All Shook Up Musical

A late post tonight, after a fun evening at the Pittsburg, Kansas Memorial Auditorium where my grandson Jonathan performed in the musical All Shook Up. What a superb way to end the day.

Jonathan joined 39 other 6th – 10th graders recently at Just Off Broadway drama camp, where they worked for two weeks on this production. All Shook Up features the songs of Elvis Presley. The musical was directed by Greg Shaw, with vocal direction by Karrie Fenech and choreography by Will Jewett.

The year is 1955 and hip swiveling, guitar toting Chad (Levi Ben) roars into town on his motorcycle. This free spirited young man is determined to spread joy and music throughout every community he visits.

While in town, he draws the affections of Natalie (McKenna Shaw), the mechanic, and makes the local geek, Dennis (Stuart O’Brien), his sidekick. Chad falls in love, not with Natalie but with the museum curator, Sandra (Mesa Jones), who in turns falls for another stranger in town, Ed (played by Shaw as well). Among these star crossed lovers Dean (Colin O’Brien) and Lorraine (Addy Campbell) find forbidden love against the wishes of Dean’s controlling mother, and mayor of the city, Matilda (Ainsley Balthazor).

There are lessons to be learned and loves to be sorted out, amid singing and rocking out to classic songs such Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak, and Jailhouse Rock.

This was such a fun musical! Jonathan was part of the ensemble cast, costumed smartly in a suit, singing and dancing his way through the night. I was so proud of him. He is a natural on the stage, and fearless in front of an audience.

The whole cast was quite impressive. These middle school through high school performers had powerful voices and great dance moves, and delivered their lines with wit and confidence. I love watching a play or musical where the actors and singers are so obviously enjoying themselves, and such was the case tonight.

I laughed and applauded and cheered and at the end, stood up in appreciation for a fine performance by a talented group of kids. There is a matinee tomorrow at 2:00, at the Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are $5 at the door. It’s money well spent. Check out All Shook Up. You will be glad you did, and leave with a smile on your face.

High School Musical: Xanadu

I’ve been attending Carl Junction High School’s plays and musicals for 3 1/2 years, catching the fall and spring performances with grandson Dayan and daughter Elissa. Tonight I was excited about the premiere of Xanadu, a musical I have never seen. 

You know it’s going to be a great show when there is a disco ball as a prop! 

Xanadu is a musical comedy based off of the 1980 Universal Pictures film by the same name. Music and lyrics are by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. The production is performed in two acts and features 15 musical numbers. 

The Carl Junction High School cast included Brett Boline, Katie Martinez, Cade Hensley, Megan Ritchins, Sophia Day, Darian Wilson, Gracie Jackson, Katherine Austin, Lindsey Ritchie and Xander Eck. 

Set in Venice, California, in 1980, Xanadu is the story of a young chalk artist, Sonny Malone (Boline), who isn’t pleased with his rendition of the Muses. As he is contemplating ending his life, the muses step out of the drawing, and the youngest of the sisters, Clio (Martinez) determines to save the young man and inspire him to pursue his creative dreams. 

Zeus insists that his daughters appear to humans in disguise, so Clio approaches Sonny as an Australian sporting roller skates and leg warmers, and using the more modern name of Kira. 

The oldest sister/muse Melpomene (Richins) is jealous that the youngest of them leads the muses. With the help of another sister, Calliope (Day), she plots Kira’s downfall by cursing her to fall in love with the mortal Sonny, which will invoke the wrath of Zeus. 

Inspired by Kira, Sonny decides to combine all the arts and “something athletic” into one spectacular entertainment…a roller disco. He finds a derelict abandoned theater, called the Xanadu, that is perfect for his dream. Now he must convince the owner, a middle aged real eastate mogul named Danny Maguire (Hensley), to allow him to use the theater. 

As a young man with big creative dreams of his own, Danny was also inspired by a woman who looked very much like Kira. He gives Sonny one day to transform the old theater, which was built years ago by Danny as he pursued his dream, and create the roller disco. 

Can Sonny do the impossible, to make his dream a reality? And will the curse work, causing Kira to fall in love and incur punishment from her father? And will all the cast members zipping around on roller skates stay on their feet?!

This was an amazing production…clever, funny, and touching, performed by an extremely talented group of teens. Brett Boline and Katie Martinez were enchanting in the title roles. And Miss Martinez has a beautiful voice. I’ve watched her sing and act her way through a variety of productions over the years and she never fails to wow me. 

Megan Richins and Sophia Day were outstanding as the bad girls of the musical, and hands down drew the most laughs with their expressive performances. Both girls have incredible voices and great comedic timing and delivery. 

The rest of the performers were excellent as well. There wasn’t a weak cast member in the group. Which meant, I smiled appreciatively throughout this musical, with frequent outbursts of laughter and the offering of enthusiastic applause. 

And in spite of dance routines and delivering lines both spoken and sung, not one cast member on skates teetered or toppled. I was impressed, as was the audience. They came to their feet in a standing ovation at the end. 

I enjoyed the evening. Elissa and I decided that  next year, even after Dayan leaves for college, we will continue to attend Carl Junction’s prodctions. Because is there anything more fresh and entertaining than a well done high school musical? I don’t think so!

Journey 325: Seussical

I had the privilege this evening of attending Carl Junction High School’s musical, Seussical. I enjoyed the lively and colorful production with my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan and his girlfriend, Elly. We sat near the front, and settled back as the lights dimmed, ready to be entertained. 

Seussical is a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on the books of Dr. Seuss, primarily “Horton Hears a Who!”, “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Miss Gertrude McFuzz”. The musical debuted on Broadway in 2000. The play’s story is an amalgamation of several of Seuss’s most famous books. After a Broadway run, the production birthed two US national tours and a UK tour. It has become a beloved classic for schools, communities and regional theatres to perform. 

The Carl Junction HS Theatre production starred Shelby Bryant as the Cat in the Hat, Cade Hensley as Jojo, the young boy on the dust speck planet of Who, Jarrett Little and Tiffany Durbin as his parents, Alec Huffman as Horton the Elephant, Sophia Day as Gertrude McFuzz, Megan Richins as Mayzie LaBird and Katheyn Martinez as Sour Kangaroo. There was also a talented host of supporting cast members, an amazing production team and a live orchestra. 

This was a fun musical, incorporating familiar characters from the whimsical rhyming tales of Dr. Seuss. The sets and costumes were brilliantly colored, and a trampoline was cleverly hidden in the midst of the set. The characters made full use of it, expertly bouncing across its surface. 

While I was impressed and highly entertained by the entire cast, there were stand out performances by Shelby, as that odd Cat in the red striped Hat, and Alec, who played a soulful Horton the Elephant. Sophia was a delightful Gertrude McFuzz, who loved Horton and longed to be noticed by him. And I enjoyed Tiffany and Jarret as the Mayor and his wife, parents to Jojo. 

I was absolutely wowed by the singing ability of Kathryn as Sour Kangaroo and Megan as Mayzie. Megan is a friend of Dayan’s and I got to know her better earlier this year when she attended the Phantom of the Opera musical with us in Tulsa. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be in the audience tonight for her performance. 

I’m ever amazed at the abilities of these high school kids. I like seeing creativity expressed well, with passion and obvious enthusiasm. Carl Junction High School’s theatre department consistently delivers high quality productions. I look forward to the next musical! 


Day 87: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown Musical


As I drove to Neosho, MO, this evening to watch the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”, I tried to remember when I had last seen a high school play or musical. I finally decided I never have! Even when I was in high school, I apparently didn’t make it to any performances. I’ve been to many college plays and musicals but this was a delightful first, watching a high school musical and especially, this one.

My cousin’s son, William, (known in the family as Harry) has been involved in the Neosho drama department throughout his high school years. He is a fine actor. For the last two productions, he’s stepped into the demanding role of assistant director, something he has enjoyed. I was excited to see this musical since Harry is a senior and his time with this drama department is drawing to a close. It was fun during the second act to have him sitting in the row in front of his proud mama and me, and watch him as he watched the performance.

I have to say, this was an extremely talented group of young adults. These kids can sing! And act and dance. I am very familiar with the Charlie Brown characters, made famous by the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schultz. And I was impressed with the portrayals of Lucy, Sally, Linus, Schroeder, Snoopy and Charlie Brown, the lovable loser who never gives up in spite of the fact that he rarely excels at anything. Senior Matthew Jemes gave a great performance in the title role, getting Charlie Brown’s perpetual downer attitude just right.

Seniors Miranda Johnson and Jaclyn Kidd lit up the stage in their roles as Lucy and Sally respectively. Miranda captured Lucy’s sassy “crabbiness” quite well and Jaclyn gathered lots of laughs as the pragmatic younger sister of Charlie Brown. Senior Joey Heflin drew the chuckles too as Linus, the thumb sucking, blanket carrying younger brother of Lucy. And the Blankie Dance was amazing! Senior Isamo Manuel played Schroeder, the musician, and object of Lucy’s crush. I enjoyed his voice and loved the Beethoven Day number. Junior Elizabeth Armstrong, playing Charlie’s beloved dog Snoopy, completed the ensemble of main cast members. She was witty and I especially enjoyed her and the dance chorus in the fun number, “Suppertime”.

I was tired as I drove to Neosho High School. But I left energized and smiling after an outstanding performance. I hope these talented young men and women continue to take the stage in college and beyond. The musical is being performed at the Neosho High School Auditorium, with a 7:30 show Saturday evening, March 29 and a 2:00 matinee Sunday, March 30. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for students and seniors.


Photos courtesy of the Neosho Drama Facebook Page