By JOE SUTTER
Messenger staff writer
MANSON - "Li'l Abner" will be the first musical directed by Reid Keller, Manson Northwest Webster's new high school choir director.
Keller said this play was the most fun out of the seven productions he had appeared in as a student.
"The first day I announced it, my students said, why did you pick this musical?" Keller said. "As a sophomore in high school, I felt the same as them."
But after a few weeks, he knew he was really enjoying the show.
What: "Li'l Abner," MNW High School musical
Where: High School Auditorium, Manson
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $6 adults, $4 students
"It's a blast. It's ridiculous, but at the same time there's some different serious topics throughout as well," he said. "I think the audience can really relate to what the people of Dogpatch are going through."
The musical is based off the comic strip of the same name by Al Capp, which ran from 1934-1977. It follows some backwoods hillbillies in the town of Dogpatch, USA, centering on the simple-minded Abner Yokum and Daisy Mae, who wants to become his wife.
"The whole story is about me trying to catch him at the Sadie Hawkins dance," said Jade Green, who plays Daisy. "Abner doesn't really want to marry anybody."
However, when Earthquake McGoon, played by Hally Bergren, makes his own effort to marry Daisy, Abner finds himself reluctantly getting involved. Meanwhile, Senator Phogbound, played by Sam Wood, announces to the town that Dogpatch has been declared the most unnecessary place in America and will be blown off the map. In order to save their town, the villagers must prove there is something useful in town - Mammy Yokum's Yokumberry Tonic.
Jordan Reuter, who plays the lead, said he was enjoying getting into his character, which was a big change from his role last year in "Grease."
"My character's supposed to be really big and buff and strong, so I have to try to act all strong, but he's also really dumb so I have to play that up too."
Green, a senior, has been in the spring musicals for four years now.
"My character last year was a girlie girl. This year is kind of the same, but there's a lot more lines and I'm part of more than I was last year," said Green.
She thought "Namely You" was probably her favorite song.
"That one is just Abner and I. I've never really got to play a guy-and-girl type of musical, like where they like each other."
Senior Jordan Neumann plays Marryin' Sam - "basically a hillbilly justice of the peace," she said. She has been in four high school fall plays, but this is her first musical.
"Memorizing the lyrics for songs is the hardest part," she said. "Lines are easier because you can just say them, but the songs have to go to music, and go in a particular order, and you can't just improvise your lyrics."
Still, she said, that work was definitely worth it.
"The songs are really fun, because they're not normal songs that you'd hear in a musical ... when you really listen to the words of our songs, they're just hysterical."
Reid Keller said he is co-directing with English teacher Kim Keller - the two are not related.
"It's been a team effort in the fine arts department here," Reid Keller said. "Kim (Keller) has her strengths in the drama department, and I have more strengths in the music department, so together we make a good team."
Reuter explained the directing arrangement.
"He does a lot of vocal work, and she does a lot of blocking and scene work. It's really the best of both worlds," Reuter said. "It's definitely different. Obviously it's going to be different for anyone coming in that we're not used to, but it's going pretty well."
Green said, "He really likes getting into it, like when he takes over parts; it makes it really fun."
Kim Keller said Reid Keller has been working "really, really hard."
"It's different with a new director," she said. "Mr. Keller is experiencing for the first time being in charge of a show instead of being in a show, so he's learning a lot of about all the things he didn't know as a kid."
Kim Keller said she was impressed with her cast's hard work.
"It's been delightful; we have a young cast, and to see them grow and take on parts has been really good. We only have 3 seniors in the lead roles, and the rest are mostly sophomores and freshman."
Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org