Lookin' Swell: High-quality production result of students' dedication, talent

Published on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 23:10 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA eguevara@tylerpaper.com

Standing center stage, Kelsey Kilgore sings. As she does, groups of students playing police officers, clowns and band members file in on cue.

“Give me an old trombone/Give me an old baton/Before the parade passes by!” she sings.

The students are from The Brook Hill School and the production is “Hello, Dolly!” which the students will perform four times starting this weekend. Shows are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. May 9 and 10.

Glenn Ballard, the school’s fine arts director, is the production’s director and scenic designer. Music direction is by Patti Eden.

Brook Hill annually puts on two large theater productions, including the dinner theater in the fall and the musical in the spring.

The department funds its own production, but through the creativity of its staff and volunteers and the support of its community members has been able to make the most of these opportunities.

“Hello, Dolly!” is based on the play, “The Matchmaker” by Thornton Wilder. It’s about a widow named Dolly Levi who has dedicated her life to matchmaking. She matches several people and eventually herself.

Brook Hill’s production features about 15 songs in two acts. Ballard designed and built the set and his wife, Rebecca Ballard, designed and made the costumes.

Ballard said the stage may be small, but they push the envelope, which helps encourage the students.

“They work harder when they see the rest of us working hard to create an environment for them to act in,” Ballard said.

This is his 14th collaboration with Patti Eden, the middle and high school choir director.

Miss Kilgore, 17, a senior and one of two students playing Dolly, said she already started thinking about the production in August when Ballard mentioned the idea to her. Auditions were held in January and soon after rehearsals started.

The students put a lot of time into the show practicing two hours after school each weekday and about four hours on Saturday.

The production features 26 students, half of those in high school and half in middle school.

He said they open it up to the middle school students for several reasons. First, because the school is so small, it broadens the field. Second, it helps bring the younger students along faster when they learn from the older, more experienced students, Ballard said.

People should not be turned off by the fact that many of the actors are young, he said. Their dedication and talent level makes it a high-quality production.

Sometimes, the younger students have held the lead positions including last year in “The Secret Garden” and in a production of “Annie.”

“If people will come and watch, I think they will see something that doesn’t look like your typical high school play,” he said.