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Students from rival schools collaborate on musical

Capitol, Helena High perform 'Once Upon A Mattress'
2012-11-15T17:05:00Z 2012-11-16T00:21:26Z Students from rival schools collaborate on musicalBy Eddie Gregg Independent Record Helena Independent Record
November 15, 2012 5:05 pm  • 

Drama students from Capital High and Helena High — two schools often thought of as rivals — will take to the stage to perform a popular Broadway musical this weekend.

About 35 cast and crew members from the two schools will perform “Once Upon A Mattress” in the Capital High Auditorium as part of the Cross-Town Plays, a 15-year-old program intended to encourage collaboration rather than competition between students from the two schools.

The first performance of the show was Thursday, and there will be performances tonight at 7 p.m. and at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $5 at the door.

“In a world where competition seems to rule, it’s kind of nice to have folks working cooperatively,” said Rob Holter, a drama teacher at Helena High who is co-directing the show, as the cast members from the two schools prepared for one of their last rehearsals earlier this week.

“Once Upon a Mattress” is a musical based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” The musical was originally performed in New York City in 1959 with then-newcomer Carol Burnett playing the lead character, Princess Winnifred. Since then, the musical has seen many revivals on Broadway, in theaters around the country and on television.

“If you just Google it, you’ll see the list of all the greats of comedy that have actually got their launch in this show,” Holter said as the Cross-Town Orchestra warmed up behind him and cast members in medieval dress milled around the stage.

“It’s a lot of fun to be in,” said Jade Merriman, a sophomore at Capital High who is playing Princess Winnifred in the school production. “It’s not the typical fairy tale princess story.”

The musical follows the comedic adventures of Princess Winnifred as she pursues Prince Dauntless the Drab in a fictitious medieval kingdom ruled by the evil Queen Aggravain and King Sextimus the Silent.

“It’s all age-appropriate. Little kids can come and see it,” Holter said. “It’s got lines only the adults will understand. It’s a great little show.”

Because the two schools have combined resources, they are able to organize a better production, said Justin Olson, a drama and English teacher at Capital High who is co-directing the show.

“Music direction and choreography and orchestra — we can pool all that together and hopefully make a better show,” he said. “It’s a great way to get students from both schools not to compete but actually work together and collaborate on a finished product.”

The students have been rehearsing four days a week for about two months, he said.

“It’s one thing we do together, and we have to make it work,” said Raymi Dillman, a senior at Helena High who plays Queen Aggravain in the show.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into it. It really helps the high schools,” she said, standing backstage surrounded by students from both schools.

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