Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre’s newest show celebrates 50 years of music

Jan 25, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Alaine Geeding focuses on memorizing lines while other actors jot down notes given to them by Holly Jones, who was teaching them choreography for the song “Holier Than Thou,” from the musical Nunsense.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Alaine Geeding’s goal during the community theatre rehearsal on Tuesday, Jan. 16, was to get some of the choreography right as she belted out the lyrics to “Holier Than Thou” from the musical Nunsense.

Although Geeding is far from new to community theatre, dancing is not her forte, she said as she took notes over the steps. In fact, Geeding’s first community theatre debut was alongside her father when she was just three years old.

“It brings me a lot of joy to see people perform and to sing,” Geeding said. “It’s a good way to keep the arts alive in Mt. Pleasant.”

As Geeding transitioned offstage along with several backup singers and dancers, another group sat close to the piano to begin rehearsing, practicing for the community theatre show premiering at the Heatilator Performing Arts Center the second week in February.

The Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre has been putting on shows for almost 50 years. With that anniversary in mind, directors of the show wanted to highlight the songs from musicals they have put on throughout their history. As people signed up for auditions in November 2017, the directors chose songs to go with actors’ voices and personalities.

“I think we did a good job because it’s really coming together,” co-director Lynn Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth said they were concerned about advertising for auditions in the fall, but once they got the word out on Facebook, the community showed up. “If you don’t have talent, you’re not going to do the show,” she said.

Rather than putting on a musical with a limited number of characters, the directors chose a variety of songs from different musicals to allow for space for anyone who wanted to be a part of the show. Although some have dropped out due to illness since they auditioned, the show will feature about 40 people, from children who are performing in their first community theatre to veteran performers.

Although Matt Scharlau stumbled over his animated lead in the song “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat,” during rehearsals a few weeks ago, he came at it with renewed vigor the second run through. Scharlau has done “a million shows.”

This is only his second year living in Mt. Pleasant, but Scharlau is already sold on the community theatre side of the town, saying that it’s a great opportunity to be able to showcase a lot of talented people from Mt. Pleasant.

As more of a veteran performer, Scharlau said that he tries to help out anyone working through stage fright. “I really try to make sure everyone is comfortable and having a good time,” he said. “I love bringing people into this thing. I really try to embrace them.”

Scharlau enjoys goofing off during rehearsals, but he wouldn’t feel good about the laughs if he wasn’t also doing the hard work. This year, he gets to bring his daughter onto the stage, a new aspect of performing he’s excited to experience.

“It’s really cool to see it through her eyes,” Scharlau said. “I’m so excited she’s experiencing it early and getting the [theatre] bug like I have.”

Scharlau isn’t the only performer engaging his child in theatre. The show has seven family units participating. Ellsworth said that if they like to perform and sing, it’s a great way to spend time together.

That’s how Dave Adams got his wife, Marci Adams and daughter Kylee Adams to audition for this years’ show. Marci said that this was the perfect opportunity for her husband to step into the music world a little, especially now that he is going back to school at Iowa Wesleyan University to be a music educator.

“Music is his life. It’s our life,” Marci said.

Although for Marci, stepping onto the stage is taking her quite far outside of her comfort zone, for her daughter, who is a part of show choir at Mt. Pleasant Middle School, it’s a walk in the park. The encouragement Marci receives from the directors and how it brings her family together in a new way is what keeps her coming to the stage.

“I think I’ll do it again,” Marci said. “Everyone should do it … it’s a confidence builder.”

Making rehearsals a part of family time is true too for John Wagler, whose father, Kevin Wagler, is also a co-director of the show. Growing up home-schooled, John said that community theatre was his creative, performing outlet.

Before it was his group’s turn to take the stage during rehearsal Tuesday night, he watched Geeding’s performance and said that he wasn’t sure how good he will be at singing and dancing. That being said, he was ready to take on the challenge.

“There’s a lot of talented people here and a lot of amazing voices,” John said. “It’s fun to be a part of. We’re just starting to learn the choreography that goes with the songs. I’m nervous about that.”

Mt. Pleasant’s own Holly Jones is the show’s choreographer. Before rehearsals began, Geeding and Jones were discussing growing up in community theatre together. Jones said that it’s a special thing to get to do a show together again. “We’re really close on stage,” she said.

Being a part of community theatre isn’t for the weak of heart, with rehearsals taking place Monday through Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Don’t worry, the entire crew doesn’t have to be present for two hours a night. The directors are reportedly very good at scheduling acts.

Nancy Amos is yet another performer who grew up in community theatre. Now a full-time teacher, she performed in her first show when she was nine years old. What brings her back year after year is the creativity of it all and getting to watch the crowd smile when they finally get to perform in front of an audience. Juggling teaching and rehearsals, Amos said she “never sleeps” and that she’s a “go-getter.”

Dinah Bindner’s favorite part of community theatre is the connections she makes. She said there’s a richness about performing together and the love of music has a unifying effect that shows the diversity in Mt. Pleasant.

“It expands a person’s world and the love of music is amazing,” Bindner said.

The show, REWIND: Revue of songs from (almost) 50 years of musicals, is February 15, 16 and 17, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m. at the Heatilator Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased two weeks before the show at Brown’s Shoe Fit in Mt. Pleasant or at the door. There is a student discount. REWIND is sponsored by KILJ.

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