Contributing Writer: Tara Bone
Once again, Four Seasons Theatre Company is strapping on the dance shoes to dazzle Cache Valley audiences with another show-stopping musical – The Drowsy Chaperone, a comedy set in the 1929 golden age of musicals, with performances March 8-18 at Sky View High School.
According to Jon and Kody Rash, brothers and Drowsy Chaperone co-directors, this production – like all of their productions – isn’t just about soaring vocals, snazzy dance numbers, and innovative technical work. For them, it’s about family and a story that begins at Sky View High School (SVHS) 24 years ago.
As a sophomore at SVHS, Kody said he found his place and passion in theater. After serving a church mission, he returned to Smithfield to work for longtime SVHS theatre teacher, Nan Wharton. During this time, he discovered costume design and Nan continued to foster his love for the arts.
“Nan taught me to have an eye for perfection and to always give your best,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be without theater.”
Kody’s life has been impacted in huge ways by theatre; he even met his wife Kim through theatre. In 2011, Kody and his brothers, Jon and Danny, with Kim and other SVHS alumni, formed what he calls the Four Seasons Theatre family. For the Rashes, this family includes all cast and crew, and audience members who have ever been part of a Four Season’s production.
“In the world, people feel alone. We connect people to help them feel needed and wanted; there’s more to it than having a great show,” Kody said. “It connects families and bonds you closer together. You laugh and cry together and leave changed and it opens up a dialogue at home; it always goes back to family.”
People often ask why their performances are at a high school. For Kody, the answer is simple. He says SVHS is where the company was born and “where our theatre experience was born.”
Kody said performing at SVHS is also about making theatre more accessible and affordable for families. Because rental fees at the school are reasonable, Four Seasons ticket prices are reasonable. In turn, the community support at Sky View has been huge he said.
Jon Rash’s theatre journey also started at Sky View as a student, and continues today as the high school’s theatre teacher. As a student, he learned “professionalism and perfection” from Nan, and said he feels a big responsibility to keep the tradition going.
For Jon, there are many reasons why Sky View is the ideal venue for Four Seasons. Jon points out that the school is a perfect location from a technical stand point. The company’s construction shop, where Danny and his team build elaborate sets, is only a few blocks away at the old Del Monte plant, so transport is accessible.
Jon says Sky View’s large auditorium and stage provide “more freedom to do grand things.” In some of their past productions, this included Tarzan swinging from trees and Mary Poppins visiting from the sky to a packed house.
Strong community involvement and support from Sky View’s administration make it a natural home too. “We need to recognize the administration at Sky View,” Jon said. “They are so great to work with. I love being there.”
Besides all the technical aspects, Sky View’s stage is sentimental. Jon’s first experience of being on a stage was at SVHS, and he says anywhere else would be “cheating on my home.”
It’s sentimental for many Four Seasons performers too. In Drowsy Chaperone, there are at least 10 cast and crew members who are SVHS alumni. Their faces literally line the school’s walls. Since 2005, cast pictures of every Sky High Players production are hung on the walls backstage.
Walker McKenna is a Sky View alum who has been with Four Seasons since their first production. In Drowsy Chaperone, Walker plays the role of Robert Martin, a character he said he loves to play because he’s so over the top. Walker also learned from Nan who “fueled the love of theatre” in him.
Walker said Four Seasons is a family, and with his parents currently living in New York City, Four Seasons is “the family I need.”
“I don’t know what I’d do with them,” Walker said. “I’m stretching and always growing as a performer. They even taught me how to tap dance!”
Drowsy Chaperone audiences will get to see Walker tap dance, and come home to the Four Seasons family’s Sky View High School.
The Drowsy Chaperone takes place in 1928, but is told in the present day by a die-hard theatre fan who plays his favorite show’s record. He introduces the characters and stops to give explanations during the fictional, but hilarious musical. At the end of the show, he sums up what this musical – and all musicals – should do for audiences: “. . . it takes you to another world. And it gives you a little tune to carry with you in your head. A little something to help you escape from the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something when you’re feeling blue.”
See www.fourseasonstheatre.org for ticket information.