By Sue Moore
Irving Berlin’s all-time classics, “Shakin’ the Blues Away,” “Heat Wave,” “Blue Skies,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “It’s a Lovely Day Today,” “Easter Parade,” and, of course, “White Christmas,” will be staged by Vicksburg High School’s theater group this month.
Under the directions of the dynamic Melissa Sparks, the teenagers will be performing the “New Holiday Inn Musical“ at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 14 and 21 at 7 p.m. There are two Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on March 15 and 22.
There are 13 large-ensemble musical numbers featuring a cast of 50 student performers. Every number has some dance in it from ballroom to jazz and, of course, tap. One number, “Shakin’ the Blues Away,” includes tap dancing while jump roping. Sparks said the day her students perfected that, she cried. “We actually have more students who can accomplish this than there is room on our stage for them to dance. It’s incredible to see how much our students’ skills have grown in this amazing show. Not to mention, it’s just a beautiful old-fashioned musical with the Irving Berlin songs, the glorious costumes, and magnificent sets. It’s going to be a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the heart,” Sparks exclaimed.
“Students began learning these dances in January and have been working hard on the technique necessary to pull it off. Thankfully, a few have learned the basics on these dance styles in previous productions so the rest have a few leaders to follow,” Sparks said.
“I loved this musical since I saw the Broadway production on PBS just a few years ago. While it’s the same title and basic premise as the old film, it has been reinvented for the 21st century. I love how it keeps the style of the classic golden age of musicals but feels fresh and modern,” she said.
“I believe all students can accomplish great things, if you believe in them. I love to challenge our students. They are doing Broadway level choreography in this show. It’s incredible! As our program grows, so does the capability of our students. I knew this was the year to tackle our most challenging show yet, by far!” Sparks said.
There are almost 400 costumes in this production. Sparks’ mom has usually helped with costumes in the many plays that her daughter has directed. Last year her mom had a heart attack right in the middle of the last rehearsal. “This year, I felt not only for her sanity but for mine as well that the best choice was for us to order many of the stunning costumes you will see. We have carefully selected and created a spectacular show for the eyes as each holiday has a different look, different costuming and different feel. She’s busy tailoring what we ordered and putting her touches on everything that makes it look so special. In the meantime, I’m thankful she’s here with me for another production,” Sparks said.