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Parker High gets a jump on holiday season with 'White Christmas'

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Jake Magee
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

JANESVILLE—In a world filled with turmoil, directors of Parker High School's production of “White Christmas” hope the show gives attendees a break from the chaos.

It's also going to knock their socks off, said director Jim Tropp.

“That opening number for this, people are gonna be like, 'Holy crap,'” he said. “...The audience is gonna not know what hit 'em.”

The dozens of students involved with the show are going all out in what Tropp said is a very difficult production full of singing and dancing to several old-time Broadway songs.

“They are spectacle numbers. They are 'Stop the train, let's watch this' big, seven-minute production numbers,” he said.

Plus, the show has “gorgeous” costumes that bring the production to another level, said music director Jan Knutson.

“White Christmas” is a feel-good tale about two Army soldiers and entertainers, Phil and Bob, who visit their former general in Vermont. The general runs a lodge that is failing because there's no snow and, therefore, no guests.

Using their power as performers, Phil and Bob round up members of the 151st Division to visit and save the lodge. Of course, it wouldn't be a Christmas musical without romantic subplots sprinkled in here and there.

“It's an irresistible story. And the music is enchanting,” Knutson said. “It makes your holiday bright.”

The parts of Phil and Bob have been double-cast, something rarely done at the school.

“That's how lucky we were this year,” Tropp said.

Double-casting allows more students to get the opportunity to have lead roles, Knutson said.

Tropp said the school hasn't had the solid talent to do this show before this year.

“In the back of our heads, we always wanted to do a show like this, but we really never had the kids to do it,” he said.

Perhaps the hardest challenge is the tap dancing.

“A lot of students took tap all summer to prepare so they had a vocabulary of movement and steps before we even started this,” Knutson said.

The directors hosted a three-day tap workshop so students could get the swing of things before auditioning. Several students said they'd never tap danced before preparing for this show.

On top of that, students have to sing and act.

“For me, it's kind of just a whirlwind from when you start,” said student Grace O'Leary. “There's so much that they hit you with right away when you come in. It's just a real challenge.”

Students say they put in 100 percent effort at practice. By the end of the grueling rehearsals, they realize the work's worthwhile.

“The work that we put into it is unrivaled in the area to a lot of other theaters, especially high school-age kids doing theater,” said student Jordan Buck.

“It's the best feeling you could ever have,” said student Sullivan Saliby.

The students are grateful for teachers and directors who challenge them and strive to keep their passion for theater alive.

“Live theater is really important for everybody to see because it's imperfect, and that's what makes it so real,” said student Emily Newmark. “It's just really a great way to celebrate the holiday.”



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