Students are 'All Shook Up' in musical at Jeannette High School
This year's Jeannette High School musical will offer audiences familiar tunes but a fairly new story.
After presenting a few Disney classics — “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella” — and the musical standard “Anything Goes,” this spring's musical might shake things up a bit. Pun intended.
“All Shook Up,” a 2004 musical that combines Elvis Presley's music and a story based on William Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night,” premieres tomorrow night in the high school auditorium.
The story follows Chad, a roustabout who breezes into a small midwestern town and turns it upside down with the help of some of Presley's best-loved tunes.
Jeroen Wolfe, a junior, portrays Chad and describes him as “Elvis in every one of his movies.”
Wolfe, who is in his first musical this year, said the character is a departure from his personal nature and he's enjoying the change to step outside of his regular personality.
“I kind of want to do (the musical) and them my friends forced me into it. It's really fun. I enjoy acting and singing,” said Wolfe.
Heather Wessling, a senior who has been a lead actor in each of her four musicals, is playing the roles of Natalie and Ed. Natalie is a mechanic who has a big crush on Chad but can't get him to notice her so she creates the character of Ed to become Chad's friend.
“She's a tomboy who runs her dad's garage. She meets Chad and falls in love, but he ignores her even though she's fixing his bike,” said Wessling, who admits playing the role of Ed is a big task. “It's a challenge to act a man. It's a lot of acting, which is very fun to do. Natalie is completely different from all of the characters I've played. I'm not a tomboy.”
To add confusion to the Chad-Natalie-Ed storyline, there is the role of Dennis — played by sophomore Tre-Shawn Henry —who is Natalie's best friend and who is secretly in love with her.
This is Henry's first musical. He got involved because he wanted something different to do and now he's really enjoying it. He was convinced to try out for a lead role and now he's glad to have the part of Dennis, who he describes as a nerd.
“He's a nerd, I'm similar. He is thinking of telling Natalie he's in love with her and then Chad comes along and ruins everything. I'm also Chad's sidekick in the beginning and then Ed comes along and takes that role,” said Henry.
Matt Howard, a junior in his first musical, will play the role of Jim Haller, Natalie's widowed father and owner of the garage.
“He's shy and awkward,” Howard said, describing his character. “He's depressed, but he's funny. He does things awkwardly. Chad changes him a little bit.”
Howard decided to get involved in the musical this year with some prodding from senior Janelle Dopkowski, who is playing the role of Miss Sandra, the town's museum caretaker.
“She's very similar to Babette,” Dopkowski said, referring to the role she played in “Beauty and the Beast.” Babette and Miss Sandra are very flirtatious women.
Miss Sandra has a crush on Ed — who is actually Natalie in disguise — but she's pursued by both Chad and Jim. In the end, she actually begins a relationship with an entirely different character.
Channing Pifer, a senior and longtime musical lead, returns the to stage this weekend as Mayor Matilda. Pifer describes her character as a stuck-up woman who doesn't like music.
“She's very judgmental and closed-minded. It's different from all the (roles) I've had,” Pifer said. “She evolves through the musical and becomes more accepting.”
Phoenix Brown, a freshman, is in his first musical and he's portraying Sheriff Earl, who follows the mayor all around town.
“I don't talk the first act. I just follow the mayor like a puppy. In the second act, I tell her to shut up and I start talking,” Brown said with a laugh. “The real challenge is to be quiet. It's outside my comfort zone.”
Mayor Matlida's son, Dean Hyde, is portrayed by Michael Duncan, a sophomore.
“He is forced to go to military school by his mom and he never disobeys her,” Duncan said. This is his second musical and he's playing a similar character. “He's pretty orderly. He's the kind of person who would go to military school.”
Dean is in love with Lorraine, who is played by Monique Redman, a junior.
Lorraine is 16 years old, very talkative and is interested in everyone's personal business.
“It's fun. She's like me, fully of life. A big ball of sunshine,” said Redman, who is enjoying her second musical but her first lead role. “It's nerve-wracking, but I like it.”
Lorraine's mother is Sylvia, portrayed by Autumn Goodson, a senior. Sylvia owns the local honkytonk. Goodson said her character is nosey and outspoken.
“She's down to Earth. She's just me in real life. She's similar to who I actually am,” said Goodson, who has been in musicals throughout her high school years.
“All Shook Up” is a love story and a comedy. It's about the character of Chad bringing the town back to life, Wessling said.
The cast's favorite song this year is “Burning Love.”
“I like the music. When the pit plays, it gives me chills,” Wessling said.
“It's when everyone comes to peace together as a town,” said Pifer. “It wouldn't have happened before Chad came to town.”
Audiences will enjoy the show, Wolfe said, because it's very funny and has great music.
“It's something people will remember for a while,” said Henry. “Love stories stick to you.”
Maria Brecht, Jeannette High School band, chorus and drama director, said it's been fun introducing the King of Rock and Roll to a new generation through this musical.
“This group of students have stepped up,” said Brecht, who worried this year's musical might be scrapped due to budget constraints. “These students have stepped into roles that we have had adults do in the past. This group of students has stepped up and made sure this was going to happen. I'm really proud of them for that.”
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 724-838-5154.