Conway Christian students to present 'High School Musical'

by Sonja J. Keith

Students at Conway Christian High School are busy rehearsing for this year’s school production of “High School Musical.”

According to English/Fine Arts chairman Laura Shelton, who serves as the director, the play includes a cast of 65 students of varying drama experiences and provides an opportunity for every student to participate.

Work on the school play — which has gained a reputation in the community as a quality production — begins about the time students return to school in the fall. Students select five to 10 plays they would like to perform that are appropriate for a school setting. A discussion follows for a few weeks on how to incorporate a Bible lesson.

“High School Musical” won by a landslide, according to Shelton, who explained that most of the students grew up with the movie. “They were in the fourth grade when the movie came out,” she said. “It’s kind of the play for their generation.”

For this year’s play, the scripture is Psalms 133:1 which has a message of bringing people together: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

In October, the leadership team for the play is decided, and auditions are held. “Everybody gets a part in our play,” Shelton said.

Rehearsals begin before Christmas and are held for a couple of hours nearly every night, except for Wednesdays. Many in the play have to juggle academics, athletics and other extra-curricular activities. “They all do it to be a part of it,” Shelton said.
Ancil Lea and Audra Steely landed the lead roles in the play. “We have two leads you wouldn’t suspect could sing,” said Shelton, adding that neither student is involved in choir.

Lea, a member of the CCS Eagle Football Team, plays Troy Bolton. Last year, he had a minor role and danced in the school production of “Cheaper by the Dozen.” He said for this year’s play he tried out for a funny part and landed the lead.

“It’s just amazing to be a part of the tradition at Conway Christian,” he said, adding he is “not really nervous” about performing or singing in front of a large group, but “excited.”

Staley has the lead female part of Gabriella Montez. “I’ve been in all the plays since the ninth grade,” she said. “On a dare I tried out for a singing role, and I couldn’t believe it when I found out.”

Staley describes the play as a “really cool experience” that has given her an opportunity to learn time management skills that she anticipates will help her in college and beyond. “Most schools will not allow you to be in so many activities,” she said, adding that the most important aspect of the play is “the glory it brings back to God.”

Other students with major roles are Jacob Clanton, who is the CCS drama club president, as Ryan Evans. “I’ve been singing since I could talk,” Jacob said. “High School Musical has always been close to my heart . . . To portray this character is exciting.”

Whitley Wooten, who will play Sharpay Evans in the production, said the role is difficult because she is portraying the meanest girl in school. Like her classmates, she grew up watching the movie and is excited to bring it to Conway Christian.

The play will be performed on the gym floor of the high school at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 20.

Shelton points out that beyond the cast, other students step up to lead the production, from the music and choreography to costumes and sets.

The Leadership Team for the play includes Shelby Shelton, stage manager; Jacob Clanton, musical acting director; Catherine Lee, music director; Saige Wood, choreography; Mallory Bryant, tech director; and Kaitlyn Stark, set designer.

The set crew includes Byron Pascoe, Christian Cox, Josiah Smith, Casey Roark, Taylor Gasaway, Hunter Tollett, John Clay, Hannah Hitchcox, Audra Staley, Shelby Daniel, Mallory Bryant, Lexia Nichols, Abby Shourd, Madeline Steely, Cora Lentz, Dawn Lippelgoes, Hannah Cates and Kindy Ng.

The technical crew includes Marc Cochran, Caleb Dather, Wesley Oliver, Casey Roark, John Clay and Tyler Pelley. The House Crew includes Wesley Oliver, Marc Cochran, Lexia Nichols, Casey Roark, John Clay and Chase Kehler.

“The students own it,” Shelton said. “I’ve always had students step up and take ownership.”