When the curtain rises | CraigDailyPress.com

When the curtain rises

Moffat County High School musical production brings high emotion to cast, director

Bridget Manley

If you go

What: Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" performed by Moffat County High School Theater Department

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Moffat County High School auditorium

Cost: Tickets cost $5 per person. Students and teachers are admitted for free with a school I.D.

— Dancing. Singing. Acting.

A musical production, said director and cast members of the Moffat County High School musical, incorporates a dizzying number of elements.

“It’s all kind of a three-ring circus happening at the same time,” said Amy Pottinger, an MCHS drama teacher and musical director.

For her, it elicits many emotions.

The opening night of the musical “Oklahoma!” marks the end of another theatrical season, bringing relief and pride to Pottinger and, for at least one student, the end of a high school tradition.

Incidentally, this year’s musical proved fitting for both cast and its intended audience.

“It’s about a bunch of cowboys being men, chasing after girls who are girly-girls,” Pottinger said.

Finding props proved easy.

“I can’t believe how many pairs of chaps,” the kids had, she said. They brought in other items, too – authentic ones, including leather gun holsters.

When she asked for hay bales, 10 students raised their hands, volunteering to bring some in. One student asked if she wanted hay or straw.

The musical “really reflects on our community,” Pottinger said.

The play opens at 7 p.m. Thursday and continues its run Friday and Saturday.

Incidentally, the state of Oklahoma turns 100 years old Friday night.

“I wish I could say I planned that,” Pottinger said.

The selection of this year’s musical was influenced by several factors, including cast composition and genre. Without pre-casting, the director tries to find a play that will fit the voices of the actors she anticipates will be involved.

Pottinger said she prefers to keep productions on a rotation, varying each year between genres such as modern plays, children’s plays and Rodgers and Hammerstein productions.

As usual, the selection remained a secret until the end of the last school year.

When practices begin, Pottinger, along with orchestra director John Bolton, and vocal director Sean Teets, watch and see what their cast can do.

Sometimes there’s a surprise and a student brings his or her character to life in ways the three hadn’t anticipated. When that happens, a consensus is reached.

“There it is – there’s our character,” Pottinger said.

Both director and cast experience pre-production butterflies.

“There’s a lot of excitement, especially in the beginning,” she said. “You get to see what the potential with the play is.”

There’s frustration, too, when students aren’t realizing that potential fast enough.

When students aren’t learning their lines or attending practice, anger and disappointment can creep in.

When the production starts coming together, Pottinger said she becomes anxious, wondering if the development has come too soon, too fast or if it can be replicated on opening night.

When the curtain comes up, Pottinger said she is relieved and accepts the production “is what it is.”

In the end, the dominant feeling is pride.

“I’ve never not been proud of what (the cast) has done,” she said.

In nine weeks, Pottinger sees students from an area with limited access to the arts make significant accomplishments in singing, conveying “complex emotions,” and even learning something as complicated as a waltz.

Emily Norris, a MCHS senior who has performed in high school musicals since her freshman year, said she plays “a sarcastic old woman … a strong older woman who doesn’t take anything from anyone.”

“It was fun to step into,” she added.

This year marks Norris’ last high school production. Performing in her last musical will be a bittersweet experience.

“I had some of my best memories in high school in plays,” she said.

Conversely, this year marks Greg Blackstun’s first time performing in a musical.

Although working on the musical has been difficult, he’s enjoyed playing the part of Ali Hakim, a character who provides some comic relief.

“I always try to … get those parts,” he said. “I’m not an extremely serious person.”

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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