JHS Thespians present “The Miracle Worker”

The Miracle Worker tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker dramatizes the volatile relationship between the lonely teacher and her charge. The JHS cast and crew have stepped up to the task with some big challenges portraying this classic story. Don’t miss your chance to catch the phenomenal student-run, annual Fall production this week!

The Miracle Worker has powerful messages for everyone. In Helen, Anne, and Kate Keller (Helen’s mother), audiences can identify with strong and independent female characters.  Others can empathize with parents of children with disabilities, and try to imagine the challenges as well as rewards these courageous and loving families experience.  It’s also easy for those in education to admire the tenacity and strength of teacher Anne Sullivan. 


Performances will take place at the Jenison Center for the Arts, November 7 – 9 at 7:30pm and a matinee on November 10 at 2:30pm. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for Senior Citizens or Students under age 18. 

*Due to its dramatic nature, this play is not recommended for younger children who are unable to sit quietly for the duration of the performance.

When Anne Sullivan died, her ashes were placed inside the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  After Helen died, her ashes were interred next to those of her beloved teacher. Teachers know how important and special a relationship with a student can be. Finally, everyone experiencing the show can relate to the importance of perseverance.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of Mr. Todd Avery bringing quality educational theatre to Jenison and our surrounding communities. 

Miracle_Worker_2019-1-2“Theatre can make a difference in the lives of everyone! No matter how our production touches you, we are delighted to share in our storytelling.  

Thank you to the many amazing volunteers overseeing essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound. BRAVO Cast & Crew! Another job well done showcasing your talent and dedication! I am blessed to have the opportunity to direct this incredible play in my last year at JHS with this talented group of young actors and techs.” – Todd Avery, Director of Theatre Arts JPS

Click here for the full photo gallery.

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.” Anne Sullivan


JHS Fall Play: Robin Hood and The Heroes of Sherwood Forest

Months of hard work, late nights and intense creativity was unveiled this week on the great stage of the Jenison Center for the Arts. Director, Todd Avery and the Jenison High School Thespians kicked off their fall play season with preview performances of Robin Hood and the Heroes of Sherwood Forest. (Psst… you do not want to miss your chance to catch one of the remaining performances – visit www.jpsarts.com for tickets!)

Tuesday afternoon, our 4th, 5th and 6th grade students filled the JCA and were treated with a matinee of the show. It was encouraging to see our young students (and future thespians) soak in the show as a well behaved and responsive audience. The reviews are in and they gave it a whole lot of thumbs up! I wouldn’t be surprised if they talk their families into coming back this weekend. Wednesday was the first evening preview show open to the public.

132187678d09a945c320ce883c741291bfdba8b3Written by local playwright, Randy Wyatt, this fresh adaptation of the well-known English tale combines characters and elements from several medieval texts and gives it all a modern twist, emphasizing a community of heroes (men and women) rather than a one-man approach to heroism. Robin Hood and his friends—the hulking barbarian Little John, the kindhearted Friar Tuck, the sharpshooting woman-in-man’s clothing Scarlet, the jovial minstrel Alan-a-Dale and the retired soldier David of Duncaster—band together to save the poor people of Nottingham from unjust taxation and poverty at the hands of Prince John and his long-suffering yet cruel Sheriff. Two gypsy orphans, Maid Marion’s handmaiden and a mysterious stranger share a secret that could win the day—or see Robin hanged by morning!

The performance technique is a children’s theatre performance style, something Mr. Avery became very fond of during his time in college. Some of his best memories include working hard to make the story feel as if it was jumping off the page of a storybook. This is quite a departure from the Thespian projects of last year – he knew his students would need to be very intentional about the process. And they were, they proudly rose to the challenge. They portray a heartwarming story with plenty of action and humor! Another favorite he is excited for the students to share, is greeting the children from the audience, who for the last 90 minutes have been transported to another time and place. The storytelling power of theatre and its effect on people of all ages is remarkable; people come away very inspired by the magic being created before them on the stage.

132187889385c4fc2430ef45d42e6feb6c1bd66eAs with all Jenison High School Thespian productions, Robin Hood is entirely student-run with assistance from some staff members and many amazing volunteers overseeing other essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound. BRAVO Cast & Crew! Another job well done showcasing your talent and dedication!

There are 5 more opportunities for you to catch this family friendly production this weekend. You will not want to miss it! Visit www.jpsarts.com for tickets

Written by Randy Wyatt |Directed by Todd Avery |Produced by special arrangement with Youth PLAYS


The Hunchback of Notre Dame Comes to JPS!

This weekend you can get a jump start on Spring Break by visiting Paris in the late middle ages! [Don’t worry, it’s only for 90 minutes. No need to invest in a chamber pot.]

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a story originally written by Victor Hugo in 1831. The story was meant to raise awareness of the value of Gothic architecture [which was being destroyed for more “modern” designs] but it has, instead, become a well-known story of acceptance and morality.

The show is a combination of the 1996 Disney movie songs and the original story by Hugo. It will introduce audiences to Quasimodo, a misshapen man who was abandoned at the Cathedral as a baby, a Parisian judge named Claude Frollo who has reluctantly raised Quasimodo as his son but left him mostly alone in the old church. You will also meet Esmerelda, a kind gypsy woman who helps and befriends Quasimodo, setting off a complicated love triangle…or quadrangle… There is danger, adventure, as well as other difficult themes*.

Director Todd Avery saw an adaptation of the show when he was younger which inspired him to read the novel and “this heartbreaking story of the deformed bell ringer and his desire to be loved has been with me ever since.  The Disney cartoon is one of my favorites and as soon as I heard of the show’s availability, I jumped at the opportunity.  I’m proud to say that we are the West Michigan’s high school premier of “Hunchback.”  Not many theatre programs will be able to successfully mount this production.  It’s that difficult.”

Mr Avery knew this show would be a challenge for everyone involved – which is why he chose it! “I knew that it would be a challenge musically [both for the orchestra as well as the singers], and I knew that from a technical perspective it would be a challenge for all the crews involved.  We have to build a set that looks like the cathedral of Notre Dame, microphones for 35 actors, a full orchestra and a 30 person choir, projections, period props including a sword fight, as well as period costumes.  Lighting a full stage from back to front isn’t easy either.  I knew the production would test our limits [and it has], but I was confident that our students and their wonderful adult mentors would pull it off.”

The production is entirely student-run with assistance from some staff members and even more amazing volunteers leading the other essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound.

Most of the students who serve on the set design team are seasoned crew members with JPS productions. They love getting to know new people, spending time with their friends, and yes, working hard! Brandon Sams has been part of the cast in former productions but wanted to try something new. He says that he likes getting to know both sides of the curtain but he especially enjoys their role of “running crew”. [These are the unsung heroes of the show, bustling to change the set between scenes and wearing black to blend in and go unseen.] “There’s an adrenaline rush to have to change the set.” But Brandon also wants other students to know that there is a place for them in any JPS production. “You make friends in theatre. Before the first show you might be anxious, but theatre is really welcoming, we’re a family.”

In typical Jenison Arts style, the dedication, talent, and grit required to pull this off will be very evident to audiences. “The show has a “community choir” made up of JHS students, Jenison residents, and JHS alumni.  Their dedication to learning this difficult score [rehearsals 1 – 2 evenings per week and some Saturdays since January] has impressed me tremendously.  Our talented cast has spent even more time learning their music [which is A LOT as there are very few moments without music in the show], and, under the musical direction of JHS thespian alum, Sarah Schrems, along with Jason Coffey, have been ready to perform for several weeks, exceeding their directors’ expectations.  Dan Scott has the orchestra, the largest we’ve ever had, in top shape!”

While this may not be the show to give you “warm fuzzies”, it will make you think. “This is a hard show to watch.  It has bad stuff happen to good people which is why we’ve recommended it for ages 12 and older.  However, the score is pure magic and the story has incredible themes relating to how we treat others, objectifying women, loss of innocence and the power of love.  It’s the Disney version’s songs but the Victor Hugo story, which does not have a happy ending.  It is an absolutely gorgeous show that will take your breath away.  Bring your tissues.”

Break a leg, cast + crew! Once again, we are amazed by the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Thespians and can’t wait to see your latest production!
You can get your tickets for this weekend here!

*Please note: The Hunchback of Notre Dame contains mature themes, simulated violence, and the deaths of some characters. Recommended for students 12 and older.

Growing Old is Mandatory. Growing Up is Optional.

Tonight the curtain opens on another spectacular Jenison High School Musical: Peter Pan! Of course, the story of the boy who refuses to grow up, written by J.M. Barrie, is well-known and a ubiquitous part of pop culture. It first hit the Broadway stage in 1954 when it earned its first Tony Awards. JPS Thespian Director, Todd Avery, was thrilled to bring Peter Pan and the Star Catcher this fall as a prequel to this weekend’s big show and he hopes audiences who take in both productions see the subtle connections the shows have to offer.

Of course, the show will feature some fantastic special effects that everyone has come to expect from Peter Pan – flying! According to Mr Avery, “The biggest part of the show is the flying. I have a fantastic “flight crew” of students and alum who have taken on the responsibility to fly their classmates across the stage.  The actors who fly, have never done anything like this before and are executing very well while hovering 10 to 20 feet above the stage.  We have a series of safety checks, good leadership, and everyone is having fun. There’s plenty of special effects in the show besides the flying.  Tinkerbell darts across the stage, interacting with the Darling nursery.  We even have a special live appearance of everyone’s favorite fairy that I’ve added to the show.  Finally, the talent level of this great group of kids is amazing.  Audience members will forget they are watching high school students.”

This show features sets, props, and costumes that are entirely handmade by student teams, each assisted by an adult leader. The professional quality is a testament to many hard and long hours of work in the scene shop and costume shop.

Students grow in their confidence, abilities, and leadership qualities throughout the show preparation and production. Students with special needs are involved in the show and fellow students rally around them for support, unprompted by Mr. Avery or other adults. “Probably the most amazing growth I’ve encountered is in our Peter Pan, junior Ashley Postema. Her freshman year, Ashley worked with her mother, board member, Jen Postema on our scenery for Oklahoma.  I saw her in the shop every day and her work was beautiful.  Ashley is an accomplished artist with several entries appearing in galleries around West Michigan. She barely spoke to me and was a very shy young lady.  Now, here she is laughing and joking with me and has the title role in the show!  I’ve seen this happen again and again with various students over the years.”

Of course, each time a production is featured we hear from students that the theatre community is welcoming, open, and feels like a family. Mr. Avery works hard to set the tone for students but they take the reigns and welcome each other. “Since the beginning, I have stressed the collaborative elements of theatre.  Everyone is welcome here, no exceptions.  I’m proud to say that over the years we’ve had representatives from every social group at Jenison High School either onstage or backstage. Mutual respect is also important.  No matter how stressful things become, we all must do our best to listen and respect each other.  We continually build each other up.  It is amazing how a simple “thank you” or “good job” can change someone’s day. My biggest joy is hearing about students within our program bringing in other kids to the program because it is a safe place where they can be themselves, have support and have fun.”

Amazingly, the benefits and strengths of students participating in theatre  don’t stop when the curtain goes up. A 2012 study by Americans for the Arts shows that students with four years of high school theatre arts, visual art, and music classes have higher SAT scores than students with one half year or less. “There are dozens of studies like this one that prove that students involved in the arts gain problem-solving skills, self-confidence, a sense of belonging, speaking and organizational skills, as well as many other benefits. There are several studies showing that employers like to have theatre majors working for them because they are creative problem solvers who work well in groups and are confident in interpersonal interactions.”

This weekend, take some time to enjoy the talents, hard work, and community of the Jenison Thespians! They will inspire you and bring some magic while they’re at it. And of course, remember that Growing old is mandatory.  Growing up is optional.  Too many people lose touch with their inner child and forget how to have fun once they “grow up.”   They don’t take the time to look at the world through the eyes of a young person.  Of course, there are benefits to growing up, but when life is taken too seriously, something is being missed or sacrificed.  Play with your children.  Fight for your right to never grow up.”

Break a leg, JPS Theatre! We are always amazed by everything you do! [Psst! If you haven’t gotten you tickets yet, you can do so here!]

Peter Pan Has a Prequel? Of Course it Does!


Before you see Jenison theatre perform “Peter Pan” this winter, you’ll want to know the back story, of course!

Director and theatre teacher, Todd Avery, has been waiting to perform “Peter and the Star Catcher” for three years, ever since he saw it performed in Chicago and watched it win five Tony Awards in 2012. He was drawn to the unique qualities of the show including wonderful opportunities for an ensemble cast, creative scenery and the need for the audience to participate through their imagination. “Everything is very suggested. For example, we don’t have swords that we fight with, we fight with plungers. The actors create a ship with just a big piece of rope and their bodies and a couple crates, so the concept is just really interesting. It’s a unique way of storytelling and it’s a style called Story Telling Theatre.”

miii4226It’s not a traditional show where the actors play a single role. In this show, the actors are playing multiple roles, keeping track of where they need to be at all times and even wearing multiple costumes on top of each other!

While the winter musical performances are stories told through music, this weekend’s show is a “play with music” and students filling this role had very challenging music to master. All of the music is performed by a pianist and percussionist providing exciting sounds that take on a character of its own.

Sophomores Emma Byerwalter and Caden Hembrough play the leading roles of Molly and Peter respectively and are both alums of the theatre program beginning in junior high and taking on their biggest roles to date with this show. Emma loves her character and says it’s her favorite of her theatre career, so far. “Molly is confident, strong-willed and down to earth.” Caden says that he enjoys playing Peter who starts off being quiet and mad at the world and builds confidence and leadership skills throughout the show.

miii4287As so many other theatre students have said in the past, the Jenison theatre community has meant “everything” to Emma and Caden. “You make friends with everyone and they all count on each other. There’s no exclusion.” says Caden. Emma adds, “It’s a really open community. No matter who you are, you are welcome here.”

Mr Avery knows that this group of students is ready and well prepared to tackle this challenging and entertaining show. “I knew this was going to be a particularly challenging show and I saw some great things in [these students] the last couple of years, even back in junior high, and I knew they could do it. And they’ve risen to the challenge and it’s like nothing they’ve ever done before.”

If you’d like to spend some time this weekend getting to know the beginning stories of Peter Pan, Wendy and the rest of the Peter and the Star Catcher crew, check ticket availability and purchase them here.

Break a leg, Jenison Thespians! We can’t wait to see you shine!




JHS Theatre Says, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” in Shrek the Musical

MIII2429Last week the Jenison Thespians amazed audiences with their talent and passion in their performance of Shrek the Musical!

MIII1804The story in the musical version is very similar to the movie from 2001 we all know and love with a few minor changes and song additions. Shrek is an ogre who finds solace in a lonely swamp until it is invaded by ousted fairy tale characters from Lord Farquaad’s kingdom when he deems them “freaks.” But Shrek doesn’t want them either. Preferring his solitude to a overly crowded neighborhood, Shrek visits Farquaad to convince him to take the characters back. Farquaad decides to let Shrek rescue Princess Fiona who has long been trapped by a ferocious dragon in return for his swamp. Along the way, Shrek is saddled with Donkey, a chatty but charming compatriot in his adventure. Fiona is less than impressed with her rescuer and even less so with Farquaad and through a continued series of songs, fun and love, Shrek and Fiona end up together and the fairy tale characters get their new home after all. You could say “they live happily ever after…”

MIII1744Director Todd Avery hopes to spread the message about individuality being accepted and celebrated which is a main theme of the production. “As the song, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” indicates, EVERYONE has something “freakish” about them and those traits should be celebrated and not suppressed.  People [or in this case, fairy tale creatures] are different.  However, those differences are a GOOD thing and shouldn’t be judged by others.”

There are many  behind the scenes teams including set design and construction, sound and tech, pit orchestra, costume design, hair and makeup and stage management.  Kelsey Shannon is a senior who is the crew leader for the hair and make up team and enjoys being part of productions and the ability to be yourself. “Nobody’s judged, everyone’s accepting because you share the same passion.”

MIII2136Freshman, Ashley Hillson, playing the role of Princess Fiona loves being part of Jenison Theatre and makes her return to the stage after playing Arial in the Little Mermaid in last year’s Junior High musical. “The friendships you make here are so cool. Rehearsal doesn’t even feel like rehearsal anymore, it’s just everyone hanging out.”

Playing Shrek is senior Jacob Helm who says, “I feel like letting your freak flag fly is really important because it’s letting you show who you truly are, especially in theatre, which is why I think it’s so cool that we’re doing this show.  This is a place where we’re allowed to be who we really are without being judged.”

Ashley adds, “Anytime you are yourself people end up accepting you more and you end up finding  the people who are like you and when you’re yourself you’re a lot happier. No matter what you’re part of, just be willing to stay true to yourself and not feel like you need to be fake or hide.”

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of Shrek! We are proud of your talents and we love letting our freak flag fly!MIII1765










JHS’ Zombie Prom Opens Tonight!

With the stage dimmed and a nuclear waste dump aglow, Zombie Prom is ready to light up the night with its off-Broadway tale of forbidden love. Set in the 1950’s at Enrico Fermi High School, bad boy Jonny and innocent Toffee star-crossed sweethearts with more than a few hurdles in their path.

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As the last production in Jenison’s current high school facility, Zombie Prom is a fun spoof for students, but no less serious when it comes to the preparation required for a successful show. In fact, students began rehearsing the play just two weeks into the school year and have been working overtime in recent days to make sure everything is perfect.

Mr. Avery, director, is enthusiastic about Zombie Prom, although the thought of so many years gone by on this same stage is bittersweet for him. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to focus because I keep seeing other shows in my memory. There are over twenty years of plays and musicals scrolling through my mind when I watch these kids perform.”

A younger cast than in years past, this group is energetic and hard-working, proving that while difficult, they have been able to step into the dozens of pairs of shoes left empty by last year’s seniors.

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Junior River Gibbs, Stage Manager for Mr. Avery, says that he’s feeling prepared, and that while the actors may have more challenges with song and dance, the set is manageable for the crew. Additionally, he credits the team’s preparedness to Mr. Avery’s training and equipping.

Seniors Triston Shannon (playing Jonny Warren) and Katherine Searcy (playing Toffee) are passionate about theater and about their future in film or on the stage after graduation. As for Zombie Prom, both say it’s a fun, feel-good show with music that keeps it light and lively.

“What makes this musical different is that the music never stops. It’s more of an operetta, hopping from one number to the next. At first glance, it seems like it’d be easy because it’s silly, but with all the music and choreography to learn, it’s actually quite difficult to pull off,” said Mr. Avery.

Join the cast and crew tonight for a terrific send-off performance in the Jenison High School Auditorium. Show times are:

Thursday, November 7 – Saturday, November 9

7 pm nightly

Tickets available at the JHS ticket window

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Jenison High School Thespians Present “Singin’ In The Rain”

Jenison High School, Singin' In The Rain, Jenison Thespians

What happens when a love triangle unfolds onstage amidst lies, deception, and desperate women? The umbrellas and rainslickers come out, of course, because the inevitable love connection ends with some singing in the rain!

With a stage slathered in three coats of polyurethane, our Jenison Thespians have a surprise in store for ticket holders next week! (hint: there’s a reason for the rainslickers!) Stage hands and actors alike have been tap dancing and singing their way to this moment since last summer, taking lessons and receiving specialized instruction to help them live into their characters more fully.

“Going into this musical I knew that everyone would have to put in more effort than before. My devotion to theater was great before, but Singin’ In The Rain requires a new level of commitment,” explained Ben.

Jenison High School, Singin' In The Rain, Jenison Thespians

“This is the most technically difficult and biggest dance show we’ve ever done. Three years ago I never would’ve even considered doing this show. There are so many different scenes — everything is one wheels — being flexible is so important, but these kids are ready,” said teacher Mr. Avery.

Stage Manager KendraVeldt is Mr. Avery’s righthand-woman as he preps for the biggest show of his career. Her job is to oversee everybody — the crew and cast — making sure that fans, umbrellas, lights, boots, and sets are in just the right place…at just the right time.

“Getting people to listen to my instruction, even though we’re the same age, is my biggest challenge. It’s also tough to make sure everyone’s on the same page — that other crew members get Mr. Avery’s directions and notes and deliver on each need.”

Jenison High School, Singin' In The Rain, Jenison ThespiansWith leads comprised of juniors (Katherine Searcy, Jenna Bassett) and seniors (Ben Avery, Matt Wadsworth), this quartet has never been more ready to put on a show worthy to be called a Gene Kelly reprise. They also want to do their hall-of-fame teacher proud.

“The whole show is packed with energy! My character is trying to be a stage actress…at one point I pop out of a cake and that’s pretty exciting!” said Katherine.

“This role combines everything,” explained Matt. “Dancing, singing, and memorizing lines pose unforeseen hurdles. It’s like a puzzle that I have to put together.”

“Getting the courage to sing in front of my peers has been most challenging and intimidating, but also incredibly rewarding,” Jenna shared.

Join us next week for our last spring play in the Jenison High School Auditorium!

Playing Nightly, March 20-24 at 7 pm

For more information about Singin’ in the Rain, please click HERE to view the Jenison High School Thespian’s website.

Theatre Teacher Todd Avery Welcomed into Michigan Thespian Hall of Fame

Todd Avery, William Waalkes, Tom Dracht, Michigan Thespians Hall of Fame

Todd Avery (center) pictured with parent volunteer and stage creator Tom Dracht (L) and JPS Board President William Waalkes (R)

In his wildest dreams, Todd Avery never imagined that his passionate love for theatre or his pursuit of excellence on stage would have led to this: induction into the Michigan Thespian Hall of Fame. But as many will tell you, this driven, creative, imaginative, and inspiring leader deserves nothing less.

This past fall, while his thespian troupe performed at a 2-day festival in Saginaw, Todd was unanimously voted into an exclusive group of the best theatre teachers identified over the past twenty years in the state of Michigan.

Jenison Public Schools, Todd Avery, Erik Hart

Mr. Erik Hart congratulates Mr. Todd Avery

Michigan Educational Theatre Association chapter director Erik Hart made the trip from Sterling Heights to formally honor Todd at the January JPS Board Meeting. During his visit, he also outlined the qualifications that the association looks for when nominating a new inductee:

  • a new nominee must have at least 15 years experience teaching theatre
  • (s)he must demonstrate artistic leadership
  • (s)he must have productions that are exemplary.

As part of Mr. Hart’s position as META chapter director, he has seen over one hundred productions and noted that Todd’s are consistently the best he’s seen.

Jenison High School’s 2012 production of Elephant Man is just one example of Mr. Avery’s spectacular work with our young actors. After being adjudicated by theatre professionals from the Educational Theatre Association, the cast was recommended for a performance at the International Thespian Festival this June in Nebraska! (details on this honor coming in a future blog post)

“I was very excited and surprised by not only my nomination but at the award as well.  Winning accolades for myself is not why I went into this field.  I have looked up to the theatre teachers on the list of former recipients for years and, due to their encouragement and influence, have made myself and my program better.  It’s funny, but I still don’t see myself on “their level”, but I will put my students and the JHS theatre program up against any program in Michigan.  We have something very special going on here in Jenison,” Todd said.

Mr. Hart praised Mr. Avery by saying that good teachers do more than just teach. They inspire.

“I’ve seen students from other districts who see Todd’s productions go home inspired. They leave and want their own school to do as well. You don’t see that very often.”

But Mr. Avery, clearly moved by the accolades, was quick to turn the focus back to his students.

“Our cast of Elephant Man was just awesome. They basically ran the show and I got to sit back and watch a thing of beauty. The kids came together, got things done, and helped each other under a tight, tight deadline. I felt like a proud father seeing it all work seamlessly. It was amazing. It was the proudest moment in my entire life.”

Jenison Public Schools, Todd Avery, Elephant Man, Jenison High School Thespians

Nebraska bound!

JHS Spring Musical “Anything Goes”

As the cast and crew of the spring musical will tell you, “anything goes” when it comes to love on the high seas!

Playing through Sunday afternoon at Jenison High School, Anything Goes is a Tony Award-winning production featuring the music of Cole Porter and enough dancing to keep the boat rocking and your toes tapping.

Mr. Todd Avery, directing his 40th show in Jenison since 1995, thrives on the lights and pre-show jitters. “As an actor, there’s no other place I feel more comfortable–it’s such a natural fit. I love to help kids feel the same thing and have fun in the process.”

Mr. Avery gives his thanks to Mr. Zamborsky, Mr. Scott, Mr. Dracht, and Mr. Veeneman for their tireless efforts converting the high school auditorium from a blank canvas to a two-story ship complete with a raised orchestra “pit”. Along with a crew of dedicated fathers, Mr. Avery estimates that more than 125 hours went into designing, building, and painting the set!

Preparing to grace the stage this week is a cast of forty students ready to shine. We had the opportunity to talk to three of the lead characters earlier this week and were inspired by their passion for this project.

Christian Reed is a senior playing Billy Crocker. Although he’s played football and has enjoyed the thrill that comes with working in front of crowds, Christian said being active in the school theater is a new kind of experience he’s come to love.

“Having played football, you start to think that there’s no other moment like being under the lights…but I found it again in theater. It gives me chills–I just love expressing myself on stage.”

Emily Ambs, also a senior, plays the role of Reno Sweeney, a woman pining for Billy’s attention (Christian’s character). Emily has long been a dancer and musician, but acting was a risk that was difficult for her to take. She tried out for her first play just last year, but now says it’s something she can’t imagine not doing.

“Adding acting to music and dance pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I did it. The best part has been all the new friends I’ve made; everybody’s so accepting in theater. It’s awesome.”

She adds that because of their families’ shared friendship, Mr. Avery is like a second father who’s given her the confidence to try new things. She credits him with her foray into acting and is grateful for the gentle push that helped her stretch her wings.

Playing British Lord Evelyn Oakleigh is junior Ben Avery. He shared that being involved in theater was not so much a risk for him as it was a coming home of sorts.

“For me theater is not about pushing me out of my comfort zone–it’s actually where I’m the most comfortable.”

Ben has already given thought to pursuing theater after graduation, astutely pointing out that stage work can prepare individuals for all kinds of real-world experiences by equipping them to work with others, improvise, problem solve, and think creatively.

Ben also appreciates deeply the way his father, Director Todd Avery, has inspired him to run headlong into acting without second guessing himself.  “I was practically born here, ” he quipped, referring to Jenison’s stage, adding, “I’m very proud of my dad–I’ve always looked up to him.”

We’re proud of the entire cast and applaud the efforts of everyone who has given of themselves to make Anything Goes a reality this spring.

We hope you’ll join us in the audience for one of the remaining shows!

Thursday, March 22 – Saturday, March 24: shows at 7 pm

Sunday Matinee: 2:30 pm

Tickets are available at the door or by calling 457-6110

$10: adults, $8: students/senior citizens, $6: children under 10.