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White Christmas coming together as opening night grows closer

New Richmond High School students Eric Dyrud-Estrada (left), Stalyon Blackmon (middle) and Gus Franchere stand together on stage while singing one of the many classic songs from <I>Irving Berlin’s White Christmas<I> during a rehearsal Monday, Nov. 18, at the high school auditorium. (Photos by Jordan Willi) 1 / 3
The New Richmond High School pit orchestra runs through the music of <I>Irving Berlin’s White Christmas<I> with the cast on stage during a rehearsal Monday, Nov. 18, at the high school auditorium.2 / 3
Eric Dyrud-Estrada (right) and Stalyon Blackmon perform the song “Happy Holidays” along with a large supporting cast behind them during a rehearsal for <I>Irving Berlin’s White Christmas<I> Monday, Nov. 18, at the high school auditorium.3 / 3

Even though there are just two weeks left before the New Richmond High School’s production of <I>Irving Berlin’s White Christmas<I> hits the stage for opening night, Drama Director Katelyn Peterson and her cast are staying calm.

When the curtains go up and the lights first shine down on the stage in the auditorium at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6, for opening night, cast member Gus Franchere knows the cast and the orchestra will be ready to give it their all.

“The most fun for me has been watching the whole thing come together from where we were at the beginning of September,” said Franchere, who plays Ralph Sheldrake. “We were just like ‘oh my gosh. Just kidding, let’s now do this play,’ to now feeling like we are ready and that we can keep going to get it ready for opening night.”

<I>Irving Berlin’s White Christmas<I> was selected as this year’s musical mostly because of the dates the school set for the performance, but also because Peterson and the other music directors involved in the decision wanted to challenge their students.

“This play is a huge, 1950s Broadway musical style musical and it has a big chorus, big dance breaks, big costumes, big sets; everything. It is a lot bigger than the shows we usually do,” Peterson said. “We chose this one mostly because of the fact that we picked a date for it in early December and we decided to look at some musicals with a holiday theme. We thought this was perfect and we felt we had the kids who could pull it off.”

Preparation for the musical began in September after the auditions were finished the first week of school. Since then, the cast members have gone from learning the music, to memorizing their lines, to learning where to put their feet during the shows many dance numbers. The cast and orchestra have practiced Monday, Tuesday, Thursday from 6-9 p.m. since the beginning to be prepared for the three show-slate on Dec. 6-8.

“My character, Phil Davis, has a lot of choreography to dance to and I don’t really dance a lot, so just trying to remember everything and do the choreography is probably one of the hardest parts for me,” said Stalyon Blackmon, who plays co-male lead Phil Davis. “Dancing is not really my style, but I am doing it and I will survive.”

As opening night approaches, Peterson knows her students will buckle down and work harder to make sure they are ready to bring their best effort when the auditorium fills up with eager parents, friends and community members who have come to see the classic Christmas movie come to life before their eyes.

“I feel like we are doing pretty good, but it is definitely still in the rough stages of adding the acting, dancing and the music together,” said Emily Bierbrauer, who plays General Waverly’s granddaughter. “But as a whole, I feel like we are doing pretty well for being a few weeks out of opening night.”

With time becoming more and more of a luxury as the days go by, Blackmon and the rest of the <I>White Christmas<I> cast know they will have to tighten things up and continue to improve every day if they want to put their best foot forward come Dec. 6.

“I’m expecting people, if they are not already, to get serious about the whole thing and buckle down,” Blackmon said. “We can still have fun, but we need to have that line where having fun and goofing off are separated. Once we start to get more serious about it, we will be able to have more fun with it.”

The musical kicks off with back-to-back nights of 7 p.m. shows on Dec. 6 and 7, and then a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 8. General admission tickets are $10 per person. For more information, contact the high school at 715-243-7451.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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