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Murray High theatre students to perform world premiere of “Behind the Bookstore” this season

Oct 04, 2017 09:31AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Murray High School’s theatre season includes “Behind the Bookstore,” an original musical by senior Ben Stanford. (Will Saxton/MHS)

The scene starts in a royal palace in Elsinore, Denmark in the 1300s and will take a turn at a small Scottish village that emerges from the foggy mist of the Highlands one day every century and will conclude with the roller-skating times of the 1980s in California.

This will all take place as Murray High theatre students take the stage performing “Hamlet,” “Brigadoon” and “Xanadu” this season. 

However, the world premiere of “Behind the Bookstore,” a musical set in the 1900s written and directed by Murray High senior Ben Stanford, may highlight the season.

“I told students if any of them write a full musical, with all the songs, then Murray High will produce it and Ben did just that,” said theatre director Will Saxton. “I’ve read it twice — two different drafts — and it is just fantastic. I love it. Ben is very talented, ambitious, hard worker who wants to be a playwright. This is my first student who has ever written a musical and it isn’t just an attempt. It’s awesome. He knows what he’s doing.”

The season begins with Saxton taking his advanced theatre students to perform Thursday, Sept. 28 through Saturday, Sept. 30 in the 41st annual junior high and high school Shakespeare competition, hosted by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University in Cedar City.

At the competition, students will perform their ensemble, a 10-minute musical version of “Hamlet.” Hamlet, in this case, will be performed by senior Rebecca Smith.

“I chose the person who had the best audition. She worked really hard and did really well,” Saxton said.

Joining Rebecca will be Ben as King Claudius and senior Cat Bonham as Queen Gertrude.

Rebecca also will perform a monologue from “As You Like It,” joined by senior Emma Gilmore with a monologue from “Winter’s Tale” and junior Dylan Short with a “Taming of the Shrew” monologue. 

Murray High will perform two trio scenes. Ben will be joined by senior Jordan Evans and senior Harrison Clark in “Julius Caesar” and senior Emma Woodbury, senior Meg McKellar and junior Sydney Bagley will perform “Much Ado About Nothing.”

“This is an educational opportunity for them to take the stage and learn about the plays, the stage, what others are performing and just to do their best. We’ll participate in the improv competition as well. Our goal is to get superior ratings for all 16 of our students,” he said.

The students also will watch “The Tavern” put on by the Utah Shakespeare Festival as well as “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” by SUU.

They return back in Murray, leaving 14th-century Denmark just to take to the Scottish hills in “Brigadoon.”

The fall musical, which had auditions in the spring, already is in rehearsal. The show will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9 through Saturday, Nov. 11 and again, Monday, Nov. 13. Tickets are $7 for students and $8 for non-students purchased at lunchtime two weeks in advance or $9 at the door.

The show features Ben and Jordan as Tommy and Jeff, respectfully, who are two American friends on a Scottish hunting trip when they stumble upon Brigadoon, a magical Scottish village that appears one day every 100 years. Tommy falls in love with a villager, Fiona, played by junior Ashley Bates, and must decide whether to stay or to return to his life.

Other leads include Emma Woodbury playing the role of Meg; sophomore James Longhurst as Harry Beaton; senior Cassidy Lewis as Jean; junior Jospeh Longhurst as Charlie Dalrymple; and senior Emma Gilmore as Lundie.

The show’s music director is Alan Scott and choreographer is Leesa Lloyd.

“This is a fun classic love story that we have never performed. Some students know it, but many weren’t familiar so I wanted them to be exposed to it,” Saxton said.

In 2018, theatre students will perform the 10th annual Broadway Revue, which may feature several Tony Award winning musicals.

“We have the kids audition and from there, we will select and design our show,” he said.

The show will be performed at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 10 through Friday, Jan. 12 in the Little Theatre. Tickets will be $4 at the door.

Ben’s first production of “Behind the Bookstore,” will already be cast and in rehearsals when the students perform their Broadway Revue. The show will be choreographed by seniors Rebecca and Emma Woodbury.

The show will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 8 through Saturday, March 10 and again, Monday, March 12. Tickets are $6 for students and $7 for non-students in advance and $8 at the door.

“It’s a very traditional style and the bookstore is significant to the plot. It is set in the early 1900s and one of the themes it explores is that new things are not necessarily better than old things. It’s family friendly musical with live music that appeals to all ages,” Saxton said.

He added that Ben already is an award-winning short story author and an accomplished member of the school’s academic decathlon team.

“He wrote a one-act play last spring and has incredible talent,” Saxton said.

The season ends with the performance of “Xanadu,” where students “will take to roller skates in a fun and light-hearted way.” Murray High’s Little Theatre will turn into California in the 1980s and the audience will surround the stage on three sides.

The show will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 10 through Saturday, May 12. Tickets will be $6 at the door.

In between these shows will be the students’ annual improvisation festival in April and preparing for their one-act regional performance of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Wednesday, March 14 at Olympus High.

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