By JEROD CLAPP
The show had 39 musical numbers spread over two acts and choreographed dancing throughout. Though ambitious, the students at Jeffersonville High School put on “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” knowing there were judges in the audience watching every step.
After nailing the performance, the school will go to the International Thespian Festival this summer for the first time since 2005.
Patti Miller, director, has worked with theater at the school since the 1980s, but she said she’s never been to the festival. However, she said it wasn’t about her, it was about the students.
“I was ecstatic, I was absolutely thrilled for these kids because they earned this, it’s not just that these kids put on a great show and we hoped to take it to Nebraska, this was more than that,” Miller said. “These students had challenges in this show that typical casts never face.”
Santos Adorno, one of the cast members, said even though judges were watching them, he still felt like he and his cast mates were going to put on a great show.
“Coming up to this show, I can say this was the most prepared I’ve been for a show,” Adorno said. “I think as a family unit, I can be confident and say we were ready. Of course, the butterflies are going to be there, but in the back of our minds, I think we were at peace.”
Miller said with the non-stop singing and dancing, she knew the students would have to work hard to keep their energy up. But she said she also knew they could do a good job with the show.
“I’ve never seen ‘Smokey Joe’s’ performed where the actors were not exhausted and perspiring by the end of act one,” Miller said. “For kids to have to take on that much, it was a challenge we threw to them. It was a gauntlet that said ‘all right, show us what you’ve got.’”
Kienna Beatty, another cast member, said their production was no exception to Miller’s experience. Though they were tired, they still worked hard to impress the judges and the audience.
“I know when we went back into the dressing room, we were gasping,” Beatty said. “But when we got back on stage, we put our happy faces on there and went back out on stage because we wanted it so bad. We could taste it, we wanted it that bad.”
But to get to the festival, the theater students have a lot of work to finish. Michael Howard, director, said between flying in musicians, transporting sets, paying for the students’ fees and other associated costs, it could cost about $65,000 to go to the festival.
Miller said she hopes to have a fundraising gala by the end of the school year to help at least offset the costs, as well as run the show again near the end of the school year.
Students may also have to find a way to fund their trip. The students fee to attend the festival is more than $600.
But Vincent Thomas, another cast member, said though it will take some work to make it, he’s confident the show deserves to be shown in such a big event.
“I know personally, I didn’t second-guess the show, not once,” Thomas said. “I knew how hard we worked and how we stuck together. I didn’t have any doubts and I think it was better knowing we would be judged.”
Drake Delap, another cast member, said their performance at the International Thespian Festival will serve as a send-off before the school says goodbye to the show.
“I don’t think it will be, but I think it’s kind of like the last time we’ll get to go out there and perform this show,” Delap said. “I think that we’re going to have a lot of fun with it and that’s what this show is about, having fun.”