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Scarvey column: On high school stages countywide, the play’s the thing

Since living in Salisbury I have occasionally found myself in conversations in which I’ve bemoaned the lack of big high school musical productions that were staged like clockwork at my own high school back in the 1970s: the kind with a big cast of students as well as a student orchestra.
I was delighted, therefore, to see just such a production recently at Carson High School, which staged “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” ó the school’s first musical.
A collaboration of the fine arts department, the play was directed by Alex Reynolds, who has a serious knack for inspiring kids. This was the real deal, a rollicking musical with great sets, costumes (Denise Paugh was in charge) a live orchestra (directed by Jeff Street) and a large enthusiastic cast.
I enjoyed this play more than at least one professional production that I paid 20 times the money to attend. No lie.
Kayla Adams, with her achingly beautiful voice, was fantastic as Millie. (Dr. Patricia Stewart was vocal music director.) Patrick Hunter as Adam also did a fine job, as did CaLeb Hill as brother Gideon. Actually, everybody did a great job, and the large audience Saturday night was thoroughly entertained.
North Rowan also staged a spring musical, “Cinderella” ó that school’s first big musical in many years. I’m sorry I missed that one, but I’m encouraged that local high schools are getting back to the big lavish musicals that seem to have petered out at some point in the past. Students learn so much from being involved in them ó and they’re also huge fun. (Just ask the kids at East Rowan High School how much they enjoy putting on their annual Broadway Revue.)
But it’s not just musicals that schools are producing.
I recently saw an excellent serious drama performed at Salisbury High ó”The Glass Menagerie,” directed by Debbie Hubbard.It can be challenging to stage a serious play for an audience at least partly composed of high school kids ó who tend to prefer comedy to the sort of dark themes explored by Tennessee Williams. I was gratified at how respectful and tuned in the audience was.
That was a testament to the skill of the actors, including Haily Weddington as Amanda Wingfield, the matron pressing forward in reduced circumstances while trying to orchestrate “gentleman callers” for her daughter Laura, a fragile flower wonderfully played by Zoe Gonzalez. Jesse Mayorga was suitably brooding as her son Tom, who feels trapped, and Jalen Wilkerson made a fine gentleman caller.
I was also impressed by South Rowan’s production of “John Lennon and Me,” which has its final performance tonight at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium (tickets are $3).
Director Sarah Drinkard had invited me weeks ago because she felt the subject matter would resonate with me. The main character, Star, is a teenager with a serious illness and struggles with feeling like a normal teen. Sarah was right ó after having spent so much time in hospitals with my daughter, I could relate to the emotions portrayed on stage.The play has moments of serious drama, but it’s also quite funny ó how could it not be when it features a nurse called The Torturer played by a muscular guy in a dress and a wig?
Amber Adams is terrific as the irrepressible Star, and I found myself cheering as she experienced her first kiss.
I’m not particularly easy to jerk a tear from, but this sweet play managed to do just that.
It was fun to watch sophomore Adam Corriher on stage, since I was sitting next to his father, Kurt ó who appeared on the same stage many years ago when he was a student at South Rowan (and went on to grace many other stages with his talent). The cast does a great job, especially considering the challenges of the space. The acoustics in South’s auditorium are not good, and something ó in the ventilation system? ó squeaked noisily throughout the performance. (It surely would be nice if some generous patron of the arts could help the school improve that space.)
Often, the audiences of high school plays consist of parents, grandparents and friends of those involved, but I’d encourage those who normally wouldn’t consider attending a high school production to get out and see what talent ó other than athletic ó we have right here in Rowan County.
Break a leg, everybody!

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