Summer Academy Players Presents: Great Americans of the 20th Century

“Welcome to the Twenty Greatest Americans of the 20th Century!” declared Angelica, (played by Kiera), the host of the Awards Ceremony. She looked dazzling in her long, red-carpet worthy black dress.

The production opened with a song and a dance number featuring actors in glittery gold vests.

Red, who plays President Franklin Roosevelt, described the musical as a “show in a show.”

“It’s a comedy, about an awards show,” he said. The awards are being given to the 20 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century.

Red and Addie (who plays Henry Ford) said the first week was devoted to learning the songs, before they were even cast as characters. “The second week we got our roles and started learning our lines,” Red said. “And the third week we put it all together with props and costumes.”

Summer said everyone had homework during production. “We had to practice at home.”

Academy students from other classes attended the dress rehearsal today to give the actors experience in front of a live audience. Teacher Rachel Cathey told the audience that the actors “learned to sing and dance ten songs” with only ten days of rehearsal. Cathey herself was director, choreographer, choral master, costume and prop organizer, and worked tech during the performance.

Iconic dancer and choreographer Martha Graham (played by Tiffany) was the first of the Great 20 to be honored. But, Wally Walters the Roving Reporter, (played by Summer), doesn’t always get his facts straight (fake news!). He referred to Martha as, “the inventor of the Graham Cracker!” and asked her how she was able to get all those little perforations on the cracker.

“My character is kind of oblivious,” laughed Summer. “I’m kind of a comic relief.”

Rachel Carson (Jenna), environmental activist, teased her award presentation partner, Walt Disney (Harry). “While I was out fighting with chemical companies, you changed the world with an animated rodent!” she said.

While there was a lot of comedy, one of the most moving moments came when Rosa Parks (Emma) and the chorus performed a number that memorialized her refusal to move to the back of the bus. One by one, chorus members took a seat next to Rosa and then systematically moved backwards to fill in the seats on stage. Rosa steadfastly stayed in her seat at the front while they sang.

In another “strong woman” moment, Georgia O’Keefe (Bryn) dared the audience not to look at her large flower paintings. The cast created the beautiful paintings, as well as Jackson Pollock’s (Evan) splatter painting (on which Wally stepped), and the rest of the props.

Red, Addie, and Summer loved putting on the musical. “We got to have a lot of fun and meet all the other actors,” Red said.

Summer also liked the friendships she made. “I like how when you’re acting, you get to make friends,” she said. “I feel like it makes students get out of their comfort zone when they’re singing and feel more confident.”

For Addie, it’s all about the excitement. “I like the rush when you’re up on stage!”

Louis Armstrong (also Emma), the musician, (whom Wally Walters claimed was also the first man to walk on the moon), summed up the entire production through his lyrics.

“There’s no such thing as too much fun; that is jazz rule number one!”

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