. Tony Award-winning musical presented by the Cary-Grove High School Music Department. Story of Tevye, Golde and their five daughters as he tries to uphold Jewish traditions in an ever-changing political and social landscape. Schedule: 7:30 p.m. March 8-9; 2 p.m. March 10; 7 p.m. March 14; 7:30 p.m. March 15-16. Tickets: $10 adults, $5 seniors and students. Tickets available in the front lobby between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Information: 847-639-3825.
“BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,” March 16-17, Harvard High School North Gym, 401 N. Division St., Harvard. Schedule: 7 p.m. March 16 & 3 p.m. March 17. Ticket information not yet available.