The Indianapolis Star "Hendricks AM" carried this story and photo (that's my daughter, Molly, in the foreground of the photo) today:
Hersel Cremeans sat in the dark a few rows back from the stage at Ben Davis High School, a yellow writing pad in one hand and the other around his young daughter.
It was quite the balancing act -- jotting down critiques of his students' musical rehearsal while keeping little Emma in tow. The toddler, who turns 2 this month, waved her arms to the lively tunes. She swung out her legs. And when a song ended, she clapped with a devotee's appreciation of the musical theater.
Emma has been alongside Dad at other productions and knows what she likes. And she likes this week's production of "High School Musical," based on a Disney Channel original movie. The play is set in a high school and centers around a boy named Troy, played by Jon Johnson, and a girl, Gabriella, played by Molly Hay. He is a basketball star, she a brainiac. They meet during school break.
"It's very much like 'Grease,' " said Cremeans, who heads Ben Davis' choral department and is the play's director. "They find out later that she was transferred into this school, and it happened to be the same school the boy goes to."
When the pair steps out of their comfort zone to try out for the school musical, they meet resistance from the jocks and the nerds. They care more about the upcoming big ballgame and a scholastic competition, in which Gabriella is key -- than in supporting their friends.
Enter a character played by senior Kelsey Breece. The self-centered Sharpay has grown accustomed to playing the lead in school plays. Threatened by the emergence of the two new entries, she sets out to sabotage their shared goal, first by telling lies to Gabriella -- Troy hates math and chemistry, Sharpay claims -- and then by manipulating a change in the audition date.
In the end, the obstructionist students realize that if the couple can break free from the status quo, so could they. In one song, a jock admits he loves to bake. A top student reveals she relishes dancing --"it's even cooler than homework."
The overriding message, says Johnson: "Don't be afraid to be you."
Preparing for the musical, which runs through Sunday afternoon, has been stressful. Hay and other cast members have had to divide their time between rehearsing and preparing for advanced placement testing, in which students seek to earn college credit.
Brian Benson, a junior, faces a different kind of challenge. Between two of the scenes, he must change costumes in about 15 seconds. How does he do it? "Layering," Benson says, confiding that he wears the shirt from his next scene under his outfit.
"High School Musical" is playing at Ben Davis High School's theatre this evening and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Tickets are available at the door.