July 12th, 2024

‘Emma!’ ready to rock the stage at Chinook High School

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on May 25, 2024.

Herald photo by Justin Sibbet Maxwell Edwards, portraying Frankie Churchill, sings while accompanied by Nicole Burman and Julia Larue during a rehearsal for Chinook High School's production "Emma!" at the Chinook Media Centre.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

As the stage darkens, the theatre waits with anticipation. Suddenly, music blasts and lights flare up as the song and dance routine of “Emma!” begins.

Students at Chinook High School will be performing a unique rendition of the Jane Austen novel by the same name.

Alisha Hornberger, co-director and choreographer for the production, says the musical takes the original 1815 book and places it in a unique high school setting.

“For those people who are familiar with Jane Austen’s Emma, they’ll be able to come see the characters in a brand-new way,” says Hornberger. “For those who are unfamiliar with the story, they, too, will be able to come see a really exciting performance.”

Hornberger says it has been a fun and fulfilling journey as the students have poured their hearts into the production.

“The students are so focused and determined and resilient that it makes our product incredible,” says Hornberger.

Brooke Fitzhenry has been in several productions with Chinook and plays the role of Harriet Smith. She says there has been a buildup of enthusiasm for the show recently.

“I think people are excited to see what we’ve got,” Fitzhenry says, adding she will be able to cherish the experience with her friends and classmates.

“It sounds like they’re all excited to come watch. I haven’t explained much of the show to keep them in suspense, just because this is not a super well-known show.”

Malachi Maret, a Grade 12 student taking on the role of Jeff Knightly says, for him, the performance will be a celebration leading up to graduation.

“It’s my last show in high school,” says Maret. “So, it’s going out with a bang.”

Despite this being his send off, he says the production is good for all students, no matter their current grade.

“One thing I think Chinook always does well is building community through our shows,” says Maret. “Everybody’s really building good friendships and connections and enjoying the show together.”

This production has students ranging from grades 10 to 12.

Stephanie McFarlane, production co-director and music director for the performance, says the rehearsals and work put in before the show are arguably more important than the musical itself.

“It’s an exciting process and it comes with a gamut of emotions and journeys that we all go on,” says McFarlane. “Ultimately, here at Chinook, we have a philosophy of process over product… we really hope that means the most to the kids and impacts them in the most ways.”

While it can be argued getting on stage is a frightful experience, McFarlane says her students are always up to the task.

“Students are passionate and willing to try the arts, so they sign up and give it a go,” says McFarlane. “We’ve got a really cool student body and we’ve got a good pocket of them that are willing to come out and try it, risk a little bit, in a healthy way.”

For Fitzhenry, one big bonus about the drama arts program at her school is the rehearsal space afforded by Chinook.

“It’s super beneficial to have a theatre in our school because rehearsals go a lot easier. We get the opportunity to actually practice with the stage we’re going to perform on, which is awesome.”

The pop musical will take place at Chinook High School between May 28 and June 1.

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