Kewanee, IL

Kewanee High students to present historical musical

Mike Berry
Bethany Olalde as Anya is flanked by Nathan Roller as Vlad, left, and Cooper Bates as Dmitry in this scene from Anastasia.Photo byHeather Olalde

The musical that Kewanee High School students will present later this month will be a multimedia presentation.

There will be acting, singing and dancing, of course. But this musical will make full use of a new piece of equipment at KHS: a state-of-the-art projection system.

Retired KHS art teacher Sue Blake, who for years painted backdrops for school plays, said the new system will project far more backgrounds at the back of the stage than were possible before.

The students are now rehearsing “Anastasia,” a piece that originated in 1997 as a cartoon feature and is now owned by Disney.

The musical will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for students, “which is the cheapest you will find this kind of entertainment anywhere,” according to KHS teacher Heather Olalde, the director.
Cast members (from left) Tori Dennison, Jersie Duytschaver, Chase Palm, Kiersten Yordy rehearse a scene from "Anastasia."Photo byMike Berry

Olalde said that while the play is based on the cartoon, “Our production, the musical version, is very un-Disneyfied.”

The musical is “more grown-up than the cartoon,” Olalde said, “but is accessible to kids.”

The musical is based on the story of Anastasia, the youngest member of the family of Czar Nicholas II, the last of the czars of Russia.

The family was murdered in 1918, but a story circulated for years that Anastasia had survived and was in hiding somewhere. (This story proved to be untrue.)
The cast and crew of "Anastasia" lined up for a group photo.Photo byMike Berry

The musical portrays two con men who pass a young girl off as Anastasia.

There is plenty of music and dancing in the musical, performed by a cast of 20 Kewanee High School students and a pit band led by KHS band teacher Alex Binek.

While the dramatics program at Kewanee High, like most other activities in the nation, was curtailed for a couple for years by the COVID pandemic, performances resumed last year.

Rehearsals for “Anastasia” have gone on for eight weeks.

For years, Kewanee High has had strong participation by its students in programs like school plays and group interpretation competitions.

Olalde said these activities provide opportunities for students who aren’t into athletics (although some student athletes have also been in play casts).

And a few students have continued with performing after high school, even serving as directors of community theater programs.

“It’s really neat to see my theater babies grow up,” Olalde said.

KHS students involved in the production are Bethany Olalde, Nathan Roller, Kiersten Yordy, Cooper Bates, Eleanor Burkhart, Laryn Conley, Rebeca Corral, Tori Dennison, Jersie Duytschaver, Alex Hager, Isaac Lynes, Willow Marshall, Hope Peed, Ashley VanWassenhove, Bethany VanWassenhove, Londyn Washburn, Abbie Bartell, Jacie Hinton, Nayeli Leon, William Ly, Tessa Mitchell, Claire Olalde, Chase Palm, Julia Pendergrass, Elizabeth Pratt, Shawn Roller, Dade Aldred, Cameron Bates, Dalton Bender, Jazlyn Dearing, Stephanie Espinoza, Kaiden Goffrier, Sophie Raes, Gerrit VanStaden, Abigail Wyant, Marcos Pagan, Mary Miller, Brennyn Ford and Emily Witte.

Adults who are involved are Heather Olalde, director; Katie Yelm, music; Sue Blake, set design; and Brad DeWolf, set construction.

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I am retired after 45 years in the newspaper business. I am a 1972 graduate of the College of Communications at the University of Illinois.

Kewanee, IL

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