It’s something of a revival for the Sequim High Operetta Club as the students look to make their latest effort a success after returning to the stage for their first shows since spring 2019.
An updated version of the Jane Austen classic coupled with radio hits make up “Emma: A Pop Musical,” a production that plays for three weekends, May 6-21, at the school’s auditorium, 533 N. Sequim Ave.
Kariya Johnson, who shares the role with freshman Dana Carlile, said she had always dreamed of starring as a senior in the operetta.
“This is an important time to support high school students and start involving them more,” Johnson said.
“We have to show middle and high school kids that we can rebuild this program. It could turn into something great again.
This will be director Tia Stephens’ first show despite being hired to direct SHS Operettas in January 2020. Two weeks into rehearsals for “The Addams Family” musical, the emergence of COVID-19 has led school officials to cancel in-person programming.
“Legally Blonde” was the final high school stage show in the spring of 2019.
Stephens said some endgame factors this year reduced the 12-week reps to eight; school sports led to some stunt doubles taking on starring roles in the final weekend of shows.
“There was a lot of very quick rapprochement,” she said.
With 15 actors in “Emma,” there are two casts alternating the same scenes during rehearsals to accommodate different schedules.
“They had half as many opportunities in their roles but worked twice as hard,” Stephens said.
Madelyn Pickens, who plays pop star Frankie in addition to being in the ensemble, is one of three seniors, including Johnson and Henry Hughes, playing Jeff, in “Emma.”
Pickens said she was cast as Puglsey in “The Addams Family,” but found her new role more challenging as she performed songs such as Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.”
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Pickens said, as it reinforces that people can try and enjoy more than one thing.
“I don’t consider myself a singer, but I’m excited for this show and want to put everything I have into it,” Pickens said.
Featuring songs popularized by singers and girl groups, “Emma” has the title character pursuing love for classmates such as Harriett (Danika Chen/Lili Mitchell) with a few mistakes, cast members say.
“It’s about a girl trying to make a friend and she does a lot of stupid things, so she tries to fix it,” Carlile said.
“It causes a lot of problems for people,” Johnson said.
“It’s definitely the case of someone who doesn’t know what they want from themselves. She devotes all her time to finding things for others. But really, her time and effort should be figuring out what she wants to find in life.
Johnson said the message is timely, especially as we emerge from the pandemic.
“Sometimes it’s best to step back from other people and activities and ask for what I want,” she said.
Stephens, a 2008 Port Angeles High School graduate, said she grew up jealous of Sequim’s theater program because her school didn’t have musicals. Now, with a degree in directing from Western Washington University, she sees it as a “dream job” that fits into her daytime schedule.
Carlile, a first-time actor, said it was fun to see the musical come together.
“There’s 80s to newer music,” she said. “It’s really fun music and a lot of stuff that people have heard before, so I think they’ll come in knowing they’ll like the music.”
Since the operetta is a long-standing tradition as part of the Sequim Irrigation Festival, Pickens said the operetta is just a lot of fun.
“You have a lot of different niches for people in school like sports and for me, operetta is really fun,” she said. “Theatre is so much fun. I really like being able to be up there.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students at the door. Seating is limited to approximately 200 per performance.
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Sequim High Operetta: “Emma: A Pop Musical”
• Opening: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6
• Matinees: 2 p.m. on Saturdays 7, 14 and 21 May
• Every evening: 7 p.m. from Friday to Saturday, May 13 – 14, 20 – 21
Location: Sequim High School Auditorium, 533 N. Sequim Ave.
Tickets: $15 adults, $10 students at the door with limited seating.