Rock Hill High School to present #039;Oklahoma#039; this weekend

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2003

PEDRO - Two months ago, most members of the Rock Hill High School "Oklahoma" cast were only passing acquaintances.

Now, they share food out of bags during long nights of rehearsal together.

May 2 and 3, students in the school's drama class and show choir will present the Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway musical in the school's cafetorium. This group of approximately 50 students will make history as the first group of Rock Hill High School students to perform a Broadway production. The school's new stage facilities that came with the new building that opened this year made it possible.

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Show choir director Rhonda Pemberton said her students and drama teacher Kim Zornes had class during the same periods. Rather than work alone as she had consistently done in the past, Pemberton paired with Zornes for the production.

"We both have a passion for the arts, and to have this come to life is almost like a dream," Zornes said. "These students get to live out our fantasy."

Junior Amanda Kelley, will play "Gertie," whom Kelley describes as a character that annoys all of the others. "Gertie" has an obnoxious laugh and tries to steal the lead character's love interest. Playing "Gertie" has been fun for Kelley because the character is far different from her.

"I'm not one to steal boyfriends," she laughed.

Sean Primm will also be in the same position. Primm plays villain "Judd Frye" who tries to steal the leading lady from her love interest. He and "Judd" are nothing alike, Primm said.

Primm was also excited to be a part of the school's first Broadway show.

"I hope it gets really big, that way I can always say I was in the first," he said.

Senior Sarah Kelley is saddened by the fact that she will not be able to participate in something like this next year.

"I wish I could come back next year and be a part of it," she said.

Brandi Akers, a senior who plays the lead role of "Laurey" said she would like to make a career out of performing. She said she will probably cry when she wins her first Tony Award.

"They'll probably ask for footage of her when she was in high school, and we'll be old women," Pemberton laughed.

"It's been a privilege to work with these people. I've never talked to Sarah or Julie [Huddle, senior] that much until now because all of us are together more."

When eight of the cast members were gathered in the school's cafetorium Wednesday afternoon, all of them raised their hands when asked if they made a new friend. Some of them considered their fellow members to be more than a friend.

"We've become like a second family," Huddle said.

"When things get crazy, we calm each other down and keep each other going," Amanda Kelley said.

This year is the first and last year L.J. Martin will attend Rock Hill. He transferred from Symmes Valley this year.

"I didn't know a lot of people here, but I got to know these people well. I feel like I've known them for a long time, now," he said.

Because drama is not exactly the "cool" thing for a high school student to do, the cast members have become closer through supporting each other.

"We stick together and keep pulling through," Huddle said.

"They've joined together in a common cause," Pemberton said. "Before, there was never this niche in the district. That's why they never came together. They never had this association and friendship."

Pemberton and Zornes both said that the students have done a tremendous job and have shown tremendous dedication as well. Several quit jobs to work on the production.

"That's a huge amount of commitment," Pemberton said. "They're doing without financially to be a part of this."

If the students did not have an interest in the arts beforehand, many of them developed one.

"One guy got into a class just because his girlfriend was in it," Zornes said. "Now, he's really got a passion for it."

Doors on both nights will open at 7 p.m., with the shows starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5, and pre-sales are available.