Newton High School's upcoming musical production is funny, madcap, energetic — and has freshmen in several of the leading roles.
"Lucky Stiff," by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, has an improbably comic story much in the same vein as the cult classic movie "Weekend at Bernie's."
Freshman Rai Angolo plays a British shoe salesman named Harry Witherspoon.
"(Harry's) just kind of lived the same old life for years," Angolo said. "He's just kind of been stuck. He wants to travel, but he's never gotten the chance."
When Harry receives a telegram, he is thrust into a series of absurd circumstances.
"The telegram states that his uncle has died," Angolo said. "He goes to the solicitor's office and they inform him that his uncle has left him six million dollars, but the terms of the will are highly unusual."
In order to collect the money, Harry has to pass his dead uncle off as alive in Monte Carlo for a week.
Playing Rita LaPorta, who had an affair with — and then shot — Harry's uncle, is freshman Kelsi Harris.
"I wasn't expecting to get a lead," Harris said.
In a voluminous wig and stilettos, Rita chases Harry down in hopes of stealing back the six million dollar's worth of diamonds she helped his uncle embezzle from her husband.
"It's a really funny story," Harris said. "It's like a cartoon."
What follows is a zany series of events with several twists and turns.
"All we can really say after that is there are some mistaken identities, and you'll be surprised," Angolo said.
Though both Harris and Angolo are also involved in sports, they wanted to be involved in theatre after their experience in the ensemble of "Sister Act," which was performed at Newton High School earlier in the school year.
Taking on leading roles has the freshman on a steep learning curve.
"There's been a lot of things that I've learned, and still I'm fine-tuning it," Angolo said. "You have to keep the audience a lot more in mind than I thought."
Unlike their "Sister Act" roles, Angolo and Harris spend their time onstage in the spotlight.
"Ellie (Bradley), who is our stage manager, brought in a super soaker, so anytime we hugged the set, we got sprayed," Angolo said. "That was an interesting day."
The hard work of the freshman has won the respect of upperclassmen in the cast.
"It's a really good group of people and the freshmen in the show are doing an outstanding job, especially for a lead role, because it's a lot to take on," said junior Tanner DeGrado, who plays Harry's dead uncle.
DeGrado has to play a dead body for the majority of the show.
"It's a lot harder than people think it is," DeGrado said. "There were a lot of people that wanted to go out for the dead body that hadn't been in a show before, because they thought it would be an easier role. It is a lot less responsibility to take on, but it's a lot tougher up on stage."
Part of that challenge of the role is not reacting when he is touched.
"Any opportunity that there is to play with the body, we have taken advantage of it," Angolo said.
Other members of the cast take on multiple roles, changing costumes and characters in a matter of seconds.
"This show is really an ensemble show," Angolo said.
The set of "Lucky Stiff" features colorful motifs of card faces and poker chips.
"It's extremely entertaining. It's not your 'Romeo and Juliet' that everyone knows," DeGrado said. "It definitely not something everyone has heard of. It's really entertaining and it will be fun to watch."
"Lucky Stiff" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 7 and 8 and at 2:30 p.m. April 9 in the Newton High School Auditorium, 900 W. 12th St. Tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for students under 18 and can be purchased online at https://www.showtix4u.com or at the door. Call 316-284-6280 or email email@example.com for more information.
Lucky Stiff cast and crew:
Harry Witherspoon - Rai Angolo
Annabelle Glick - Hannah Teater
Rita LaPorta- Kelsi Harris
Vinnie DiRuzzio - Nathan Garber
Luigi Gaudi- Brett Knepper
The Body - Tanner DeGrado
Dominique du Monaco/Woman 2 - Chelsie Penner
Man 1 - Mikey Smith
Man 2 - Oscar Gonzalez
Woman 1 - Gracie Hammond
Stage Manager - Ellie Bradley
Assistant Stage Manager - Kyla Jantz
Choreographer - Allyssa Meyer
Director - Michael Parker