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High School Musical a Journey Back in Time
Written by Kelly Kalb Correspondent

French valet Passepartout, played by senior Travis Hunsberger, makes his appearance on stage as he pops out of a trunk in the second scene of the show.

        Each year the students and staff at Upper Perkiomen High School's drama club work diligently for months putting together a crowd-wowing performance.  And this year didn't disappoint.

        The production, as chosen by drama club directors Alicia Austin and Colby Phillips, who are also teachers at the high school, proved to be even more challenging in terms of time and commitment, though.

        Austin and Phillips recognized the many parents and volunteers who gave up two months' worth of Saturdays for set construction.

        "The set was designed by me but was built by Jim Raftery and a host of parents along with Matt Austin over eight weekends," Austin said.

        "Royalties (the rights to produce the show) were over $1,000 but one thing to also note is that our entire drama budget is made up from only ticket sales and fundraisers. The district no longer budgets money for the drama department," Austin added.

        For this production, Austin explained, a professional lighting designer was hired which she said is a key component to every show and a vocal coach, Mary Lee Slemmer, was brought on.  Jennifer Dancy, a local dance studio owner, was again on board for choreography. Also this year, Fischer's Tuxedo of Quakertown provided a donation of seven tuxedos for the run of the show and a free tuxedo rental to raffle off as a fundraiser.

        "We had $4,500 in advanced ticket sales. The cost of the set was paid for by the drama club budget," Phillips noted.

        The production, a musical adaptation of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days," left the cast performing multiple roles and working harder than ever. Learning lines, songs and choreography are just a snippet of what is required of the student participants. The huge two-story set design and construction as well as hair, makeup, and costume work are also very important to a successful play.

        In the production, Phileas Fogg of London, played by junior Conor Raftery, along with his French valet Passepartout, played by senior Travis Hunsberger, attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a bet wagered by some friends. Along the way, they come across many different characters, providing adventures and laughs.

        "This is my second play at the high school. I was in the ensemble last year. This year is definitely harder but more fun, difficult at times but very enjoyable," said Raftery.

        For senior Ethan Harris, who plays Inspector Fix, this production marks his fourth year in drama club but his first lead role.

        "There is a lot of good acting and it really has been a great experience," he said.

        Senior Grace Lingenfelter, who plays Dolly, Conductor and Consul, remarked, "This is my last production, I've been in all four, and it's a different feeling a new perspective. I feel like I'm the mom on set and need to set a good example."

        Whether performing in the production, volunteering time, or sitting in the audience, every effort to help has not gone unnoticed by Austin and Phillips, who offer thanks whenever possible.

        East Greenville resident and parent Amy Gray, who saw the production, said, "I don't think many people realize the amount of time and hard work that goes into putting this show together. The show was fantastic! We were blown away by the talent!"

        "The kids did an exceptional job performing. The dance numbers were wonderful and the stage crew did an excellent job changing a large amount of scenes," said Stephanie Brozoski, Pennsburg resident and parent.

        Overall, the production proved to be successful although ticket sales came in a little lower than anticipated at just over $9,000. Phillips admits it's difficult to do a performance for under $10,000.

        Although it is a mystery what next year's show will be, some participants said they are walking away this year a better person.

        "I feel the theater and arts are deep within me. This is an experience that anyone can be a better person just because of it," Hunsberger said.





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