By TRAVIS MORSE email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — Mt. Vernon Township High School senior Faith Harpole said playing the lead role in this year's MVTHS Operetta show, “South Pacific,” brings with it a mix of emotions.
On the one hand, she said it's great to play such a rich, complex role as Nellie Forbush. But on the other hand, this will be her last operetta performance at MVTHS, which makes the occasion sad.
“It's sad but it's also very exciting because it's one of the bigger parts that I've had, so I'm just excited to be able to portray my part,” Harpole said.
With opening night just around the corner, the cast and crew of this year's show gathered at the MVTHS auditorium Feb. 28 for rehearsals. The rehearsals continue during the early part of this week.
The 72nd Annual MVTHS Operetta will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the auditorium. Tickets are $5 each with some reserved seating available.
“South Pacific” is an epic musical romance set during World War II that centers around a group of American sailors and Navy nurses.
It was composed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who based the story on James A. Michener's 1947 book, “Tales of the South Pacific.”
The main thrust of the story concerns two “unconventional love affairs” that develop among the characters.
“Nellie Forbush befriends and quickly falls for Emile de Becque, a French expatriate and plantation owner,” states an MVTHS synopsis. “And Lt. Joe Cable finds himself in a passionate affair with Liat, the young daughter of Bloody Mary, the local grass-skirt peddler.”
Mary Beth Mezo, the show's director, said it's the music that really makes “South Pacific” memorable.
“It is a classic for a reason,” Mezo said. “The lyrics are clever, the music is singable. It's the kind of music that when you walk out of here, you'll be humming it.”
Putting on a show of this size presented quite a challenge, Mezo said. For one of the musical numbers, the MVTHS maintenance department built a working shower to be used on stage.
“For our level of performance, it's big in that there is a lot of music, and our sets are bigger and better,” Mezo said.
MVTHS student Tyler Knutson, who plays Emile de Becque, said he put a lot of work into his role to get the subtle nuances right, especially in terms of his character's romantic interest in Nellie Forbush.
“It's a big show and it demands a lot of everyone, but everyone's great, everyone here is professional and is good at what they do,” Knutson said.
MVTHS student Ashtyn Cornett, who plays Bloody Mary, said her character is quite unique in that she's a little older but acts like she isn't. Cornett also had to adopt a Polynesian accent for the role.
“I'm a little nervous, but it's mostly excitement,” Cornett said. “I love doing these shows. It's the best feeling when you're on stage and you get people to laugh at you. It's great.”
Nick Loafman, producer of the show, said he is hoping for a large audience this year. In the past, the operetta has drawn a crowd of between 500 to 600 people per show, he said.
“We want everyone to come out for it,” Loafman said. “It's going to be a good show.”
Other leading cast members in the show include: Allison Hedin as Liat, Dalton Miller as Lt. Joe Cable, Nathan Arnold as Luther Billis, James Joseph Wiegel as Stewpot, D.J. McGee as Professor, Andrew Capps as Brackett, Benjamin Piper as Harbison, Kendall Kaskie as Adams, Alex Lowery as Quale, Tristan Houser as McCaffrey, Logan Jackson as Henry, Hanna King as Ngana and Paige Julius as Jacqueline.
Additional cast members are: Kendall Kaskie, Shore Patrolman; Michaela Lamczyk, Ensign Dinah Murphy; Natalie Hensley, Ensign Cora MacRae; Daneesha Harris, Ensign Rita Adams; Megan Owens, Ensign Connie Walewska; Katherine Caldwell, Ensign Pamela Whitmore; Danielle Stricklin, Ensign Sue Yaeger; Riley Cornett, Ensign Bessie Noonan; Olivia Bailey, Ensign Janet MacGregor; Briannah Sandy, Ensign Lisa Minelli; Elly Young, Ensign DeeAnn Endsley; Megan McKinley, Lt. Genevieve Marshall; Rebekah Bradley, Ensign Beth Mezo; Brendan Donoho, Cpl. Hamilton Steeves; Shawn Upchurch, Sgt. Kenneth Johnson; Caleb Vaughn, James Hayes; Aidan Ezell, Tom O'Brien; and Thomas Spanbauer, Morton Wise.
Also, the nuns and natives are played by Amy Heckenberger, Ceyshona Blakemore, Chera Edwards, Kajal Patel, Madalina Overstreet, Ciara Osborn, Brianna Kelley, Joshua Cortez and Stephen Cortez.
In addition to Mezo and Loafman, the production staff includes: Rolland Mays, Julie Prince, DeeAnn Endsley, Ashley Kern, Avery Barton, Kathy Calvert, Hailey Beal, Molly Rodgers and LeeAnn Brooks.
Making up the stage crew are Keila Stumbaugh, Angela Atkinson, Andrew Gill, Kaleb Dorris, Erica Williams, Emmaline Wolf, Patrick Burke, Katie Reich, Catie Raney and Brianna Morgan.
The tech crew consists of Taylor Phillips, Randi McCoy, Falyn VanDyke, Zane Wilson, Jase Lucas, Emily Heckenberger, John Upchurch, Makayla Smith and Kaitlyn Lawrence. The costume and make-up crew is composed of Shayln Koch, Kirsten Farley and Mollie Strain.