Actors, director hope audiences find fun, happy memories in holiday musical

The four leads in Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” hope their audiences will find escapism, laughter and fun in the Frenship High School Fine Arts Department production.

The musical is the story of two Army buddies in World War II who come home and become a successful song-and-dance act. They end up following two sisters to an inn in Vermont, where they meet up with another man they knew from their days as soldiers.

Dillon Edwards is a Frenship senior playing Phil Davis, a role made famous by Danny Kaye in the movie from 1954.

Dillon said his part requires more dancing than singing, as well as more flirting with the ladies. Those who watched the FHS production of “Beauty and the Beast” last fall might remember Dillon in the role of Lumiere, a candlestick often found flirting with a feather-duster maid, Babette, so the role of a flirt is not too far-fetched for him.

“It kind of feels more like me,” Dillon said.

Jacob Clemmons, a freshman at FHS, is in the role of Bob Wallace, originally played by Bing Crosby.

Jacob describes his character as more of a professional performer than Dillon’s role.

“He’s definitely more serious,” Jacob said of Bob Wallace, describing the role as very grim, “almost sad.” Later in the musical, he loosens up, Jacob said — after all, it is a Christmas musical.

One thing Jacob likes about the musical is that the actors and audience are drawn back into the era of World War II and the time period following it.

“You feel this sense of going back in time,” he said.

Talking about the sets created for “White Christmas,” Jacob said he’s really happy about all of the work other students have put into it, adding that he’s not sure how the musical could work without their contributions.

Although Tristin Taylor is a senior, this is also her first time to star in a musical at Frenship. Last spring, she was a tree in “Wizard of Oz,” but she said her friend RaeAnne Gwin talked her into trying out for the fall musical together.

Tristin is playing one of the two sisters, Betty Haynes, which was played in the movie by Rosemary Clooney.

“She’s the complete opposite of me,” Tristin said of the role, noting that Betty is known for being organized, structured and proper.

In the beginning of the musical, Tristin said Betty hates Bob.

“And then we fall in love,” she said.

Tristin said she appreciates Jacob’s approach to his role, noting that although he’s a freshman, he doesn’t make romantic scenes awkward and is fun to work with.

“He fits right in,” she said. “I’m really glad he got the part.”

Tristin is also glad that her friend RaeAnne is playing the role of Judy Haynes, her sister, since RaeAnne had pushed her to try out.

RaeAnne was Dorothy in last spring’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Before that, she had been in other high school musicals before moving to Frenship High. Since living in the Lubbock area, she has also been involved in the Midnight Musicals, and was a dancer in a production of “White Christmas” with that group last year.

RaeAnne said she’s been involved so consistently in musicals that she actually feels “weird” when she’s not preparing for or performing in one.

She particularly enjoys musicals, she said, “because they’re a lot different from regular shows, because you can be as dramatic as you want.”

She also likes the singing, the dancing and what she describes as a deeper connection with characters in musicals than in other theatrical outlets.

When the audience sees Frenship’s productions, RaeAnne said, “I hope that basically they come in wanting to see a fun Christmas show and they leave with so much more.”

Drew Weesner, a theater teacher at Frenship, said he and other instructors at FHS chose the musical only partly because it is a Christmas show.

“We really wanted to do something that would involve the whole school. And so we knocked a few out that way, because there wasn’t much dancing in some of them, and there wasn’t a whole lot of staging that we needed things built for,” he said.

“White Christmas” was a good show, Weesner said, because it has the big band musical orchestration and involves a lot of people. And because it was a great Christmas production, he said.

When the audiences see the musical, Weesner said he hopes they have the same reactions that he had as a young child when his grandparents took him to see his first musical, “Cinderella.”

“It was phenomenal. I loved it. I fell in love with it. And after that, it became a yearly tradition,” Weesner said, describing many years of happy family visits to the theater. He said he really hopes many young children in the Frenship area come to the show and grow up having the same happy memories.

The musical is set to run Dec. 7-9 at the FHS Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale now at www.frenship.us/whitechristmas.

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