MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

February 21, 2013

Chemistry key in MHS play

‘Guys and Dolls’ opens today through Sunday

— Makenna Hukill and Trae Havens have a chemistry on stage that is exploding with their talents in “Guys and Dolls.”

The Tony Award-winning Broadway show is the Muskogee High School musical. The story follows the exploits of two 1950s gangsters, Sky Masterson, portrayed by Seth Chapuis, as he tries to win the affections of missionary Sarah Brown, portrayed by Katie Matthews; and Nathan Detroit, portrayed by Havens. Nathan searches for a secret location to hold a craps game unbeknownst to his fiancé of 14 years, Miss Adelaide, portrayed by Hukill.

Juniors Hukill and Havens have been winning duet partners for state speech and drama competitions for several years. Director Penny McGill said it is a “quality” show.

“People will be saying if you miss this show, you will miss one of the best MHS has ever done,” McGill said. “We have all kinds of talents on stage and in the orchestra. We have cultural diversity, scholars, athletes.”

Some of that diversity comes from Charity Pickup of Jenks, 15, a sophomore at Parkview School, and Pascal Hunold, 16, of Germany, a foreign exchange student at MHS. Pickup, who is in the New Yorkers Chorus in the musical, said Parkview doesn’t have drama so this is an “amazing” opportunity for her. She has participated in Muskogee Little Theatre with adults but not been in a show with her peers.

“I’ve learned the courtesy of the theater and made tons of friends,” she said. “I love this show. It is so much fun. It’s not what you can see but who you can be.”

Hunold, who did a holiday show with MLT, portrays Liver Lips Louie.

“I came from Germany to get to know a new culture, for the whole experience. This is a fun story. All the guys dance. I like acting and singing. I love the costume, “ he said of his gray suit. “I really enjoy being a part of the experience here.”

His favorite line is “Where is the craps game?”

Before the action of the craps game and the love stories, the audience will hear Kerry Huffer leading the live orchestra in the pit below the stage. Huffer, who is working with McGill on their ninth show, has put together the orchestra using the community talents of adults like Jim Loftin on bass guitar, and MHS students like senior Courtney Daniel, 18, on baritone saxophone.

Daniel said the sound of her sax is “jazzy.” She is loving being a part of the orchestra. For Loftin the music is a lot of fun, a “classic.”

The classic came from Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling’s book and Frank Loesser’s score including “Luck Be a Lady,” “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” and the theme song “Guys and Dolls.” Matthews and Chapuis’ vocals shine in their love songs to each other.

Chapuis, 16, said even though the musical is set in the 1950s, he thinks it relates to people today.

“It’s about trying to get a girl to fall in love, and that life isn’t that easy,” he said.

Matthews prepared for her role by watching the movie. Everything in rehearsal has come together in the last couple of weeks, she said.

“I’m super excited,” Matthews said.

Hukill shares in the excitement with her female co-star.

“It’s so much fun,” said Hukill, who does character voices for speech and debate.

She modeled her New York accent from the character Nanny Fine from the TV show, “The Nanny.” Those who know the tiny brunette might not recognize her in her blond wig for this role. She said she and Havens are good friends and are having a the best time as Nathan and Adelaide.

“We already have the chemistry built in,” Havens said. “I’m very humbled to work with her.”

When asked what was his biggest challenge in his role as Nathan, he said it was getting through his sadness over the death of two family members since rehearsals started.

“This is a second family to help in the hard times,” he said. “We’ve really come together for this and will leave everything else behind.”

Junior Ryan Summerhill, 16, who portrays Nicely-Nicely Johnson, said it’s great to have leads like Havens and the others that mix well.

“I love singing,” said Summerhill, who is in his fourth musical at MHS. “I will dance but it’s not my best feature.”

Choreographer Jenna Stocks of Tahlequah has shown “no mercy” McGill said when teaching Summerhill and the rest of the cast their dance moves. Stocks said since the musical is period-based, she stuck with the dance trends of that day like the Charleston.

Senior LauRetha Davis, 17, a member of the MHS dance team, loves the dancing in the Havana scene where the costumes are red and yellow.

“Jenna is unique,” Davis said. “She’s an awesome choreographer.”

Junior Jamari Davidson, 17, who is singing and dancing in a show for the first time, called McGill, the cast and Stocks “wonderful.”

“It was hard at first,” Davidson said. “I love singing and dancing. It’s a way to express talent.”

Stocks said the maturity of the cast to be on time and attend every practice has surprised her.

“The boys have to dance more than they would like but they killed it,” Stocks said.

Junior Nicholas Simon, 17, who portrays Benny (The Bookie) Southstreet, said the audience will connect to the play because of the one-liners and jokes.

Summerhill and other cast members are hoping for a big crowds to share in their fun.

“Come. It’s a great show, great time,” he said. “I have fun and they will too.”

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