The atmosphere was electric at ‘The Sharon’ Thursday evening — because everyone — the performers, the directors, the theater staff and audience members — all knew they were witness to Villages history in the making.
Thursday was the first evening of a three-night stand for The Villages High School performing arts students, presenting their musical review and variety show entitled ‘The Show Must Go On.’
The ticketholders enjoyed attending the performance — to show support for the aspiring students; to see a surprisingly good show, and to be part of the very first audience at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center. Most everyone had purchased tickets to what they thought would be Rogers & Hammerstein’s ‘The King and I,’ only to find out that show was cancelled due to a licensing snag.
“We would have liked to see how the students delivered ‘The King and I,'” Alhambra residents Kay and Terry Hasson said, “but when the show was switched at the last minute, we decided to keep our tickets. The theater is beautiful — the ceiling is so high — and we want to show the kids we care about what they are learning.”
Country Club Hills Villagers, Lorraine and Earl Knight, had much the same sentiments. “We wanted to be sure we got to see ‘The Sharon’ before we left for Rhode Island,” Lorraine said. “We live in The Villages nine months out of the year — and we love it — but we go home to Pawtucket for the summer months. It’s nice to show the students our support too — they are performing to a nearly full theater their first night here.”
Don Woolford, who can easily walk from his Vista Sonoma Villa to the theater, was overwhelmed by what he saw. “When I first came in here, what I saw was totally different from what I expected — the way it is all laid out, and how big it is. Seeing the design of the theater, the high ceiling and all the balconies and boxes, I understand why they wanted to install that elaborate sound system — it all makes sense — so no matter where people are sitting, on all the various levels — they will be able to hear quality sound — they can all get the full benefit from an orchestra or whatever is on stage. The seats are very comfortable,” Woolford continued, “everyone has a clear view of the stage — and the design — I’m not sure how to describe it — but it looks both modern and traditional at the same time.”
Backstage, VHS Music Director, David Rowan, kept the young performers calm by reminding them how much they had rehearsed; how well they knew all their songs and routines, and how friendly and supportive the audience would be. “Everything is going to be fine tonight,” he reassured them. VHS Performing Arts Director, Heather Ard, revealed how difficult it had been for school staff and the students when they learned they had to switch from ‘The King and I’ to a variety show.
“It took some quick thinking,” Ard said. “It was difficult, and yet it wasn’t so bad. Some of tonight’s songs and dances are new to the kids — but they learn fast and they’re very motivated — they love what they are doing. We asked questions,” Erd continued, “and got feedback from the students. One thing we made sure was that students who had been cast in leading roles in ‘The King and I’ still have prominent places in this variety show. We have wonderful, smart, passionate performers, and The Sharon’s staff have worked closely with us through all our changes — we’ve worked totally as a team.”
David Rowan opened the performance by thanking the Morse Family for their vision to build the beautiful performing arts center and their unwavering support of the arts. He thanked the school’s Director of Education, Dr. Randy McDaniel, and the principal, Dr. Bill Zwick, for their guidance and aid in making this night happen. He cited the enthusiastic cooperation of Jason Goedkin, Kenneth and Elizabeth Constant, and others at the Sharon L. Morse Center for their patience and expertise — and many groups among audience members — including the Opera Club of the Villages and the Villages High School Music Boosters — for their support.
Ushers and ticket takers did a great job getting audience members to their seats as smoothly as possible, while admitting there are a lot of kinks to be ironed out. Although they’ve all had tours of the theater, and pretty much know where the entrances, elevators and restrooms are — it’s all so new and so big. They know things will improve and run more smoothly as both they and the theatergoers become more familiar with the venue.
Choir vocals, song and dance solos and duets and musical numbers included pieces from Broadway shows like Rent, Wicked, Les Miserables and Jersey Boys. Some performances recalled The Fantasticks, Grease, a Chorus Line, Mamma Mia and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
‘The Show Must Go On’ was a rousing success and a harbinger of many more good things to come.