BLHS students to perform “Anne of Green Gables”
With a few wigs and costumes and an abundance of theatrical talent, Basehor-Linwood High School students will bring the characters of a classic novel alive this weekend with the school's fall musical production of "Anne of Green Gables."
The tale features Anne Shirley, an imaginative orphan girl who comes to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an elderly brother and sister, at a farmhouse on Prince Edward Island. Although Shirley struggles through many obstacles, eventually she is accepted by the entire town.
Director Rebecca Knowles said she chose "Anne of Green Gables" because of her knowledge and love of the story as well as the students' ability to transform into the characters.
"It's a story I've loved ever since I was little," Knowles said. "I've envisioned these characters a certain way for a long time, and I'm sure that's come into play when I've told them (the students) to do certain things."
The cast of 26 and crew of eight along with the 13 members of the pit, directed by Kim Demings, have been working about two months on the production and began dress rehearsals this week.
Knowles said a lot of outside activities have interfered with rehearsals this year and learning how to use the newly rented microphones has been an adjustment for the actors, but the cast and crew are working out the kinks in their specific roles nicely. Now, she said, it's just a matter of ironing out technical issues, such as costume changes and raising and lowering the sets at the correct times.
"We're at least getting consistently better with this show, and that makes me feel better," she said.
Sophomore Nicole Theno plays the lead female role of Anne Shirley and hides her usual dark hair under a wig modeled after Anne's signature red, braided pigtails. This will be Theno's second production at the high school, but she has been involved in theater since middle school and began singing at a young age.
"I love theater," Theno said. "It's pretty much my second home. It's my life."
Earning the lead role was a surprise, she said, because she also took on the lead female role of Betty Blake in last year's musical production of "The Will Rogers Follies."
The role of Anne has been a challenging one, she said, and she has been practicing hard to get into the character.
"She's very imaginative, outgoing; not a shy person, which is the exact opposite of me, so it's a hard role," Theno said about Anne's character.
The lead male role, Gilbert Blythe, who is Anne's classmate and rival through most of the musical, is played by Noah Adcox. The sophomore has had roles in two previous productions, "The Will Rogers Follies" and "The Sound of Music" and is also involved in band and choir.
"I hadn't done a production for a while and I wanted to get back into drama because I enjoy it," Adcox said.
He described Blythe's character as a rowdy boy who is actually a good kid on the inside but tries to act tough in front of the rest of the boys.
Adcox also said he was surprised to receive the role.
"I got Gilbert, which kind of freaked me out," he said. "This is my first time doing an actual solo. You get a little nervous. I'm getting more confident with the role, but everything could go up another level."
Having two sophomores in the lead roles may seem a little unusual, but Knowles said grade level was something she didn't take into consideration when choosing the best students for the roles.
"They were just right for it," Knowles said about Theno and Adcox. "People tend to click with the parts and those two clicked."
While the roles of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, played by junior Nate Hopkins and senior Lauren Jackson, are not technically lead roles. But Knowles said she considers them leads because of the pair's integral part in the production. The roles are difficult because the young students have to take on the characteristics of elderly people.
"I kind of look at it as four leads in the show as opposed to just two," Knowles said.
Forming a family
The production may be the main event, but the actors also commented on the fun that goes on behind the scenes. Working together closely for months helps the students form a kind of family.
While they are grateful for the opportunity to grow as actors, Theno and Adcox said they enjoyed participating in a little goofing off with their classmates mixed in with the hard work. Both said they would be disappointed when this particularly production is over but would continue to audition for future shows.
"I've gotten to meet new people that I've never even talked to before," Theno said. "And, it's nice to work with people who love to do the same thing you do."
"When it's over, a lot of people cry because they're so sad it's over," Adcox said.
Blue Star program
The young actors and actresses are also excited because this is the first year BLHS has been involved in Starlight Theatre's Blue Star Program, which is modeled after Broadway's Tony Awards and recognizes excellence in local high school musical theater.
BLHS musical theater students will be up against students from more than 40 other Kansas City area high schools for nominations in 24 award categories, including best male and female lead and best overall musical. The winners of the awards will be announced at a ceremony at the end of May 2008. Three judges from the program will be attending two of the three performances of "Anne of Green Gables."
"It's really nice because they give you written feedback, which will be good for future productions," Knowles said.
Encouragement, Knowles said, is the method she tries to use to strengthen lines, songs, facial expressions and the little things that make the characters unique to make the overall production come together. She said she was confident the students would be ready for opening night Friday and the audience will not be disappointed.
"That's what we're down to in the stage notes," she said. "Just little nit-picky things I see that they can improve on. It always comes together in the end. Somehow, some way, it always comes together in the end."
Performances of BLHS's musical production "Anne of Green Gables" will be at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9, and Saturday, Nov. 10, and 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for students and children. All performances will be in the BLHS auditorium.