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'The Drowsy Chaperone' takes stage at Weeki Wachee High


Published:   |   Updated: April 2, 2014 at 01:40 PM

As they neared their production date, the cast of "The Drowsy Chaperone" took to the stage at Weeki Wachee High School, dressed in costume, and ran through several scenes with precision. The group worked in easy succession, fed off each other for cues, and demonstrated an energy that has become the trademark of the high school's theater department.

"In a real theater, they would have two weeks to put this together," said musical director Morgan Burburan. But the theater department at Weeki Wachee High School has been working on the Broadway play, their fourth production, since December.

Theater companies typically perform their shows for six straight months. WWHS has this weekend, just three days of production, to wow their audiences.

"The Drowsy Chaperone," with music and lyrics written by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, is based on a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Musical Theater International said the story is "rare combination of unprecedented originality and blinding talent and boldly addresses a great unspoken desire in all of our hearts: to be entertained."

The WWHS production promises to leave its audiences smiling.

Directed by Maritza James and choreographed by Maureen MacGregor, the cast contains freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Some of the performers have participated in every production at WWHS since its opening. And a good chunk of the school's talent will be leaving after graduation to pursue dreams in theater and music.

The synopsis of the play includes a man in a chair who puts on his favorite record: the cast recording of a fictitious 1928 musical. The recording comes to life and "The Drowsy Chaperone" begins, as the man in the chair looks on.

"The rapport between these students is unbelievable," said MacGregor, who joined WWHS late last year. An actress and creative writing instructor at the school, MacGregor said she was blown away by the caliber of talent and balance in the high school students.

"I've taught in the ghetto in Cleveland and in an extremely wealthy suburb," said MacGregor, "and I may be a bit biased because I've only been here since November, but I feel like I'm at home."

Kris Hamlin, a senior, plays the man in the chair and belts out an incredible narration from his living room, where the play takes place.

"It sounds like an arbitrary role," he said with a grin.

Hamlin will graduate from WWHS this year and plans to study music education. "I love theater," he said. "But music keeps me going and I want to teach children how powerful music can be."

Christian Braz, 18, plays Robert. Braz has been performing for the school's theater department since the school opened four years ago. But he has been performing in dramatic productions since eight grade, he said, and is a part owner of the local company, Oak Ridge Theater Group.

Braz's plans to continue his passion in theater while attending Southeast University in the fall.

"The best part is being whoever I want to be on stage," he said.

Karli Ulto, a freshman, plays the female lead, Janet. The best part of this experience, Ulto said, is being part of the cast which is more like a family.

Ulto's vocals are strong in her performance and she hopes to study music in college.

"I really want to be a professional singer," she said. "If that doesn't work, then my plan B is in theater."

Addison Fields, a junior, plays the drowsy chaperone and has performed in two high school productions at WWHS. Her portrayal of the play's namesake is comical as she and her partner, Dakota Ruiz, the Butler, dance a steamy number across the stage.

"I can't take any credit because I just moved here," said MacGregor . "But they are phenomenal."

Kitty, played by senior Lexi McDaniel, "wants to be the star but I'm not good enough," McDaniel explained. After graduation, she plans to follow a medical career as a plastic surgeon. But for now, her passion is clearly visible on stage as she moves through her lines in a comical rendition.

Bianca Martinez, who works the backstage scene, helped teach 1920s numbers to the cast.

"I love dancing and music," she said. But her college dream is imbedded in forensics.

"The Drowsy Chaperone" opens Friday with a performance at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Advanced tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for students and $15 at the door. Purchase tickets online at edline.net/pages/hcsb.wwhs or call (352) 610-1232.

Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at damewrites@yahoo.com.

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