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Making a play a production

MCHS students perform 'South Pacific'

Students sat in chairs along a wall of lighted mirrors, reviewing math problems or practicing Spanish.

Every now and then, someone came in to say “you’re on.”

Books slammed closed as the students turned into thespians for their time under the spotlights.



Putting on a musical is a strange combination of stress and boredom, of hurry up and wait.

“I seem to get more homework done; I just sit back here and do it,” junior Nathan Paschke said.



Paschke will play a marine and a random islander during the upcoming Moffat County High School production of “South Pacific.”

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and there will be a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. The box office will open at 6 p.m. on each show date, or tickets can be reserved by calling or stopping by the high school. Admission for students with MCHS identification cards as well as for children younger than 3 is free.

The amount of work that goes into putting on a musical production is staggering. Students practice for three to four hours a night, five days a week for nine months. They also have to commit to a total of eight hours of set building on a Saturday.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s not hard because I like doing it,” junior Cassidy Young said.

This is Young’s first play. She plays “Liat,” a role she says is as difficult to perform as it is to describe.

“It’s not like there are a lot of lines, it’s just important to the story,” she said. “Really I just stand there and look cute. Becoming the character is hard when you don’t say anything.”

Young said she always has wanted to be in one of the high school productions, but she couldn’t find the time until she broke her foot playing volleyball and was out for the rest of the season.

South Pacific takes place in 1943 on the Solomon Islands, where the U.S. Navy has established several bases in preparation for an invasion toward New Guinea and the Central Pacific. On one such island lives a French planter named Emile de Becque, whom the Navy wishes to employ as a scout to nearby Japanese held islands. To accomplish this task, de Becque is approached by a U.S. Navy nurse named Nellie Forbush. Set on a remote island during World War II, South Pacific tracks two parallel romances: one between a Navy nurse and a wealthy French plantation owner, the other between a young American officer and a native girl.

“I chose this because we have good kids who can play the parts and it’s kind of timely,” Director Amy Coleman said.

More than 50 students are working to put the production together. Thirty-five students have parts in the play, and others are working backstage or playing in the orchestra.

For a musical, Coleman said she casts everyone who auditions. This time it was difficult, she said, more girls than boys tried out for a production with a lot of male parts.

“The hardest part when casting is trying to see what they’ll be like in nine weeks,” she said. “You’ve got to be able to see into the future a little bit.”

Actors start by memorizing their lines, then the music. They add the music to the acting and take the next step — putting the orchestra with the acting. The final step begins next week: full performances with costumes and lights.

Coleman’s biggest challenge with their particular production has been casting teen actors in a love story.

“It’s kind of been a challenge to teach the kids to be romantic,” she said. “It’s been kind of funny.”

The male leads have been sent home with homework — to watch “Gone with the Wind.”

“It’s fun to teach boys to be full of testosterone and be tough guys,” Coleman said.

But even she had to recruit an expert to help her actors master military commands.

Craig’s army recruiter spent some time on the set teaching those cast as military personnel to salute, stand at-ease and in the “parade rest” position.

Being together for hours nearly every day brings the cast together and forges friendships.

“This is a fun group of people who really enjoy each other,” Coleman said.

Paschke said his favorite part of any production is the interaction between cast members.

“I like to be backstage and talk to people,” he said. “It’s the best part. You make some pretty good friends.”


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