The musical talents of Bear River High School will be taking the stage again this week with the musical “Hello, Dolly!”
The musical, written by Jerry Herman, follows the story of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a matchmaker who seeks to marry the wealthy Horace Vandergelder, and sets up widow Irene Molloy with Vandergelder’s clerk, Cornelius Hackl; Cornelius’ assistant, Barnaby Tucker, with Mrs. Molloy’s assistant, Minnie Fay; and artist Ambrose Kemper with Vandergelder’s niece, Ermengarde.
The cast and crew of more than 30 members will display a level of production beyond expectations for a high school performance, said Amy Linden, Bear River’s drama program director.
“It’s not an ordinary high school show,” Linden said. “It’s really top quality.”
Bear River received three Elly Award nominations last year for its production of “Singin’ in the Rain” and two nominations for the previous year’s “Oklahoma.” The Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance’s Elly Awards honor community theater achievement in the region. Bear River got the nods even after losing its in-class theater department and reducing it to an extracurricular after-school program due to budget cuts.
“It’s hard,” said Linden, who receives a small stipend for directing the play. “It’s like coaching all year long, instead of just one season.”
The class is self-sustaining and funded through ticket sales, which makes show attendance important, she said.
Bear River Principal Jim Nieto said the theater class was canceled due to budget cuts and lack of enrollment.
“We lost our drama class a few years ago due to a loss of funding and declining enrollment,” Nieto said. “Unfortunately the arts were among the first to be cut, but we formed a drama club to keep the program alive, and Amy Linden has done a great job for us with a very limited budget.”
Because the program is after school only, the challenge of balancing classes, homework, extracurricular activities and a social life is made even more difficult, say students of the drama program.
“It’s almost impossible,” said sophomore Emily Rice, who will be playing the role of Minnie Fay. “Any spare time is spent on school work and sleeping.”
Amy Hudelson, who will be playing the role of Irene Molloy, said her enjoyment of the program actually helps ease some of the school stress.
“The program is really important with the stress of school and college apps and leadership and AP classes,” she said.
The drama program inspired senior Chelsea Knowlton, who plays the part of Dolly, to plan to major in theater in college. She said taking part in the show requires dedication, as the process is time-consuming.
“If you do the show, it pretty much becomes your entire life,” Knowlton said, noting as the production concludes, the students often feel restless from the sudden availability of time.
“Then you have all this time when the show is over, and you don’t know what to do with it,” Knowlton said.
Bear River is equipped with a 400-seat theatre that was opened six years ago today.
“Opening night is the anniversary,” Linden said.
Linden said she enjoys seeing the growth in the students over time.
“What I see as a value is the growth I see in kids after two years — that growth in confidence,” Linden said. “I’ve had kids that completely broke their mold that other kids have set for them.
“Students start off as virtual wallflowers who start off saying, ‘I just want a chorus part or a non-speaking role,’ and then the next show they say, ‘I want a bigger part or role.’”
Linden was a full-time teacher/librarian who just moved from Nevada Union to Bear River and did not have the time the first year to lead the drama program.
“I started my second year and haven’t looked back since,” she said.
Linden said guests can expect a high-quality production and should give Bear River’s “Hello, Dolly!” a viewing.
“I wish Grass Valley could give us a chance,” she said. “It’s really a great theater and a great experience.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.