Mean Girls pack out the WHS auditorium
Collin Jones paraded around the stage as a lion while the ensemble from the stage play “Mean Girls” danced and sang the song “It Roars.” pics 2 and 3 Wheatland High School senior Keagan Williams had never acted in a musical before, but played the part of a torn-between-relationships teenager like a veteran thespian and crooner. Rebecca Crowley who plays a ditzy high school student is seen singing and dancing to the song, “Sexy” during a scene from the Halloween Dance.
WHEATLAND – For three memorable nights, the stage play, Mean Girls was performed by the Platte County Players at the Wheatland High School auditorium to standing room only crowds.
The Platte County Players is an organization independent from the Wheatland High School drama club who has a purpose of teaching and promoting all aspects of theater and watching the kids perform for four nights (including the dress rehearsal) showed the depth and spoke volumes about the mentoring and coaching that goes on in this community from a very talented artistic group of individuals.
Once again, the local power couple of Evan and Stephanie Bradley put together a big-time musical in the small town of Wheatland. The musical ensemble under the direction of Evan Bradley was made up of community members who volunteered their time and musical talents to make it different from a lot of high schools across America who perform musicals with recorded music.
“As far as challenges, there were quite a few,” Stephanie Bradley, the production director said. “The obvious one, was getting our support from the school withdrawn. That was a serious setback. The Platte County Players were immediately onboard to produce the show, but everything had to be re-applied for, which took time. That delayed things like fundraising, costuming, set-building, because none of us could face undoing all of those things if we didn’t get approved.”
Bradley has directed other plays in Wheatland including “Working” and “Little Shop of Horrors” with the WHS music department and has coached the Wheatland Middle School Drama Club for the past four years – recently producing “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse and “The Many Disguises of Robin Hood.” She has a degree in Theater Performance.
“The cast, however, didn’t let that (the setbacks) get in the way,” Bradley said. “We kept rehearsing, and we were determined to put on an amazing show. The kids are incredible. I have directed some of them since I started coaching Middle School Drama four years ago, but for some of them, this was their first show ever.”
The show brought forth the talents of some new actors and also showcased the talents of others who had not had previously done any work in a musical including one of the lead parts played by Keagan Williams playing Aaron Samuels. Williams had the natural ability to take us into his classroom situations making us all believe he was actually a student in a conflicted relationship.
A strong lead female cast led by Megan Cecil, Eleni McKee, Savanna Haecker and Rebecca Crowley carried the performance with both their acting and singing abilities. All veteran actors, you ended up actually cheering for Cecil who showcased her impressive onstage scream and her lyrical ability, were hating McKee because her acting was yes, “that good,” as a villain, had tears in your eyes when Haecker because she made each of us remember what it was like to “never be enough,” and laughed out loud at the personality of Crowley who stepped into and accomplished a role that she doesn’t play in real life. A line that brought the audience to loud laughter was when informed Crowley that she was going to redo her eyebrows, to which Crowley in perfect comedic timing responded with, “Can I have two?”
With each performance, it brought you back to your high school years and you could put a name that you remembered from those days of yore as you watched the performance. Simply said, the performance hit close to home – and for a play to do that, the ambiance set with the music and acting has to be spot on. Which it was.
Personally, my high school days most resembled the “yawns” and eye rolls of Gavin May who was playing Glenn Coco. He nailed it.
And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the range that Nichole Biggs brought in transforming from a student to a middle-aged mother to a dancer in the ensemble. With such a large cast in the original movie, most of our Wheatland kids had to play multiple parts – and do multiple jobs. From filling in with the band backstage to creating and moving sets to actual acting, dancing and singing.
WHS junior Bryley Waring played Janis Sarkisian and teamed seamlessly with senior Collin Jones (playing Damian Hubbard) who is heading off to Casper College in the fall to major in music composition. No one will forget his lion dance. No one. The chemistry of these two added both humor and empathy to the realism of high school life and the navigation (and explanation) of adolescent personalities. The song “Apex Predator” was an interesting way to bring forth how high schoolers examine their peers. That song was also done as many others in the play with a complete dance ensemble addition that also featured impressive choreography and very tight lines and timing. Tommy Tune would have been impressed.
“They are all great, and worked so hard to improve,” Bradley said. “My favorite thing was watching them encourage each other. A lot of them were way out of their comfort zone just singing in front of other people, and then we added in dancing and really connecting to their characters, and they could have really taken a step back. But none of them did. They embraced what I asked them to do, and put it into action. And they took every opportunity to show each other encouragement and really hype each other up. Even backstage during the shows, they were dancing, cheering each other on, and just lighting up with joy as they watched everyone onstage succeed.”
Mean Girls was originally written by SNL comedienne and actor Tina Fey. The movie which grossed $130.1m at the box office was inspired by a self-help book called “Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends And Other Realities of Adolescence,” written by Rosalind Wiseman in 2002. The movie officially debuted April 30, 2004 and was later adapted into a stage musical which debuted in 2017. It has been performed on Broadway and then toured the nation.
According to Film Synopsis, “Teenage Cady Heron was educated in Africa by her scientist parents. When her family moves to the suburbs of Illinois, Cady finally gets to experience public school and gets a quick primer on the cruel, tacit laws of popularity that divide her fellow students into tightly knit cliques. She unwittingly finds herself in the good graces of an elite group of cool students dubbed "the Plastics," but Cady soon realizes how her shallow group of new friends earned this nickname.”
“We asked a lot of the kids,” Bradley said. “Rehearsals can be challenging and a lot of them end up exhausted at the end of the day. But they show up, ready to go, and give their best effort every night. And I think expecting the best from them really pays off. The performances were so much fun, their energy was amazing, and the shows were well attended. We ended up selling a total of 555 tickets. We had a ton of really generous sponsors who helped make it possible, and so much support from community members, as well as the families of the cast. The community response has been terrific, and I am excited for the next show!”
The behind-the-scenes power driving the music was Evan Bradley’s musical ensemble that was cleverly concealed behind a curtain at the back of the stage. Bradley has been the band director in Wheatland for the past nine years and not only was recently a co-director of the musical theater play “Little Shop of Horrors,” but has extensive background in playing in the pits for musical theater as well.
“I just want to thank everyone who was involved in this project,” Evan Bradley said. “This is by far the biggest and most involved show that I’ve ever been a part of and it couldn’t have happened without the support of this community. The BIGGEST of thanks to Platte County Players for taking a chance on us and producing this show and also to the Wyoming Army National Guard’s 67th Army Band for allowing us to use their facilities so that we had a place to prepare and rehearse. Although this show is known for the movie of the same name, which is a bit of a silly pop culture icon, this show is as deep as it is funny. There are some moments where will get a look into the raw emotional distress of teenage angst, and no punches are pulled to create that feeling and atmosphere of hatred, bullying and savagery that we all experienced at one point in our adolescence. I’m so proud of the hard work that these kids have done vocally and with the choreography which many of them never had to learn before.”
Bradley, just coming off of a spring band concert and had recently taken his bands to the state competitions had a very busy second semester.
“The music for Mean Girls: High School Version was quite an undertaking,” he said. “Contrary to what is implied by the phrase "High School Version" this was the exact book from the Broadway Company's National Tour that is wrapping up right now. I had some incredible voices to work with and it was such a joy to see them grow during this production. It really forced me to develop my vocal coaching chops, as not only is this show difficult from a technical and range standpoint, but also, the writing includes many long songs, and requires the cast to be singing almost non-stop, so we had to learn how to use the voice safely and mitigate vocal fatigue.
“I would be remiss if I didn't offer up a heap of credit to my good friend and colleague, Stephanie Zukowski, who is an educator and musician in Sheridan. She spent hours on phone calls with me helping me learn how to be a better vocal coach, as well as offering up an hour one Saturday morning to do a Zoom call voice lesson for free with one of our vocalists. Running the Band was also a blast. We all squeezed behind the back curtain of the stage and worked hard to provide the kids with the accompaniment they deserved. We utilized musicians from all over the state, including members of the Wyoming Army National Guard's 67th Army Band.
“We got to utilize some of the new technology in the auditorium to do a two-way video feed so that I could see the stage action for cueing purposes, and so the students could see me conducting backstage while they were on-stage. Overall, the challenges were well worth the reward, and I can't wait to do another production with the Platte County Players.”
A thank you from the Platte County Players and cast and crew of Mean Girls went out to Wyndi Waring and Dawn McKee for helping transport props and costumes, Western Building Supply for donating building supplies, Thespian Troupe 605 for use of props, costumes and building supplies, Heather Jones and Brandy Crowley for help with advertising, social media and props and to all the parents for supporting their kids and helping to make sure they had what they needed to make the show a success.
Nichole Biggs, David Bookout, Ember Bradley, Megan Cecil, Jaycilou Ciz, Rebecca Crowley, Lucia Entrop, Alina Faustman, Savannah Haecker, Andrew Haecker, Sasha Jackson, Collin Jones, Gavin May, Eleni McKee, Isabella Milton, Shelbi Morgan, Gavyn Oakes, Derrick Sarad, Bryley Waring and Keagan Williams
Stephanie Bradley, Evan Bradley, Elizabeth Crowley, Noah Crowley, Heather Jones, Cooper Hanni, Shay Eagleton, Elle Tolle, Caid Diamond-Graves, Riley Mixon, Brandy Crowley and Rowan Bradley.
Elise Rodrigues, Jana Hanni, Evan Bradley, Tim Painter, Joe Painter, Chayse Wilson, Madi Wells, Josh Nicholson, Jeff Hanni and Jake McDonald.