The show goes on

Published 10:15 pm Friday, March 20, 2015

Professional theater can be a tough gig, says Nansemond River High School’s performing arts director Joleen Neighbours.

Actors often don’t get a whole of time to rehearse — they have to learn quickly.

It’s a lesson Neighbours’ students have been learning in the lead-up to Nansemond River’s annual spring musical, Disney’s “High School Musical,” which opens next week.

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February’s bouts of snow cut rehearsal time considerably.

“We have been working on this since the third week of January,” Neighbours said Friday.

“I lost a lot of rehearsal time because of snow, but I approached the cast and said, ‘We are still going to do this in the same timeframe. Can you do it?’ And they said yes.”

Rehearsal sessions were extended a little, Neighbours said, making for some long days at school.

“It’s been interesting, but the students really stepped up,” she said. “If they went on and did summer theater with a theater company, they would have less time than this.”

Neighbours described “High School Musical” as “’Grease’ updated for this generation.” It’s a boy-meets-girl story in a contemporary high-school setting, she said.

All-star athlete Troy Bolton meets the new girl in town, Gabriella Montez. Common interests — in one another and in music — draw them together, but their respective social cliques at school are having none of it.

Alexis Hernandez, who plays Montez, said it’s an inspirational story about overcoming social barriers. “I don’t think enough people realize that they are able to do what they really want to do and that everything is possible,” she said.

Brittany Johnson, who portrays a cheerleader as well as being the understudy for another character, said she and other Nansemond River students convinced Neighbours to commit to “High School Musical” after the director was opting for “Legally Blonde” instead.

“We are all trying to get the sets ready and stuff, and it’s just been very hard, because we are trying to do multiple things in such a short time,” Johnson said of preparations.

Performances will be held Wednesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. in the high school’s auditorium. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students.

The Nansemond River students will perform the musical for local elementary school students on Thursday and Friday at 10:30 a.m.