It’ll be an hour or more of singing and howling as almost two dozen teens take the stage in canine costumes. With floppy ears and black and white spots, Mariposa County High School students portray loveable dogs determined to outsmart Cruella De Vil in “101 Dalmatians.”
Andrew Chenoweth stars as De Vil. The MCHS senior is ready for the challenge and the fun of playing the woman everyone loves to hate.
Eight teens will enchant the audience as Pongo, Perdita and their six puppies: Daniel Gilger, Alondra Crutchfield, Claire Gorham, Andrea Morgante, Samantha Norman, Sarah Lafata, Serra Webber and Sarah Hull.
And several others fill the roles of canine narrators, the ensemble, assorted minor characters, or serve as technical/backstage crew: Cameron Dutrey, Alex Johnson, Adam Link, Sawyer Perrien, Lily Fluharty, Robert Bowlin, Michael Johnson and Joanna Gibbons.
Brandon Holcombe and Gage Bazinet are cast as Horace and Jasper, with close-to-convincing British accents. (I’m always tempted to feel sorry for these two bumbling bad guys.)
Tim Chalk and Ellie Phillips play Roger and Anita. And the housekeeper/nanny is played by Maria Loya.
The play, of course, is based on the classic animated film featuring Disney’s most outrageous villain, and, not to forget, the most adorable heroes ever.
Cast members have a great time singing “Dog SOS,” while imitating Scotty dogs, Chihuahuas and poodles.
Hints of London show up in a red cardboard phone booth prop and an outline of the London skyline on the screen behind the “outdoor” staging.
Bryan Starchman directs this production.
It’s far from Broadway, but high school stages are a great place for personal and academic development. In addition to higher test scores, students involved in the arts learn self-confidence and the value of teamwork. Educators see improvements in verbal skills, reading comprehension and classroom participation (from the website of the American Alliance of Theatre and Education).
Students discover they can actually memorize something while pretending to be someone else. And theater has a way of making school more fun.
With the help of Starchman and his assistants, these students are pulling it off. Jill Rowney, of Mariposa Symphony Orchestra fame, directs the musical segments. And dance instructor Carol Hart works with cast members on choreography.
Hart is also chairwoman of the high school’s Academic Booster Club. The nonprofit organization was started a few years ago to raise additional funds for educational materials. Besides new textbooks, projects have included replacing stage lights and ceiling tiles, and providing a stage floor mat for the auditorium. The club also donated to help in the purchase of a new marquee. More information about the organization can be found on Facebook or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The performances of “101 Dalmatians” are scheduled for March 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and March 8 at 2 p.m. Doors open one hour before each show in the Fiester Auditorium at MCHS, 5074 Old Highway North at the east end of Eighth Street.
Prices are $10 for general admission and $8 for ages 12 and younger, high school students with ASB cards and senior citizens. Tickets are available at Pony Expresso, at the box office one hour before the show, or online at www.bryanstarchman.com.
Admission price includes a souvenir Dalmatian mask, which will be used by audience members to become part of the cast later in the show.
Proceeds benefit future productions and help restoration projects of the auditorium.
Come early and enjoy classic cartoons courtesy of the Grizzly Cinema.
In the meantime, don’t forget: “The world was such a wholesome place until, Cruella, Cruella De Vil.”
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. Follow her on Twitter @ghostowngal or email her at email@example.com.