NCHS Theatre brings western history to the stage

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Jillian Augustine, Arts & Tech Editor
@jillaugcourant

The talented cast and crew of the NCHS Theatre department will be bringing a different energy to the stage this week as they open up the theater for this year’s winter production, The Will Rogers Follies.

This year’s musical is unique from previous ones, as it combines eccentric American history with Western-inspired song and dance. The Will Rogers Follies follows the story of Will Rogers, an American cowboy who lived from 1879 to 1935 in Arkansas.

The cast of the winter musical rehearsing a musical number in their last week before opening. Photo by Jillian Augustine

Senior Alison Demers, who plays a lead role as Betty Blake, the wife of Will Rogers, feels that one of the reasons that the play is so interesting is because Will Rogers was such a prominent figure at the time. “The entire world loved him because he was simply honest, and extremely talented,” Alison said.

Will Rogers, played by senior Joseph Turner, starts out at the beginning of the musical as a self-taught rope-spinner and radio personality. Throughout the show, the cast takes the audience through the interesting life of this man, as he goes on to make a name for himself in Wild West entertainment shows and eventually is recruited into a group of entertainers called the Suffield Follies.

One of the many posters hung around NCHS advertising The Will Rogers Follies.   Photo by Jillian Augustine

Alison feels that this concept can be easily related to modern-day entertainment. “The Follies were a group of girl dancers, almost like the Rockettes, who would do shows and travel the entertainment circuit,” Alison said.

From being part of this group, Will Rogers continues to expand his career and fame in the late 19th century Western world. His accomplishments and popularity among the people are punctuated in the musical by numbers including a large ensemble of actors and actresses.

“It’s interesting because it’s a different kind of musical,” said junior Shafer Jones, who plays both a cowboy and an Indian in the production. “There’s about four leads and everyone else is in the ensemble, so we’re creating a lot more scenes, like a wedding.”

There are many parts of this musical to look forward to. Junior Charlie Hane, also playing a cowboy and an Indian, particularly pointed to his favorite aspects of the show. “My personal favorite scene is Will being born,” Charlie said. “We use a puppet in this scene, which is fun and creative, as well as interesting for the audience to see.”

But there’s much more to look forward to than just a baby puppet and some crazy musical numbers. The story of the life of Will Rogers is one that holds many important lessons for the audience to take away. “Will Rogers is known for being very wise, and he has these quotes that are absolutely brilliant,” Alison said. “They are things that people should know but never really think of.” Among these quotes, says Alison, is one that she particularly liked, in which Will says, “No man’s great if he thinks he is.”

Be sure to attend on March 17 at 7 pm, March 18 at 2 pm and 7 pm, or on the snow date, March 20 at 7 pm, to see Alison, Joseph, Charlie, Shafer, and other leads such as senior Jack Dahill as they depict the life of Will Rogers on the NCHS stage.

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Senior Editor for The Courant at NCHS

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