LHS to deliver ‘Deadpan’ theater

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Suffolk students are putting on an exciting show this week to fill their high school auditorium with drama, song and dance.

Lakeland High School will hold its spring musical this Thursday and Friday. Students in the Cavalier Theatre Troupe will present the comedic murder mystery “Deadpan,” written by Kevin Kelleher under Heuer Publishing.

Lakeland High School theater director Lauren Ertekin said it’s the first musical for the department in about three years. Instead of a routine play, the relatively small cast of nine student performers began rehearsing in February for a more challenging performance.

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“It’s a dynamic piece for a smaller cast,” Ertekin said.

The theater program at Lakeland returned after a hiatus in 2014. They then placed first in the 2015 Conference 27 theater competition with just 10 student performers in a play called “Cheating Death.”

“We’ve been steadily building up a stronger program each year,” Ertekin said.

Their performance this week is dinner theater cabaret with humor, mystery and murder at the “Il Toscana” club in the year 1936. The evening will have a secretive cast of characters and a priceless item worth killing for. When somebody at the club is poisoned, everyone is a suspect.

Lakeland sophomore Marcus Washington will play one of the lead characters in Stanley Cordell, a singer and songwriter pining for Blondie Townsend, a veteran singer at the club. The two characters share a history, and he tries to win her back with a moving ballad.

This will be Washington’s first lead role in the Cavalier Theatre Troupe. The 16-year-old said he’s enjoyed everything about the experience with his castmates.

“I’m actually able to be in my comfort zone,” Washington said.

Other students will either play roles that fit them personally, or boldly step outside of themselves.

Tamia Copeland, a 17-year-old senior at Lakeland, has been with the theater group for all four years of high school. She was a cast member of the winning 2015 team.

For “Deadpan,” she will play Betty Haliford, a foil to both Cordell and Townsend. Her character is more innocent and a less experienced singer than her partner Townsend, and she too has history with Cordell.

Copeland said her character supports Cordell through his heartbreak, an attribute she can relate to personally.

“That’s who I am,” she said. “I’m a comforter.”

The trio are joined by a cadre of shady characters that fill the club with more secrets as the story goes on. Hugo Cagliari, the secretive, shady, bossy owner of the club, will be played by sophomore Brandon Lassiter.

The 16-year-old said he enjoyed stepping outside of his comfort zone to play a role that’s unlike him.

“It’s been kind of fun,” he said. “I’m not typically a bossy person.”

Music from big bands of the 1930s and ’40s will collide with Latino salsa flair and love ballads as the students dance through the story, musical director Jaielle Manning said.

“It’s a little bit silly and a little bit savvy at times,” Manning said.

Sophomore Naleah Chavers, who will play the extra-secretive character Emma Bennett, said one of the rewarding challenges of this production has been dancing in high heels for an hour and a half, three to four times a week.

“The rehearsals are kind of killer on your feet, but there’s no feeling like nailing the dance you’ve been working so hard on,” the 15-year-old said.

Then there were the accents. Sophomores Jessie Germ and Landon Wigg had to practice German and British accents for their respective roles as Doktor Helga Holzkopt and Clifford Magnus. Ertekin, a French teacher at the school, coached them on perfecting their characters’ voices.

This was especially rewarding for Wigg, whose father immigrated to the United States at age 4 from England.

“That was a hurdle I had to jump through, but I got it down pretty good,” Wigg said.

Ertekin spoke highly of her students’ enthusiasm and dedication.

“It’s the type of work that leaves a professional educator speechless,” she said. “It’s the kind of work you don’t see anymore in the classroom. They put their heart and soul into it, just for the fun of it.”

Audiences this week will be guided by the students through an unpredictable and exciting musical.

“Here at the “Il Toscana,” you never know what’s going to happen next,” Chavers said.

Showtime will be at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday and Friday in the Lakeland High School auditorium, and general admission tickets will be $8 at the door. Call 925-5790 for more information.