The show must go on at Vilonia High School, even if there won’t be an official curtain call, according to oral communications teacher and drama fine arts and theatre producer Jeri Winfrey.
Twenty-five Vilonia High School students were selected 10 to 12 weeks ago to serve as the cast and the behind-the-scenes crew in a theatrical show "There’s No Business Like Show Business." Since then, they have been learning lines, practicing show tunes and dance steps in preparation for their debut at 7 p.m., April 2 and 3.
Sometimes, they rehearse in a classroom, tables and chairs pushed back, with barely enough room to gather everyone inside. Regardless, the audience will be impressed when the students take the stage in the school’s "Fine Arts Performing Cafeteria," Winfrey said.
"This is not a real experience of being on stage—but it is the best I can provide," Winfrey said. "The kids have never had a real curtain call because we don’t have the benefit of a permanent stage or an auditorium. But, it does not deter these talented students from having the time of their lives producing a show."
A couple of days before the premiere, Winfrey explained, staging will be taken out of storage and set up in the cafeteria providing an opportunity for practicing on it before the big event.
"There won’t be any fancy lighting. No matter, we have done some pretty good shows and I’m convinced this one will be the best one ever," Winfrey added. This is her seventh year of producing shows at the school.
The first half will include a one-act play, "Why Do We Laugh," about a couple at four stages in life, Winfrey offered.
"We have the one act which is delightful, and then some musical entertainment of Broadway tunes," Winfrey said.
The students must also raise the money to put on the productions. It can costs several dollars, she said, if they have to pay for show scripts and royalties.
"It’s fun but it’s also tough," Winfrey said, from a classroom where she watched as six or seven practiced a dance routine.
"I’m tough on them," she said. "If they can’t learn, they are cut."
At one point, a student stopped dancing to adjust her clothing. Winfrey scolded the teenager.
"Keep dancing through your number," Winfrey raised her voice. A few minutes later, she complimented another student on hitting a high musical note.
Winfrey shared a few stories concerning other works. The first year, she said, she expected 75 people and almost 300 attended.
"I could have cried," she offered. "I haven’t worried as much since that time."
There was also a humorous story about the first show where she required three senior boys to shave their legs on the night they were to appear in "You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown."
"It was the first show they had ever been in," Winfrey said. "I told them we can’t have Charlie Brown, Linus and Schroeder with hairy legs. They didn’t want to but they did."
Winfrey relies on her daughter Jami, a senior at Harding University in Searcy, who volunteers her time to serve as the choreographer. The mother and daughter duo are passionate concerning the performing arts and occasionally appear together in productions.